As The Red Queen Kills Seven Times opens, warring young sisters Kitty and Evelyn are told by their grandfather of the history behind one of the paintings in the castle they call home. Some years before the Red Queen and the Black Queen were similarly warring sisters who maintained a feud into adulthood until the Black Queen murdered the Red Queen. A year after this, the Red Queen returned from her grave to murder 7 people, the last one being her sister. The ominous suggestion being these two girls are headed down the same dark path unless something can be done. Skipping ahead to Kitty as an adult, her grandfather dies and his will must be read. Evelyn is said to be in America but the truth is, Kitty knows her sister is dead…because she killed her. Or did she? And who is the figure in bright red cloak who is murdering various people around Kitty? Perhaps once again the Red Queen has returned from her grave for revenge.
Released in 1972 at the height of popularity for the giallo film, writer and director Emilio P. Miraglia takes a second stab (arf!) at mixing the grisly thriller with a more gothic sensibility, after The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave. It continues the push and pull between modernity and the past by explicitly focussing on a character who comes to believe she is being cursed by her family’s history. It does so by stuffing so much into its opening sequences, including adding in more characters that seem to come out of nowhere, that it threatens to collapse on itself. Don’t worry if you think you’re not following it as all will become clear in the most convoluted way.
There’s many a giallo and many a gothic horror that had little concern for narrative coherency and The Red Queen is no different. Fortunately it’s also great fun and pulls everything together with some impressive style. There’s some excellent art direction, cinematography and directing and it all zips along at an entertaining pace. Bouchet does her best with her weak distressed damsel. For us the best character was Ugo Pagliai’s Martin, Kitty’s lover and a considerable douche, made the hero. But it’s not really about the characters so much as the style, imagination and some well-staged deaths that make it worthwhile. The Red Queen isn’t essential, and doesn’t achieve the lurid magnificence of the best giallo, but it’s definitely still rewarding for those that appreciate the style.
This release is elevated by some great extras, including a new Kim Newman and Alan Jones commentary, plenty of archival interviews and features and some words from the estimable Stephen Thrower.
THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIMES (1972) / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: EMILIO MIRAGLIA / SCREENPLAY: EMILIO MIRAGLIA, FABIO PITTORRU / STARRING: BARBARA BOUCHET, UGO PAGLIAI, SYBIL DANNING / RELEASE DATE: 17TH APRIL