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Severin Films presents
Malabimba: The Malicious Whore (1979)

"How do you intend to heal her? With Hail Marys?"
- Nais (Patrizia Webley)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: October 16, 2007

Stars: Katell Laennec, Patrizia Webley, Enzo Fisichella
Other Stars: Giuseppe Marrocu, Elisa Mainardi, Giancarlo Del Duca, Pupita Lea, Mariangela Giordano
Director: Andrea Bianchi

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality, violence, sadomasochistic abuse, demonic possession, suicide)
Run Time: 01h:28m:12s
Release Date: September 25, 2007
UPC: 891635001254
Genre: late night

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ C-B+B B-

DVD Review

One of the more dependably outrageous purveyors of Eurosleaze in the late 1970s was Andrea Bianchi, auteur of the thoroughly demented Burial Ground and the lurid thriller Strip Nude for Your Killer. He also memorably combined sex with horror, and then more sex, in this 1979 opus, which caused outrage when it was released and still packs a nasty punch 30 years later.

The story centers on the decayed and decadent family of Andrea (Enzo Fisichella), who is unable to afford the old castle any more. Tormented by memories of his dead wife Daniela, he arranges for a seance to contact her, but instead the medium (Elisa Mainardi) makes contact with a thoroughly nasty and sex-obsessed spirit named Lucrezia, which takes up residence in Andrea's sixteen-year-old daughter Bimba (Katell Laennec). Andrea's mother encourages him to marry the voluptuous and seductive Nais (Patrizia Webley), the wife of his paralyzed but still living brother Adolfo (Giuseppe Marrocu), in order to keep Adolfo's money in the family. Nais, a former prostitute, is more than interested, teasing Andrea while simultaneously keeping her boy toy Giorgio (Giancarlo Del Duca) handy. It's no wonder that Bimba starts behaving strangely, with all this going on, but the demonic spirit represents something far more malevolent than just the "morbid sexuality" that the doctors diagnose.

Bianchi (directing under the name Andrew White) pulls out all the stops, piling on one transgression after another. Between incest and rape, voyeurism and exhibitionism, lesbianism and nunsploitation (thanks to Bimba's unnatural interest in Sister Sofia, Adolfo's nurse), Bianchi just keeps the lurid happenings coming, until there's hardly any horror left in the movie at all, and it's just moving from sex scene to sex scene. Perhaps the topper is when Bimba, unsatisfied with her usual antics, begins to have sex with her stuffed animal collection. You may never look at a Christmas elf the same way again. The film proper is pretty much softcore, though there are a number of brief hardcore inserts, derived from who knows where. But they certainly don't feature the principals, since there's not the slightest effort made to match costumes or sets.

There are a number of key sequences lifted more or less directly from The Exorcist, such as Bimba exposing herself at a party, and the standard-issue moving furniture and inexplicable winds. One of the more subtle points borrowed is the notion that Lucrezia is using Bimba as a tool to corrupt Sister Sofia, much as Regan was used in The Exorcist to get to Father Merrin, with a similar concluding sacrifice. But where The Exorcist is essentially an urban horror, Malabimba benefits from its isolated setting, not to mention the excellent production values provided by shooting in a real castle. Even though it's covered with greenery, suggesting life, there's just enough rattiness apparent to project the image of a family that has become corrupt and twisted, reflecting their nature in their surroundings.

Laennec has to pretty well carry the film, and although she is quite young she manages respectably, running the gamut from pure innocence to sluttish sexual frenzy to demonic corruptor (granted, the innocence seems a bit overdone but the dialogue makes a point of stating she has been unnaturally sheltered). The performance is all done without the aid of horror makeup, moreover, so it's pretty much all down to her skills, which are significant. Webley is quite enjoyable as the mature contrast, though just as malevolent in using her sexuality to get what she wants. Giordano isn't bad as Sister Sofia, though her surrender doesn't quite convince. The balance of the cast is hardly memorable; the conniving grandmother could have been a wonderful role with a Bette Davis in it but as it is it barely registers. Thanks to cuts, there are a number of plot points that can only be answered in the deleted scenes, such as exactly who Lucrezia was, or why certain characters suddenly disappear from the picture. Thankfully there's also an "integral version" on the disc that reinstates these cuts, although some of them exist only in quite substandard form.

While Bianchi manages to create an effective atmosphere of sex and horror, there could be a bit less of the former and a bit more of the latter.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen transfer looks reasonably good for an Italian film of this vintage, although there is some minor damage visible throughout the first reel or so. The picture is rather soft and grainy, but that appears to be an intentional technique, and certainly fits in the style of the late 1970s. There's plenty of shadow detail, though black levels are a shade weak. I've seen presentations of this notorious film that looked much, much worse, so Severin is to be commended. Considering its dodgy history, this DVD is a revelation.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The sole audio track is a 2.0 Italian mono track. It's surprisingly clean and free from noise and hiss, and the dubbed voices sound reasonably good. The score is unremarkable, though it seems to have decent range. The track is quite acceptable for what it is.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
13 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Integral Version
Extras Review: As noted above, there are 13 deleted scenes, of quality ranging from quite good to sub-VHS, which fill in quite a few holes in the story. They can be viewed separately or as part of an "integral version," a second presentation of the film with the scenes in place, rather than a use of seamless branching technology. In addition to the lengthy and sex-filled Italian trailer, the documentary Malabimba Uncovered features modern interviews with Mariangela Giordano and cinematographer Franco Villa, who relate numerous anecdotes and deny that any hardcore was shot on the production (as if that weren't obvious from looking at it). It's quite solid, though it leaves one wishing for a more complete account of Bianchi's career.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

A shocker in more ways than one, Malabimba lets director Andrea Bianchi go deliriously wild for viewers with open minds. Severin presents the feature in an attractive transfer, though the deleted scenes unfortunately don't seem to exist in good condition. The accompanying documentary is worth a look.


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