Sunday, December 30, 2007

THE LORELY’S GRASP (1974) d. Amando de Ossorio

Reviewed by Rick Trottier

Fables, Folklore and Fairy Tales have long been the wellspring from which modern literature, paintings and films have derived their inspiration. Using any ancient legend as the basis for a screenplay can be a powerful tool, for mythological creatures and tales play upon some of the most primal human responses. Setting a folktale-based narrative in the present and juxtaposing modern imagery with primordial myths can be a gamble, but when it’s done right, the payoff can be substantial. Amando de Ossorio’s THE LORELY’S GRASP overcomes some obvious faults and plays upon its considerable strengths to be an entertaining experience.

Set in the Rhine Valley, THE LORELY’S GRASP is the tale of a town and a girls’ school struggling with superstitious fears and mounting scientific evidence that the legendary Siren Lorelei is real and is killing the inhabitants in her quest for human hearts. To protect their charges, the teachers of the girl’s school hire a hunter to protect the grounds, but it seems that nothing can halt the bloodshed. Before long, hunter, teacher and Siren are caught up in a triangle of love and violence where hearts and souls hang in the balance.

THE LORELY’S GRASP has many superb elements, most notably its camera-work, sets and cast. The enchanting Helga Line and the hypnotic Silvia Tortosa torch the Silver Screen with their smoldering glamour and beauty. While both actresses were equally incandescent in HORROR EXPRESS, there they had secondary roles. In THE LORELY’S GRASP, these two are the central figures, the perfect compliment to Tony Kendall’s insouciant charm. Set amid scenes of grandiose, modern Euro-architecture and haunting ruins of past splendors and filmed in lavish color, THE LORELY’S GRASP is a feast for the eyes. Coupled with the dream-like incidental music and some truly spine-chilling scenes of the killer stalking helpless beauties from the hedgerows, this film has atmosphere to spare. All this is too the good, for the story has its gaps and logic is lacking at times as well. For the viewer who is looking for a story of such cohesive strength that it would stand up to the scrutiny of a Calculus professor armed with his slide rule, you may be disappointed. While the film is set in Germany, the landscapes are Spanish of course and if you are looking for location shots of Deutschland, they are not to be found, only stock footage of castles and boats on the Rhine. All of these breaches in reason add to the allure of this picture. If you let the luxuriant backdrop of European vistas and even more luscious European starlets sweep you away on its glittering tide, the effects are pleasant and lasting.

THE LORELY’S GRASP is a disc with a fairly thin extras menu including a small stills gallery, the original Spanish credits sequence and the U.S. theatrical trailer. There are two audio tracks though, the English dubbed track and elegant Castilian track with English subtitles. However, the liner notes are a treasure trove of information about Helga Line, Silvia Tortosa, Tony Kendall and Amando de Ossorio’s production of the film. Helga Line lore is not easy to come by and the fascinating anecdotes sprinkled throughout the notes about the principal cast and crew are quite enticing. While an interview with one of the cast members would have been nice addition the extras, the copious details of the liner notes make up for the lack.

Looking better than it has ever done, presented in its widescreen format and with its proper language track, THE LORELY’S GRASP is a bright gem worth digging for. It is not the finest example of Euro-Horror ever made, but if we use the analogy of jewels, it is a semi-precious stone like an amethyst; beautiful, sophisticated and worthy of being treasured.

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