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Film Review: Malabimba (1979)

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SYNOPSIS:

Bimba’s mother has just been murdered mysteriously and the family is holding a seance to contact her spirit. As soon as the mystic finds her spirit things go crazy

REVIEW:

A group of people gather in the family castle for a séance, hoping to contact Andrea’s (Enzo Fisichella) recently deceased wife, Daniela. The medium (Elisa Mainardi, who is more known for her work in the films of Federico Fellini) senses a ghost among them, but once it begins speaking through her, everyone knows it is not Daniela. Soon things are flying off the walls, clothes are tearing open, and what could only be an evil spirit is ravaging through the castle.

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After terrorizing the séance participants, it heads upstairs, where it possesses a woman, forcing her to touch herself, before separating and going into the room of a younger woman, Bimba (Katell Laennec, in what appears to be her only film role), and taking control of her. And now the table is set for Malabimba (aka The Malicious Whore, aka Lucifer’s Lolita, and both of titles give us a good hint at what to expect going forward).

Malabimba was written by Piero Regnoli, no stranger to the world of exploitation and horror films – he wrote over 100 films, everything from Lenzi’s Nightmare City and Fulci’s Demonia, to Patrick Still Lives and Corbucci’s Navajo Joe. As if that wasn’t enough, it was directed by Andrea Bianchi, one of the absolute masters of the sleazy/sexy movie – see also What the Peeper Saw, Strip Nude for Your Killer, and the bizarre, incestuous zombie film, Burial Ground. Many have written Malabimba off as yet another Italian rip-off of The Exorcist, and while it very well may have been the intent of the filmmakers to cash in on a popular American movie, it is quite a different experience. This is a film that trades in pea soup vomiting and heads spinning around for masturbation and hardcore sex scenes and even a little nunsploitation.

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Bimba is a young woman of sixteen who has been sheltered all of her life; at one point, her father mentions that she has never even left the yard. She lives in her family’s castle, along with her grandmother (Pupita Lea Scuderoni) and Sister Sofia (Mariangela Giordano, who, for at least a short time, appeared to be attracted to this type of film: see also The Devil’s Daughter and La Bimba di Satana).

And now she is possessed by an evil spirit, one that opts for sex over violence. When she’s not watching her father sleep with his sister-in-law, Nais (Patrizia Webley), she’s exploring her own sexuality, whether in the form of self-pleasure with a stuffed animal, or through seducing various other occupants of the castle. And after Bimba comes on to her own father, he brings in a doctor to check on her, only to have him say that her symptoms are all probably due to puberty and losing her mother (bring in the psychologists!). And so the sexual terrorizing continues.

Malabimba is a different kind of possession film. This is not a bloody or gory movie, nor do we have demons or creatures lurking about and attacking people. Instead, we’ve got a weird mixture of sexploitation and soap opera drama, with a demonic possession tying it all together. Andrea’s wife has died, and he wants to sell the family castle, but his mother insists that he not. She tells him he should marry his sister-in-law because she has money, but Andrea refuses, as she is married to his brother, Adolfo (Giuseppe Marrocco), who has been in a coma-like state for close to five years. Then there’s Giorgio (Giancarlo del Duca), who is jealous of Nais’ advances toward Andrea, and wants her to himself, but when he gets her his performance is less than satisfactory. Now add a ton of sex, including the notorious hardcore scenes inserted for the midnight audience, and you’ve got, well, pretty much exactly what you’d expect from Andrea Bianchi.

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I hesitate to use the word “fun” in relation to Malabimba, but it is quite an enjoyable film. As sleazy as it feels to watch it, at the same time it is a well made movie. It looks good (note: there are many “versions” of this film; I believe my review covers what is called the Integral Version, in which cut scenes have been re-added, but often appear to be of lower quality), the acting is strong enough for what is needed, and it manages to come across as both sexy and disturbing.

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This isn’t what you might expect out of a demonic possession film, and I think, in the end, that’s what makes it work. A must-see for Bianchi fans and fans of 1970s Italian exploitation, and recommended for anyone who prefers sex over gore in their horror films and isn’t afraid to break a taboo or three.

One comment

  1. I watched this film sometime back. I must say, ‘Malabimba’ is a great Italian sleaze fest. This darkly erotic and somewhat seedy movie looks like something Jesus Franco (one of his films like Vampyros Lesbos) could have made if he had spent some more time on his films :)

    The film, no doubt, has a good soundtrack and hilarious dialogues, and manages to fill things out quite nicely. Also found some great exploitation stuff with an equivilent gothic setting. After this one, I will surely check out Bianchi’s more famous movies too.

     

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