THE DEAD ARE ALIVE (1972) Reviews of Italian Giallo masquerading as horror

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‘There’s no place to hide when’
The Dead Are Alive is a 1972 Italian-Yugoslavian-West German horror Giallo thriller feature film directed by Armando Crispino (Autopsy) from a screenplay co-written with Lucio Battistrada and Lutz Eisholz, based on a short story by Bryan Edgar Wallace. Also known as The Etruscan Kills Again

The movie stars Alex Cord, Samantha Eggar, John Marley and Nadja Tiller.

Two lovers are clubbed to death by an unseen figure. The positioning of the corpses in an Etruscan burial ground suggests that the crime is a macabre offering to the demon-god Tuchulcha, whose tomb “drunken archaeologist” Jason Porter has recently unearthed.

Meanwhile, Jason’s ex-wife, Myra – now involved with tyrannical orchestra conductor Nikos Samarakis – is reluctant to renew her relationship with him due to an alcohol-fuelled stabbing incident – that Jason cannot recall…

The murders continue and a number of suspects emerge – Irene, Nikos’ smouldering masochistic assistant; Leni (Nadja Tiller), his clandestine fire-scarred wife; Stephen (Horst Frank), a sneering “faggot choreographer”, and Otello (Vladan Holec), a sadistic, blackmailing site guard who sets fire to insects. Realising that he is in “a tricky situation”, Jason attempts to reveal the killer’s identity…

Our review:
“Doesn’t the idea of an Etruscan burial ground turn you on?” queries Alex Cord’s anti-hero, in one of the film’s ridiculous snatches of dialogue. Etruscan cemeteries may not be everyone’s idea of a place to get frisky but they do offer an intriguing setting for this offbeat Giallo with fake supernatural overtones.

And despite its various horror-themed alternate titles, suggestions of reincarnation and early scenes that strongly imply that the dead have indeed returned to life, it soon becomes clear that the culprit is a modern-day maniac rather than a crusty old zombie.

Perhaps unjustly dismissed out-of-hand in some quarters, Crispino’s absurd mystery is populated by an array of overexcited obsessives and misfits (even its typically ineffectual detective figure is a self-doubting alcoholic with an affinity for J&B, naturally) and has a welcome air of hysteria that distinguishes it from the more sedate thrillers from the same period.

Despite the film’s patently unconvincing narrative – and overlong running time – it mostly succeeds in engaging its audience because the plot breezes along blithely piling one preposterous act upon another. And that’s despite so many obnoxious characters. The overly overwrought approach, which includes an intense car chase through the picturesque streets of Spoleto and a climactic confrontation in an ancient amphitheatre (amidst deafening renditions of Verdi’s opera ‘Requiem’), is slightly wearing and yet stubbornly captivating. A mess of a movie.
Adrian J Smith, MOVIES and MANIA

Other reviews:
” …the script is muddled, the characters unlikable, the dialogue quite bad at times. Though the latter is somewhat mitigated by the fact that it’s partially dubbed, this doesn’t change the fact that several of the major characters are speaking English as their native language, and their dialogue is no better. Still, it does have some effective shock moments…” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“Though hardly an outstanding entry in the giallo sweepstakes, the proceedings are enlivened by the unusual settings, some earnest performances (with Marley in particular leaving the scenery torn to shreds), and a beautiful score by Mondo Cane‘s Riz Ortolani that’s quite a gem all by itself.” Mondo Digital

“In the last reel, the plot gathers them up tightly for a gripping, perfectly logical dénouement […] Samantha Eggar, Nadja Tiller, Horst Frank and Carlo De Mejo are among the glaring or hissing cast. The director stages one good brake-screeching car chase through the cobbled Spoleto streets, and his climactic showdown in a dark church is fine.” The New York Times

“Benefits from some nice bludgeoning (via a bloody excavation probe!) and another good score by Ortolani. Plot is just a wee bit draggy here and there, but on the whole recommended.” The Terror Trap

Choice dialogue:
Inspector Giuranna: “Love, naturally, maybe makes a man stab a woman. Maybe knock her around some.”

YouTube reviews:


Cast and characters:
Alex Cord … Jason Porter – Uninvited; Chosen Survivors
Samantha Eggar … Myra Shelton – Curtains; Demonoid; The Brood
John Marley … Nikos Samarakis – It Lives Again; The Car; Deathdream
Nadja Tiller … Leni Samarakis
Enzo Tarascio … Inspector Giuranna
Horst Frank … Stephen – Eye in the Labyrinth; The Cat o’ Nine Tails; The Head
Enzo Cerusico … Alberto
Carlo De Mejo … Igor Samarakis
Daniela Surina … Irene
Vladan Holec … Otello
Christina von Blanc … Velia
Mario Maranzana … Sgt. Vitanza
Wendy D’Olive … Giselle
Pier Luigi D’Orazio … Minelli
Ivan Pavicevac … Policeman
Carla Mancini
Rosita Torosh
Carla Brait … Dancer – Torso; The Case of the Bloody Iris

Filming locations:
Centralni Filmski Studio Kosutnjak, Belgrade – studio
Spoleto, Perugia, Umbria, Italy

Technical credits:
1 hour 45 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Also released as:
Mumiens genopstandelse – Denmark
Overtime – European title
L’etrusco uccide ancora – Italy
Gravkammerets gåte – Norway
O Etrusco volta a atacar – Portugal
El Dios de la muerte asesina otra vez – Spain
Das Geheimnis des gelben Grabes – West Germany
Ubice dolaze iz groba – Yugoslavia

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