The hungry, haunted eyes of the voluptuous Daliah Lavi dominate Mario Bava's kinky little ghost story. Set in a cavernous castle on a lonely coast, it looks like something out of Roger Corman's Edgar Allen Poe thrillers, at least at first. Christopher Lee is the bad sheep prodigal son who returns to the family manor. A sexual sadist whose proclivities brought about the death of a young girl and sent him into exile, he immediately lures his brother's wife (Lavi) into his sadistic games upon his return. There's no shortage of suspects when he's found dead, a dagger plunged into his neck (the same one his former lover killed herself with), but when he returns as a gray-faced ghost Bava pushes the gothic conventions and repressed sexual desires into delirious territory. It's one of the most psychologically compelling scripts in Bava's filmography, wracked with mad passions and haunted with guilt, and he pushes the emotional hysteria to the limits with lush style, surreal color, and gorgeous, often perverse imagery. The film was drastically cut and renamed What!
for its U.S. release. VCI's edition is not only completely uncut but mastered from a gorgeous, color drenched print, restoring Bava's rich play of crimson red and cerulean blue.
The DVD features both English and Italian language soundtracks (neither of which feature Lee's voice, though the English track better matches the images) with optional subtitles, a sharp, informative commentary track by Bava historian Tim Lucas, and two cut scenes hidden as "Easter Eggs." To access these, go to the Special Features menu, move the cursor to "Play American Titles," and push the left arrow button. --Sean Axmaker
Audio commentary by film and Mario Bava historian Tim Lucas, Original Theatrical Trailer