The Devil with Seven Faces (1971)

devil27.jpg

devil2.jpg
Top: Carroll Baker has just seen the final cut of The Devil with Seven Faces (1971)
Bottom: Even a cheap gorilla mask couldn’t make the movie any better.

Normally I neglect to write anything about movies I dislike. I never have enough time to write about all the films I like so why waste my time writing about films I don’t? But occasionally my disappointment in a film runs so deep that I feel the need to save others from suffering what I’ve just endured. This is one of those times.

I had high expectations for director Osvaldo Civirani’s 1971 thriller The Devil with Seven Faces (aka Il Diavolo a sette facce) when I stuck it into my DVD player. The film stars two of my favorite actors, the lovely American actress Carroll Baker along with the talented George Hilton. Stephen Boyd also has a major role in the film along with the always entertaining Luciano “the Italian Peter Lorre” Pigozzi, genre favorite Daniele Vargas and the cute Lucretia Love. The script for The Devil with Seven Faces was co-written by Tito Carpi who also co-wrote a lot of good spaghetti westerns such as Fistful of Lead (1970), Any Gun Can Play (1967) and Django Shoots First (1968). And last but not least, the film features a score by two of my favorite composers; the amazing Stelvio Cipriani and Nora Orlandi.

devil21.jpg

devil28.jpg
Top: George Hilton and Carroll Baker feign interest in one another.
Bottom: Luciano Pigozzi channels Peter Lorre.

The convoluted plot of The Devil with Seven Faces involves a diamond heist that goes wrong, some conniving twin sisters (played unconvincingly by Carroll Baker) and a large batch of bad guys who stumble all over themselves trying to get to Carroll Baker and the million dollar diamond. For some reason a lot of reviewers insist on calling The Devil with Seven Faces a “giallo” film and as far as I can tell, it’s not. Contrary to many critical opinions, I don’t believe that one mysterious corpse and a long irrelevant title with the word “devil” in it suddenly turns any Italian movie into a giallo film. The Devil with Seven Faces seems to simply be an original crime movie written by Tito Carpi and director Osvaldo Civirani without any literary basis. Or to be more exact; it’s a “heist film” in the same tradition as countless other European heist films I’ve seen. I love a good heist film but unfortunately The Devil with Seven Faces is not good.

Osvaldo Civirani’s direction is completely uninspired and hampered by Walter Civirani’s lackluster photography. Mauro Contini’s sloppy editing also doesn’t do the film any favors. The Devil with Seven Faces totally lacks suspense and even the car chases and shoot-outs managed to be uninteresting. The mild sex scenes seemed forced and were extremely ineffective, which is a shame considering they involved Carroll Baker and George Hilton. Unfortunately the terrific cast, wonderful score and a potentially worthwhile script could not save this poorly constructed film. I get no joy from saying that The Devil with Seven Faces is one of the worst films I’ve seen all year. I really wanted to enjoy this movie but it let me down again and again. It’s possible that an uncut version of the film exists that is somehow better than the version I watched, but I have no desire to revisit the movie if a new print does surface. There are only three reasons I watched all 90 minutes of The Devil with Seven Faces so I thought I’d at least make mention of them.

Reason #1: George Hilton’s performance as racecar driver Tony Shane.

devil16.jpg

devil6.jpg
Top: George Hilton as racecar driver Tony Shane.
Bottom: George Hilton shoots the director.

George Hilton’s character in The Devil with Seven Faces is underwritten and he doesn’t seem to get as much screen-time as his costars. But unlike Carroll Baker who seems to be sleepwalking through the entire movie, and Stephen Boyd who comes across as rather sleazy and unappealing here; Hilton at least seems to be trying to make the most of his role. He also looks terrific in his ’70s style fashions. Hilton’s wardrobe consists of lots of great looking racing jackets and expensive sunglasses. A sharp dressed man will often keep my attention in a lackluster film, especially if that man happens to be someone like George Hilton. And last but not least, Hilton’s multiple death scenes in The Devil with Seven Faces are the highlights of the movie.

Reason #2: Stelvio Cipriani and Nora Orlandi film score

The soundtrack for The Devil with Seven Faces was so good that it actually managed to elevate the film at times and made me forget how completely dull it was. Stelvio Cipriani composed the music and Nora Orlandi adds lots of lush vocalisms to just about every track. Their work together on The Devil with Seven Faces is truly fantastic and I’d love to get a copy of the entire soundtrack. I’m sure I have bits and pieces of the music on one or two of the library compilations I own but the score really deserves to be heard in its entirety.

Reason #3: Carroll Baker and Lucretia Love’s wigs

devil31.jpg

devill31.jpg
Top: Carol Baker modeling her “ill-fitting bright blue fright wig”
Bottom: Lucretia Love modelng her “messy red Ronald McDonald wig”

One of the great things about European thrillers and crime films made during the ’60s and early ’70s is the fashions, hairstyles and modern design that can often make a potentially dull film much more interesting. Unfortunately The Devil with Seven Faces is sorely lacking in all these things. Even when the cast was wearing something that caught my eye, the horrible photography and direction usually made the fashions almost impossible to fully see. Most of the film seemed to be shot from the waist up or the waist down and it was littered with pointless close-ups that didn’t compliment anyone. Thankfully Carroll Baker and Lucretia Love had lots of unnecessary wig changes that managed to keep me entertained. I’ve seen a lot of bad wigs used in films before, but Carroll Baker’s ill-fitting bright blue fright wig and Lucretia Love’s messy red Ronald McDonald wig absolutely floored me. What in the world was hair stylist Iolanda Conti (aka Jolanda Conti) thinking? I do commend Steven Boyd for somehow keeping a straight face during the scenes where he was forced to appear opposite “the wigs.”

devil3.jpg

devil18.jpg
Top: Steven Boyd showing off his acting chops.
Bottom: Daniele Vargas was so bored on the set that he started looking at porn to pass the time.

I truly wish I had more positive things to say about The Devil with Seven Faces, but unless you happen to be a George Hilton or Carroll Baker completist like myself, a huge fan of Stelvio Cipriani and Nora Orlandi’s scores or just curious to see some of the worst wigs imaginable, then I can’t encourage you to spend 90 minutes with this movie. If you do decide to watch The Devil with Seven Faces I recommend doing so with a good bottle of wine by your side.

The Devil with Seven Faces is available on DVD from Alpha Home Entertainment and it’s currently selling for the appropriately low price of $7.98 at Amazon.

If you’d like to see more images from the film please see my Flickr Gallery for The Devil with Seven Faces.

Advertisements

22 thoughts on “The Devil with Seven Faces (1971)

  1. Uranium Willy (aka Bill) says:

    Wow, what a great site. I found from the comments page on Keith’s Old Black Magic blog. There is a lot here to take in but I love your well researched review style. It is what I am hoping I will be able to do with more practice. I hope you come by my site and check it out though it is stalled right now due to some serious connection issues, but I hope that will be resolved in a week or so. Nice lay out and design, you must have some graphics training. Good job and when i have time I will design a banner link for you.

    Bill

  2. mike says:

    Hah! In all honesty, I think I will end up watching this because George looks good in those caps!

    And there’s actually been a cleaned up German widescreen DVD release that’s English dubbed:

  3. Richard Doyle says:

    I enjoyed this film more than you did, even though I really don’t disagree with you about any of the specifics. I think it was entirely a matter of expectations. I own this as part of Mill Creek’s 50 Drive-In Movies set. I don’t think I need to tell you that the majority of the films in a 50 film set of public domain flicks you get for about $20 are TERRIBLE, so I expected very little from this. I has had very little information about it.

    It was the first film I watched in the set, and every plus point you mention made the movie a little bit better than I expected it to be. I think expectations play a very big role in how enjoyable you find a movie to be.

  4. cinebeats says:

    Jonathan – Pigozzi has shown up in so many European thrillers I’ve seen that I tend to take him for granted but he can be really good at times. Unfortunately like everyone in the movie, he wasn’t given much to do here. As for the wigs . . . all I can say is, what the hell? The red one isn’t too bad but the blue one is just unreal! It would have helped if it actually fit Baker but it’s clearly falling off her head. Why didn’t the director say CUT and ask the hairstylist to fix it? Inquiring minds need to know!!! It should be noted that I rewatched that scene with Baker’s blue wig twice just to try and figure out what was going on there.

    Bill – Thanks a lot and best of luck with your blog! But in all honesty not a lot of research went into this review. It’s one of the quickest reviews I’ve probably written and posted. In my experience research just sort of happens naturally when/if you’re interested in particular things about a film. I happen to love the composers I mentioned above for example so I tossed some thoughts about the soundtrack into my review, but I’m pretty sure that most people who see the film won’t know or care who Cipriani and Orlandi are.

    Mike – Thanks for sharing those screen caps! I think you’d find yourself watching all 90 minutes of the movie like I did if you don’t get too bored just because Hilton does own the show! Some of the directing and editing problems are probably due to the print I watched too so you might even enjoy the movie more. But man, oh man, it’s dull!

    Richard – Very true! Expectations play a big part in why anyone enjoys anything. My expectations were high for this due to the cast, composers and themes (of course I also assumed it was a giallo and not a heist film).

  5. Andrew Monroe says:

    Nice article on an admittedly mediocre film. I did bump my estimation up a few notches after seeing the German Simple Movie dvd, seeing a film widescreen almost always helps a bit. It`s nowhere near the league of the terrific Baker/Lenzi films but there`s something oddly compelling about even this one – for me at least. That fabulous score, a blue wig, and that certain something that almost all Italian genre films of the late 60s/early 70s have made this worth it for myself…that German disc was released with about 4 different covers so it`s probably still out there for interested parties. I suspect it wasn`t a monster seller. Digitmovies should jump on this soundtrack toot sweet!

  6. cinebeats says:

    Thanks Andrew. Now the soundtrack is something I would buy! Hopefully it will get released in the future because it was fantastic. It’s just a shame that the movie wasn’t as good as it should have been. So much wasted potential and good ideas. I love Lenzi’s films but I think there’s a reason the director of this movie didn’t make many more movies. He’s no Lenzi!

  7. Nigel M says:

    Definately not a Giallo,
    Definately Lacking In Suspense.

    All true. But I will say this one of my favourite genre pieces from Italy. It has a charrm all of its own- it may be inn the soundtrack or the locations- didn’t this one have a little chase around a windmill. Hiltons racing jacket is way cool.

    I bought a budget end release of this and the picture quality wasnt up to much but the film I love – I think I described it on bloody italiana as how I would a film made by the band St Ettiene to look.

    http://bloodyitaliana.blogspot.com/2007/12/osvaldo-civiranis-devil-has-seven-faces.html

    yeah I loved this. But as I wrote at the time when I reviewed it,

    “if you come across an inexpensive copy and you have a few coins to spare why not just take a chance and see for yourself if you find it as enchanting as I did. If you don’t get it however, remember, love is a very personal thing.”

    but also wrote:

    “Its hard to say why I precisely I love this film. It is certainly not for everyone and I will not recommend it as such because it may just be something personal to me.”

    seems I got that bit right 🙂

  8. cinebeats says:

    I wish I had enjoyed it as much as you did, Nigel! Unfortunately it just failed on too many levels for me to fully enjoy it. I think my expectations were much too high and I’ve seen so many good heist movies that I just expected a lot more from the cast, etc.

  9. claudio says:

    I agree it’s a mediocre film, though i did enjoy it. But it is a giallo, in italy any thriller is called a giallo and there’s certainly no set template for an italian film thriller to be called a giallo or not. It really goes beyond the argento black glove type killers. As you say though, also a great soundtrack by cipriani.

  10. cinebeats says:

    But it is a giallo, in italy any thriller is called a giallo and there’s certainly no set template for an italian film thriller to be called a giallo or not

    There may be no template for thrillers but from all the sources I’ve read about gialli films in the past 20 years, the movies are usually based on an existing texts (crime/murder/horror novels) or as you say, they’re thrillers. This film had no real thrills (at least for me anyway). It’s simply an original crime film or as I mentioned above, a heist film. I think it has much more in common with Italian poliziotteschi films than Italian gialli films. Clearly some see it as giallo but if I was going to use an Italian term to describe The Devil with Seven Faces I think poliziotteschi would be more appropriate.

  11. claudio says:

    The use of the term giallo is a bit problematic in almost all foreign (non italian) film writing. They are used in very different ways than in italy. For instance, a giallo also means books ofcourse (like chandler, christie, wallace etc) or television series. A Poliziottesco is much more easy to define than a giallo since in italy it refers direclty to the 70s italian action movies, with stars like merli, milian, silva etc. These films are more about the toughness of city streets, action and the battle between police figures/antiheros and crime and underworld people. I’d say for instance that in Civirani’s film the reliance on mystery elements (who is doing what to who?) and plot twists take it in a direction away from the action and testosteron filled poliziotteschi and more into what people would call a giallo or in italy: thriller italiano (a much clearer term than giallo i think). At least in italy this film is not regarded as much of a poliziottesco.

  12. cinebeats says:

    I completely agree that “thriller italiano” is a much clearer term to use when describing movies like this. I’m really surprised that there doesn’t seem to be an Italian term for “heist” movie or “caper” film since that’s really what The Devil with Seven Faces is even with the “mystery” elements. It’s similar to other Italian heist films such as Giuliano Montaldo’s far superior Grand Slam and I’ve never seen Grand Slam referred to to as a giallo or a poliziottesco. Why is that? Curious minds need to know and I appreciate your feedback! I only wish I could speak Italian myself. My father was Italian and spoke the language but unfortunately he passed away when I was really young.

    I’ve been baffled by the nondiscriminatory way westerners seem to often be throwing around terms like giallo and poliziotteschi in recent years so I try to be more discriminate myself. I honestly believe they’re turning into catch phrases to sell movies or to grab a reader’s attention (when used by critics) much the same way “grindhouse” is.

  13. claudio says:

    Personally i’d define a heist film a film that focuses on the execution of a heist, and devil to me is more about the unexplainable happenings after the fact. But i see your point anyway. A heist film also seems more of a specialized subgenre than the police movies for instance. In italy a film like ad ogni costo or sette uomini d’oro would be termed an adventure, thriller, comedy hybrid or whatever (depending on the tone of the film mostly). It was never a big subgenre in italy, although there were the usual knock offs ofcourse 😉

    I agree with your comment about grindhouse-like marketing use of terms like that. I don’t know exactly what you mean with westerners, since it seems americans are a bit more often fond of several of those grindhouse liketerms than in italy or some other european countries (sorry!). I can understand why people like to use these though since it will be easier for people to discover similar movies and genres. and it helps at the cash registr too ofcourse!

  14. cinebeats says:

    I don’t know exactly what you mean with westerners, since it seems americans are a bit more often fond of several of those grindhouse liketerms than in italy or some other european countries (sorry!)

    I should have said Americans or English speaking countries. It does seem like these terms become problematic when they’re used a lot by English speaking critics who don’t fully grasp their meaning or intention. This is why I hesitate to use the term when writing about something like The Devil with Seven Faces.

  15. claudio says:

    Well, thats a good point. In any case i’d like to compliment you with your blog. Many interesting items on films i already like or am now interested in, so bravo!

  16. Robert Monell says:

    Interesting review which brings up some interesting questions. You might be interested to know Craig Ledbetter reviews this in his Giallo SE of European Trash Cinema and agrees with most of your observations, giving it one star and calling it “nothing more than a melodrama involving a robbery and the double crosses involved after the fact.” It sounds like a crime film more than a giallo, although a giallo always involves a crime. Coincidentally, I’ve been asked to write reviews of Osvaldo Civriani films for a European publication which I contribute to which is doing a dossier on his career. I didn’t realize it had two or three DVD incarnations. It sounds like it may be one of those amusing examples of Le Bad Cinema. Thanks for the review.

  17. cinebeats says:

    Claudio – Thanks! I’m glad you enjoy the blog.

    Robert – I’m happy to know someone shares my opinion of the film. I couldn’t agree with Craig Ledbetter more but if the comments above are any indication, we might be in the minority. Obviously the film has fans who like it much more than I do. I’d be curious to read your article when it’s done. I’m not very impressed with Civirani’s filmography but I’ve only seen a handful of the films he’s made.

Comments are closed.