Hello, and welcome to my 2021 April A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year, I am talking about every horror movie Alec and I watched during the pandemic (so far). There are a lot of them. But, as my initial list didn’t have any movie on it that started with “Q,” I had to go seeking one. I found Queens of Evil.
Without further ado…
Queens of Evil (Le regine, Il delitto del diavolo)(1970)
Director: Tonino Cervi
Ah, Queens of Evil. As a movie, it was gorgeous, but a bit dull (especially in the middle of the film). But it did provoke a lot of discussion after we’d watched it.
I’m going to summarize it for you, and I feel that I kind of need to summarize the whole thing here, because not much happens in the film until the very end. Please, if you don’t want spoilers, skip this post! Or you could just listen to this thing I’ve embedded for you (update: I know how to do that now!).
It is the opening song of the film, and it was performed and (I think) written by Ray Lovelock, who plays the leading role. You could listen to it while you read this post. It will set the mood nicely.
I like the song myself, but be warned! Alec and I were going around for weeks after hearing it, going, “ohhhh-oohhh!!! Woo-woo-woo-wu-woo is gonna get ya…this other thing too is gonna get ya… la la la la is gonna get ya…” Because the song is catchy, and the lyrics are somewhat indistinct. A fatal combination.
Our hero here is called David. David is a hippie who believes in the sort of freedom that is all about constantly moving on and never settling down in any one place, even if you want to. He just travels the road, on his motorcycle, always roaming. Never faithful to one woman because, he says, that would be being unfaithful to all the others. Which… look, I understand what he means, but I still feel that probably sounded better in his head.
David stops to help a motorist in distress. This motorist takes this opportunity to sabotage David’s bike. Stuff happens, and soon David is forced to stop his wandering temporarily. He ends up staying with three attractive ladies who live in a cottage in the woods. In, by the way, an awesome cottage. The decor is odd and unexpected. Not at all rusticated, and not at all “witchy.” It is pretty obvious that these ladies are witches, but they have, in the midst of this forest, a modern (at the time) pad. With giant photographic portraits of themselves on the walls and groovy ideas about furniture.
And then… slightly weird stuff happens. David sleeps with one woman, then another. They give him cake. They disappear on him. They re-appear on him. One of them has a taxidermy hobby. Another takes a joyride on his bike. The third (the “cute, innocent-seeming” one) is about to have a party soon. They ask him to come to the party. David’s all like, I’m moving on, ladies, you can’t hold me, I’m too cool, but then they pout at him and he decides to stay for the party after all.
…Turns out that’s a mistake, on his part. Still, dude, you owe them something, for the sex and the breakfast. If you want to say the sex was a mutual thing, and that it therefore carries no obligation… there’s still the breakfast. And they let you sleep in their shed and beds and places. And let you take a bath, when I bet you were pretty darned grubby from the road. I bet they had to scrub out that tub after you were in it. Unless, of course, they used witch-powers to clean it…
The three ladies take David to the party. It is in a castle. The party is full of odd people who say rude things to David. These people quite obviously represent Society. They practically say so. They’re all like, “we are Society, and you don’t fit in, you sexy rebel, you! We want to stare at you. You know, the way it’s sometimes fun to stare at a gross bug? That’s how we’re looking at you right now.” That isn’t a direct quote, but something like that does get said to David. He’s like, huh. Then he wanders off into one of the castle bedrooms and has sex with the third witch. The cute, innocent-seeming one that he hadn’t previously slept with.
Later, back at the witch-pad, he admits that he loves the three of them, and that he’d like to stay with them forever, giving up his life of freedom. The three witches then stab him to death.
At David’s burial service, the motorist from the beginning is there, and obviously the Devil. Everyone from the party is there, obviously in league with the Devil. The three witches are there, talking about how hard it was to catch this one. They say the job is getting harder, because people want fewer unnecessary things these days.
Later, flowers grow on David’s grave.
End of film.
It is pretty clear, here, that this movie is very much about stuff. There are various ways to read the film, and I’ve struggled a bit with my interpretation, but I think I’ve finally got it. David represents the movie’s idea of the Natural Man, and everyone else represents Society. Society wishes to destroy him, assimilate him, and kill his beautiful freedom-loving soul. Everything (and I mean everything!) is in a horrible, Devil-run conspiracy to get him. Eventually, they do get him. The death of David at the end of the film probably represents David selling out and settling down. The death is the death of his ideals. I think.
This reading is supported in quite a few ways, including by the song that the film opens and closes with. Which, as you may have noticed if you played it, is all about all the people who are “going to get you.” It appears to be a list of people who will get you, and it mentions each person’s societal role (as far as we’ve been able to decipher the lyrics, anyway). And, I mean, the people at the party very, very clearly represent Society. And there are discussions throughout the film of David’s ideals, and he is killed right after he admits that he has betrayed them. So I think my interpretation is supported.
Anyway, the message here kind of irritated me, because it holds up as an ideal David’s impossibly lonely and solipsistic lifestyle, and suggests that all attempts to establish any sort of permanent human connection is a Society-imposed unnecessary desire, and that giving in to that desire is selling out.
But it gave us lots of food for thought, primarily about how lonely it would be, to live in a way that is absolutely and primarily committed to maintaining one’s freedom. Because yeah, a lot of the stuff that makes life, in my opinion, worth living (friends, loved ones, family) also requires a certain sacrifice of individual freedom. When you make a friend, you admit that that person matters, and sign up to make sacrifices (to a greater or lesser extent–sometimes the sacrifice is as minor as picking up the phone when they call at 3 AM when you’d rather be sleeping) on that person’s behalf. You, in fact, give up a small part of your freedom, because you allow that person to matter to you. And when someone matters to you, they have at least a slight claim on you. David’s philosophy seems to despise even this small concession. And I’d hate to live like that, personally.
So, in a way, absolute commitment to personal freedom is itself a tyranny, because it means that there are many things you cannot do. And that’s pretty interesting, really.
Right. That’s it for “Q.” Tomorrow, R! I have six movies for “R.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any Mystery Image that I absolutely loved from any of them, so I’m just going to show you a still of one of my favorite minor characters from one of tomorrow’s movies. And hey, extra points if you can name the movie from this image!