Cinémathèque Québécoise

Il Demonio

Directed by Brunello Rondi



Brunello Rondi


Ugo Guerra, Luciano Martino, Brunello Rondi


Daliah Lavi, Frank Wolff


Severin Films

Italy 1963 100 mins OV Italian Subtitles : English
Genre DramaHorror

“Rondi shows us a town obsessed with rituals, but even as we learn how arbitrary and cruel these rituals can be, we continue to feel invested in the myths that underlie them.”

“IL DEMONIO is a truly unique experiment in the history of cinema. It’s probably the first piece of movie gothic to be based on contemporary scientific studies: the research conducted by Italian anthropologist Ernesto de Martino in the Basilicata, one of Italy’s southernmost regions. Put another way, it’s the lone neorealist film to explore the sphere of popular beliefs that veer into folk horror territory.”

“An absolutely brilliant performance by Dahlia Lavi”

The second film by frequent Fellini collaborator Brunello Rondi, IL DEMONIO is a stunning story of obsessive love, set in a rural Southern Italian village where Christianity has integrated many of the old superstitious beliefs. Daliah Lavi, best known to genre fans for her role as the tortured protagonist in Mario Bava’s THE WHIP AND THE BODY, plays the film’s central character Purif, who is distraught when her lover (Frank Wolff) is betrothed to another. When she summons the old ways to curse him, her erratic behaviour is interpreted as demonic possession, and the villagers turn against her with physical and sexual violence.

Lavi’s performance—a very physical one that even includes a spiderwalk predating THE EXORCIST—is singular. Her outbursts and fiery displays of passion elevate what could have been a quaint provincial drama to a level of captivating spectacle. That said, her character here has a predecessor in her turn in Michel Boisrond’s ONE NIGHT ON THE BEACH (1961); both are perceived by the other characters as ‘simple’ with nymphomaniac tendencies, and are thus the subject of both lust and derision that ultimately leads to tragedy. Lavi’s professed favourite of all of her films, IL DEMONIO is a beautiful monochromatic predecessor to Lucio Fulci’s DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING that brings the contrasting traditions of rural Southern Italy to life amidst a classic tale of the monstrous feminine. – Kier-La Janisse