Color, 1979, 88m. / Directed by John Fasano / Starring Katell Laennec, Patrizia Webley, Enzo Fisichella, Giuseppe Maroccu, Elisa Mainardi, Mariangelo Giordano / Severin (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

With all the European imitations of The Exorcist cranking out on the heels of Beyond the Door, filmmakers kept trying to outdo each other on the sleaze scale to make their possession offerings more distinctive and marketable to horror-hungry viewers overseas. However, director Andrea Bianchi (still best known for the outrageous Burial Ground) stepped over the line a bit with in 1979 with his contribution, Malabimba: The Malicious Whore, a super-sleazy variation augmented with a bit of nunsploitation and hardcore inserts for good measure. The film apparently did well enough in its native country, but few others got to see it until well into the gray market VHS era when it finally amassed a reputation as one of the daffiest, most extreme Eurocult offerings around. Fortunately, that's still no exaggeration.

After her mother dies mysteriously during a seance, pretty young Bimba (Laennec) becomes possessed by the woman's spirit and begins engaging in all sorts of misbehavior like lifting up her skirt at inopportune moments and performing unsolicited, fatal hummers on her bed-ridden old uncle. When her father isn't busy chasing skirt around the family castle, he becomes concerned about her behavior and enlists the aid of a sexy nun (Giordano) who finds herself exploring Daniela's problems as intimately as possible.

Richly scored and highly atmospheric, Malabimba somehow manages to overcome the utter goofiness of its premise (and the tackiness of its brief but distracting hardcore shots) with Giordano and Laennec (who's forced to do some pretty dirty things with her stuffed animals) delivering committed, highly carnal performances; not surprisingly, their unavoidable coupling is wisely positioned as the literal climax of the film. Bianchi will never be mistaken as a major cinematic artiste, but he always delivers the sleazy goods (check out his delightfully absurd Strip Nude for Your Killer for further evidence). There's little genuine horror content on display here, but most viewers will be too blindsided to notice.

For decades Malabimba was only available in soft, nearly unwatchable dupes from Italian prerecords, with a bootleg DVD release a few years back among the worst offenders. Luckily Severin has given this a much-needed facelift with a sinfully sharp new transfer with much better widescreen framing. The main feature can be played in its original uncut theatrical version, while 15 short, additional deleted scenes (sourced from a lower-quality Italian tape and sporting such amusing names as "Uncircumcised Shower") can be played either separately or integrated into the main feature. That's enough of an extra by itself, but the disc also comes with a fun new featurette, "Malabimba Uncovered," with Giordano and cinematographer Franco Villa reminiscing about the making of the film. They cover everything from the castle shooting (apparently it was very cold) to the those pesky insert shots, which they maintain were done later and without the participants' knowledge. If so, someone went through an unbelievable amount of trouble as the decor and bedsheets still match, and if that's a double for Laennec, it's a darn good one. (Even so, she still has one unmistakable shot in the "uncle" sequence that veers right up to the edge of hardcore anyway.) Nobody ever thought this sick little puppy would ever come out on legit DVD looking as good as new, but hey, the devil works in mysterious ways...

Color, 1982, 74m. / Directed by Mario Bianchi / Starring Jacqueline Dupré, Mariangela Giordano, Aldo Sambrell, Marina Hedman, Joe Davers, Giancarlo Del Duca, Alfonso Gaita / Synapse (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

When her mother dies during a seance, young Myra (Dupré) and her kin are alarmed when the body twitches on its slab in the family crypt. The attending physician tells them not to worry, blathering something about it begin part of the mystery of the human body. He ain't kiddin'! Pretty soon Myra is unraveling lots of mysteries within everyone's bodies as dead mom's spirit takes over, leading her to seduce all of her relatives with lots of diabolical results.

If this synopsis sounds familiar, that's becaus this early '80s Italian exploiter (originally titled La Bimba di Satan) is pretty much a remake of Malabimba made three years later by the unrelated Mario Bianchi. Giordano returns again this time as a potential savior figure and once again gets a steamy lesbian scene, but this time the story ramps up the horror quotient considerably (with lots of crypt scenes and even a mummy!). There's no way it could be trashier than the original thanks to the absence of porn inserts this time out, but the filmmakers certainly give it the old college try with lots of T&A, plenty of claustrophobic atmosphere and some truly weird flourishes like the paraplegic uncle (now played by a much younger actor) getting a naked washdown from the nun right in the middle of the family drawing room and the burly family patriarch getting chased fully naked in an open bathrobe to his doom (a scene repeated almost identically with even less appetizing results by Frank Langella in Lolita). The whole thing runs a very tight 74 minutes, with Bianchi barely pausing to deliver a coherent plot. The strongest aspect, however, is the killer psychedelic score by Nico Catanese (who?), a terrific slice of post-Goblin rock that demands its own soundtrack release.

Pretty much impossible to see (let alone in English) since its release, Satan's Baby Doll also benefits considerably from Severin's sleek digital treatment. The transfer looks very nice indeed to perfectly capture each crumbling sarcophagus and exposed inch of flesh, with clear optional English subtitles. Extras include the rather good Italian theatrical trailer and "Exorcism of Baby Doll," an 18-minute video interview with Bianchi in which he talks about putting his own spin on the story and his rationale for dealing with the heavy amount of coupling in the script. Watch 'em both back to back for the maximum damning effect.

For die-hard Eurotrash fanatics, there's also an X-Rated Kult DVD from Germany containing an alternate hardcore cut of the film (under the ridiculous title of Dr. Porno und sein Satanszombies but credited onscreen as Orgasmo di Satana). It's in much rougher shape and has no English-friendly options, as well as completely different opening titles; however, it also has tons of extra sex footage including a lesbian pre-titles routine, some unsimulated oral activity with the paraplegic uncle and Marina Hedman, additional Hustler-style solo shots of Giordano, and, of course, some full-on inserts. None of it adds much to the film, really, but it is a curious variation all the same.

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