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.
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.
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
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.”
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.