Since launching their US imprint, Raro Video has consistently delivered excellent releases of little-seen Italian films that had somehow eluded legitimate releases here in the States. Their DVD releases of such rarities as The Perfume of the Lady in Black and To Be Twenty nicely complemented their slate of lesser known works by major names in Italian cinema (such as Federico Fellini’s The Clowns). And, best of all, Raro gives each release an attention to detail more in line with Criterion than a company frequently issuing obscure Italian genre cinema. Their sterling track record continues with their new DVD and Blu-ray release of Giorgio Ferroni’s The Night of the Devils (La Notte dei Diavoli).
Nicola (Gianni Garko) staggers out of the woods and collapses in a stream, where he is discovered and taken to an institution. He is unable to speak, and the doctors and nurses have no luck figuring out where he came from until the sudden late-night appearance of Sdenka (Agostina Belli). Sdenka speaks to a doctor and tells him what little she knows of Nicola: that he is a businessman who lost his way in the woods where she lived with her family, and that after a car accident he became lost and ended up at the house. Soon after, Sdenka disappears, leaving the doctors scrambling to find her and learn more about Nicola, who begins to have flashbacks of the strange events that occurred in the woods.
After Nicola’s arrival, the curse that afflicts Sdenka’s family comes to full fruition as Nicola falls in love with Sdenka yet is powerless to help. As each member of the family disappears, they return as vampiric monsters to take another member along with them. If this sounds familiar, it is because The Night of the Devils is based on the same story that formed the basis of the last segment of Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath: Tolstoy’s “The Wurdulak.” In the present, a frantic Nicola searches the hospital for Sdenka, while the parallel flashbacks tell the story of his confrontation with the evil that cursed her family.
The Night of the Devils may not be quite as visually captivating as Bava’s take on the material, but it’s still a powerfully creepy tale, and director Ferroni gives the story a very unique style. The pacing is a bit on the slow side, but that’s not necessarily a complaint; this is a textbook slow burn punctuated by moments of shocking violence and unsettling imagery. Raro, true to form, has given the film a gorgeous transfer and interesting extras. An especially nice touch is the fact that the film has completely different artwork on the O-card in which the case is packaged than the artwork in the case itself. The 12-page booklet included with the film features an essay by Chris Alexander and an interview with the film’s composer Giorgio Gaslini. Well worth seeking out on its own merits, The Night of the Devils becomes a must-have for any fan of 70s Italian horror thanks to Raro’s exemplary presentation.
Raro Video USA released The Night of the Devils on DVD and Blu-ray on 25 September 2012. Special features include a video interview with composer Giorgio Gaslini and Chris Alexander.