The Red Queen Kills Seven Times
With a title so magnificently direct (and so magnificently provocative), it’s a good thing that The Red Queen Kills Seven Times is a sturdy slasher flick that delivers on what it promises with such demented creativity. Touted as one of the finest examples of the giallo subgenre — a type of Italian horror movie as besotted with its own style as it is with its lip-smacking carnage — it’s a B-movie that pushes past its budgetary limits and its inadequately talented actors through artistic competence and through a story that really does sizzle. It’s all decently throwaway, but its notable imaginativeness renders it as a hidden gem within a genre that, at its 1970s peak, attracted more duds than diamonds.
Co-written and directed by Emilio Miraglia, a cult filmmaker also known for his helming of the previous year’s The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times works with a tongue-in-cheek premise and allows for it to build upon itself beautifully.
Comely giallo favorite Barbara Bouchet (The Black Belly of the Tarantula, Don’t Torture a Duckling) stars as Kitty Wildenbrück, a blonde whose angelic exterior hardly matches her tormented interior. Though a successful photographer working for the fictional Springe Fashions, a sordid past stalks her every move — and, as the film opens, we almost immediately decide that she’d be wiser to face the facts than to continue running away from them.
A few months earlier, she accidentally killed her raven haired sister, Evelyn, in a vicious cat fight near the embankment behind their family home, the sinister Wildenbrück Castle. Such an action is already ghastly to its very core, but the family’s violent past fuels intrigue. According to legend, the Wildenbrück clan descends from a pair of medieval sisters, individually known as the Black Queen and the Red Queen, whose ultimately lethal feud led to a curse that reappears every century. Each time, the Black Queen’s successor murders the descendent of the Red Queen, only to have the latter come back from the dead, off six helpless victims, and eventually have her revenge on her sister.
Since history tends to repeat itself, one can expect that Kitty’s deleterious mistake will come back to bite her. And, apparently, it’ll come back to bite those closest to her, too: her family, along with many of her closest friends, knew of her role in Evelyn’s demise but still aided her in keeping her death a secret. So when mysterious, savage slaughters begin occurring left and right, all committed by a figure wearing a blood red cloak, nothing prevents us from coming to the conclusion that Evelyn’s back, super pissed off, and ready to kill.
And what a grand entrance it is. With her operatic costume and wonderfully maniacal laugh, the titular Red Queen is one of the most memorable villains within the giallo sphere, even if the film itself is not nearly as memorable as she is. But while the movie’s skimpy on personality, it, regardless, draws up a delectably deadly atmosphere that supports the No One Is Safe ideal with a compulsively watchable (and charmingly bonkers) plot and a weak spot for dangerous carnality and truculent violence. It’s good at what it does, catering to viewers who have an insatiable thirst for whodunits peppered with sensationalism. Giallo fans are in for something special.
It doesn’t reach the same quality of the films of Dario Argento (what can?), and maybe isn’t even decent enough to stand next to the works of Sergio Martino and Lucio Fulci and live. But The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, with its shocker of an ending (I’m a sucker for conspiracy) and its loving lensings of Eurobabes Bouchet and Sybil Danning (who steals the movie as a scheming model), is a satisfying thrill ride of surprising inventiveness, to be taken with a light heart and a craving for schlock. B