The Night Child (1975)
By: J.R. McNamara on December 10, 2012 | Comments
Start:
[dvd]Arrow Video | Region 0, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 2.0 mono | 87 minutes[/dvd] (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Massimo Dallamano
Starring: Richard Johnson, Joanna Cassidy, Ida Galli, Nicoletta Elmi
Screenplay: Massimo Dallamano, Franco Marotta, Laura Toscano
Country: Italy
External Links
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With the likes of Argento, Fulci, Leone and the various Bava's dominating the spotlight it would be easy to get your name lost to the more well known Italian directors, but in amongst these greats, and some of the not-so-greats, sits a director by the name of Massimo Dallamano. Dallamano started as a cinematographer in 1946 and worked on films like A Fistfull of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More but was also an accomplished director in his own right, as can be seen in films like 1969's Le Malizie di Venere aka Venus in Furs (which he directed as 'Max Dillman'), 1972's Cosa Avete Fatto a Solange? aka What Have You Done To Solange? and this film, 1975's Il Medaglione Insanguinato aka The Night Child.

The Night Child tells of recently widowered Michael Williams (played by Zombie Flesh Eaters' Richard Johnson) and his daughter Emily (Italy's first scream queen Nicoletta Elmi) who are to travel to Italy so Michael can film a documentary about the image of Satan in Art for the BBC. Emily, as one would expect, is extraordinarily disturbed by the death of her mother, and asks her father if he would mind if she could take a medallion from her mother's belongings to wear as a keepsake.

Of course the old man doesn't mind, and along with Emily's nanny, Jill (Evelyne Stewert, aka Ida Galli from La Dolce Vita) they travel to Italy and meet up with the American producer of the documentary Joanna (Ghost of Mars' Joanna Cassidy) and a local, Contessa Cappelli (Lila Kendrova from Polanski's The Tenant), who knows all about a mysterious painting rumoured to have been painted by the devil himself.

Then, weirdness ensues.

Emily starts to have strange fantasies about a medieval girl being pursued by angry and fuck-ugly townsfolk, and the murders… that is the 'accidents'... start to happen…

My biggest problem with this film is its story. I have watched the film four times now and I am still not sure if it was the painting, the medallion, the kid, or all three that are cursed, and this ambiguity is a big hurdle for me to get over, and therefore I didn't really enjoy the film. I guess a clue that should straighten me out would be the Italian title of 'The Cursed Medallion' but if you watch the film, I am not so sure that that makes complete sense!

Don't get me wrong, The Night Child is exquisitely shot, with some pretty good performances from a varied cast but the story was so flat, and the ending such a bummer (you know, one of those ones where you feel the writers wrote themselves into a corner) that I just can't give it any real credibility, because to this reviewer the story is the most important part of a film.

So does Dallamano deserve to be amongst those big names of Italian cinema? Well I believe he does, as like Mario Bava and Argento, he sets scenes and shoots them so wonderfully that at times you just get caught up in the art of cinema itself. Unfortunately the story here is far too convoluted to be a good example of his work, and The Night Child simply can't compete with those greats.

On a side note, rangaphiles will love this film as in addition to the far too young at the time Nicoletta Elmi and the ultra-sexy Joanna Cassidy, every female character, except for two (coincidently both are mothers) is a redhead! Is there something Dallamano is trying to say, or was he, too, just a fan of the red? Maybe it was a subtle nod to the medieval idea that redheads were of the beast...
Video
Arrow's DVD presents the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the image is sharp, colourful and generally a decent with only occasional film artifacts present.
Audio
The audio is presented either in English mono, or Italian mono with English subtitles. It is a clear soundtrack, but you will notice what almost seems to be a vinyl record styled crackling here and there. Honestly I only noticed as I was listening for audio faults, and a casual viewer may not even notice it at all. The English track does occasionally play Italian with subtitles: for completion purposes, I suppose.
Extra Features
Exorcism - Italian Style is an interesting look at the post Rosemary's Baby/The Exorcist Italian rip offs of possession films with interviews with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi, screenwriter Antonio Tentori, and Italian film critic Paolo Zelati.

There is also an Italian and an US trailer. The US trailer is particularly fun with the Last House riff of 'keep telling yourself: it's only a child, it's only a child…'.

Included in this DVD release from Arrow films is a booklet that features a detailed history of Dallamano's work by High Rising Production's Calum Waddell, which is interesting and thorough for 5 odd pages of text.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
The Night Child feels like it had several initial ideas, but couldn't choose which way to go, and the result is somewhat of a mess. A well-filmed and beautifully crafted mess with an interesting concept, but still a mess. Really for Dallamano or Elmi or possession film completists only.

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