Thursday, December 24, 2020

#2,524. Byleth: The Demon of Incest (1972)

The following disclaimer appears at the beginning of Severin’s blu-ray release of Byleth: The Demon of Incest, a 1972 Italian horror film:

The following scan of Bylth is taken from the only known negative element of the uncensored German version: Trio Der Lust.

There is discoloration in some scenes due to damage in the element, but hopefully this will not mar your enjoyment of this sensual and perverse filmic experience

And rest assured that Byleth: The Demon of Incest is, indeed, “sensual and perverse”. It’s in the horror department that the film is somewhat lacking.

The setting is 19th century Italy. Duke Lionello (Mark Damon) is thrilled that his beloved sister Barbara (Claudia Gravy), who was traveling abroad the past year, has finally returned home. His happiness is shattered, however, when he learns that, during her absence, Barbara married Giordano (Aldo Bufi Landi), and the two are very much in love. Lionello’s unhealthy “obsession” with his sister soon gets the better of him, and he suffers what appears to be yet another nervous breakdown (the first of which struck him when he was 10 years old). But when several beautiful women turn up dead - with wounds in their neck made by a knife with three blades - the authorities begin to suspect Lionello may have had something to do with the killings. But is Lionello truly guilty, or is something much more sinister to blame?

Byleth: The Demon of Incest lays its cards on the table in the pre-title sequence, clueing us in on exactly what type of movie it’s going to be; in this scene, a prostitute is having sex with one of her clients. When he finally leaves, she’s attacked by someone (or something) bursting into her room, stabbing her in the neck. This opening is soft-core in nature, with plenty of nudity, and throughout the movie we’re treated to several more moments just like this one (including one tryst, seen in flashback, that obviously inspired the film’s title). As for the murder, it’s surprisingly tame, generating zero tension and featuring very little blood. Alas, this also proves to be the case with every subsequent killing, and the film’s demonic elements (hinted at in the 2nd half of the movie) are left painfully underexplored.

Writer / director Leopoldo Savona does manage to sneak a fairly interesting story into the mix, and Damon does a fine job as the tortured Duke, whose frail nature masks a truth about himself that even he is afraid to face. But in the end, Byleth: The Demon of Incest is only partially successful. In short, if it’s nudity and sex you’re after, this movie has plenty to offer. Those seeking thrills of a more horrific nature best look elsewhere.
Rating: 5 out of 10 (watch it, but don’t move it to the top of your queue).

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