I've only seen this beautiful israeli actress in these
two 1963 films even though she debuted in a swedish 1955 film, Arne
Mattsson's Hemsöborna after August Strindberg. I can't remember seing
that version of the famous novel (i'm swedish and
in Sweden most have seen the TV-series version). Why a young israeli girl
in Stockholm, Sweden? She studied ballet here.
Lavi had many gifts, she danced, worked as a model, she had a successful
singing career (especially in Germany) and she
acted in many films during the 1960's. Among the genre fans she's much
beloved for her role in Cult director Mario Bava's
1963 film and it has become a horror film classic .... BUT, i was shocked
to see her in Il Demonio as the peasant girl Purif,
why? Because she was so excellent as this poor pained girl and genuinely
gripping. Wow! She really could act and she could
have had a completely other film career if things had worked out differently.
For me, it remains a mystery why this film has been so obscure. Hey, it
even has the original possessed spider walk ....
The Spider Walk
Il Demonio takes place in the italian countryside, at
the south in Basilicata (Lucania) and depicts the superstitions and cruelty
of peasants, the villagers of the ancient city of Matera, and the villagers
are much used in the film. The Victim of their primitive
brutal minds is a young peasant woman, Purificazione - Purif (Lavi). She's
mentally unstable and really has some troublesome
issues. She believes herself to be a witch with black magic powers and
when the film starts she cuts a strand of her hair to make
a ju-ju magick thingy. She uses a spell to attract a man in the village
to her, Antonio (Frank Wolff), but he avoids her and is going
to marry his fiancée. They have had a sexual relationship though,
i think, but now he has dumped her.
Purif lives with her father, mother and 2 brothers and
she's an outsider in the village, she moves at the outskirts of this rural
and the film depicts the peasants old rituals (probably with pre-christianity
roots) almost in a documentary way.
She meets a goat-herd and get's raped and when her family hires a holy
man to check if she's possessed for real, then he .... yes,
guess what, she get's raped again. When her condition worsen and she starts
having epileptic seizures they take her to the priest
for some exorcism .... yes, the father Merrin way .... Leave the body
of this girl .... and then Daliah Lavi gives us (and William
Friedkin probably) that amazing spider walk in a surprisingly strong and
impressive exorcism scene.
Hostile villagers vs. mentally unstable
Now, the villagers really turn against her like a horde
of primitive beasts, ancient, stupid and brutal. They're not killing her
not yet, but she's troublesome and they chase her away. Will some sympathetic
nuns, believing that she has mental problems and
not that she's a witch, save her and will she have a future life in the
village with her family? Will she manage her mental problems?
OR, will this film have a Nasty Feel Bad ending ? Yes,
i know lots of spoilers here, but i actually cried a little after the
Daliah Lavi really moved me with her truly gripping performance of a fragile
mentally ill girl. A major but forgotten performance.
Supposedly this film is based on a real event. It's a mystery that this
film has fallen into nothingness, so obscure that this her great
role isn't even mentioned in many of her obituaries. She feels intensely
alive in her portrayal - Great Daliah Lavi. R.I.P.