Movie Fan Man: Cinema Connoisseur

Traditional, Artsy, Genre-Within-Genre: A Little Something for Everyone


by Tony Nash

(Foreign Language Horror 2 Part 2)

(All Opinions are of the Author Alone)

(Spoilers Ahead)

(Review is of the Spanish language version)

Al Otro Lado del Espejo (The Other Side of the Mirror) (1973) R ****1/2

Emma Cohen: Ana Oliveira

Howard Vernon: Senor Oliveira, Ana’s Father

Robert Woods: Bill, the Jazz Trumpeter (as Robert Wood)

Ramiro Oliveros: Miguel Ferrera, Theater Director

Alice Arno, Carla, Ana’s Friend

Philippe Lemaire: Pipo

Francoise Brion: Tina

Wal Davis: Arturo Braun

Written & Directed by: Jess Franco (as Jesus Franco)

 Synopsis: Ana, sheltered all her life by her strict but loving father, hopes to marry a budding archeologist documenting the original peoples of the island of Madeira. This hope is shattered when, believing seeing her in her bridal dress will soften his feelings, Ana sees through a large mirror that her father has hung himself. Painful memories force Ana to break her engagement
and leave her family’s home to recover, only to be haunted by vivid visions of her father’s suicide through mirrors, and bizarre compulsions to kill all men falling in love with her. Is her father still dominating her life from beyond the grave, or is there something forbidden looming in the air?

At the Mansion of Madness: The Other Side of the Mirror / Al otro lado del  espejo (1973)

Jess Franco, cinema’s erotic and exploitation auteur, gives viewers the closest thing he would ever get to arthouse style filmmaking with a unique blend of Erotic Drama and Psychological Horror. A young woman suffers a terrible tragedy when her loving but overprotective father kills himself days before she is set to get married. Deciding she needs a fresh start and a new perspective on her relationships with men, she breaks up with her fiancé, leaves the family’s Madeira Island estate in the care of her aunt, and heads off to Lisbon where she puts her piano training to use as a jazz club’s band singer and pianist. When visions of her dead father being appearing in mirrors, the young woman begins to wonder if the man is still dominating her life from the beyond, or if what she viewed as his secret tenderness toward her was really something far darker, something which could destroy her. Franco doesn’t push his normal boundaries with this brief plot excerpt, but he makes up for that in giving his audiences snippets of subtext and ambiguity that makes viewers decipher what he’s trying to tell them. The main question he puts to fans is whether the lead character Ana is suffering from a mental breakdown after seeing her father had killed himself, or is something sinisterly supernatural going on that no one has the power to put a stop to.

Madeira, an island off the coast of Portugal, and one of Jess Franco’s favorite locations, gets shown off in great detail in this film. The island’s architecture, greenery, lakes, etc., are all on display in all their beauty. What makes Franco’s Erotic Horrors different is that he doesn’t make his landscapes foreboding places where bad things can happen, but lush exotic environments that otherworldly forces invade to suit their own needs.


Emma Cohen, a sort of forgotten Spanish actress in spite of a fairly prolific career, gives a once in a lifetime performance as the central character Ana. Cohen plays Ana as a woman torn between the complex but loving relationship she enjoyed with her father and the desire to freely see the world her father protected her from. Her attempts at going about finding true love in a way that won’t entirely hurt her father seem to work, only for Ana to receive a devastating blow when she finds the man has hung himself in his study. Cohen takes Ana into a brooding place, unsure if she feels guilty for not giving her father enough time to adjust to her getting married, or if something else is in the air. A move to the capital of Lisbon seems to lift Ana’s spirits as she finds success as the lead singer and pianist of a Jazz Club band, and also finds an easygoing flirtatious fling with the band’s unhappily married trumpet player. Cohen then begins taking Ana down the rabbit hole of the blurring of nightmare and reality when she sees a vision of her hanging father in a mirror and then sees herself murdering the trumpet player with an ancient dagger. At first thinking she’s still feeling some effects of trauma, Ana shrugs it off, only to become more disturbed when she learns the trumpet player was found stabbed to death in the park they rendezvoused at the night before. While she recovers thinking the incident a mere coincidence, Ana soon worries her father might still have a hold of her when she has another vision of him and then sees herself killing her theater director friend after he asked her to play Medea in his revolutionary new staging of the Euripides play.

Upon finding out her director friend was indeed stabbed to death on the theater stage, Ana attempts suicide, but is saved by a friend. Relocating back to the island of Madeira, but not her childhood home, Ana seems finally on the mend. When the male end of a partying swinger couple genuinely falls for her is when she realizes the moment of truth: her father had incestuous desires toward her, and he’s been possessing her body, forcing her to kill the men who would take her away from him, and finally beckons her to join him in the afterlife. Cohen gives the closest thing to a Method Acting performance that would be seen in a Jess Franco flick, giving her all in the part of Ana, and bringing a nice amount of depth and personality to the character. This normally isn’t seen much in Franco’s films though the actors could give signals in the simplicity of their performances, but Cohen adds a nice bit of spice that gives a special feel to the film.

Howard Vernon, Jess Franco’s favorite actor, gives a short but memorable and important performance as Ana’s father Oliveira. Little is known of the gentleman, other than that he’s an expert on the history and people of the island of Madeira. On the surface he comes off as merely a very overprotective widowed father trying to keep his daughter safe, and thinks no man is good enough for his little girl. Unfortunately, the man’s love seems to be nearing obsessiveness as he is against a fairly good young man who can make his daughter happy, and eventually hangs himself in his study, seemingly unable to handle his daughter growing up. Vernon shows his underrated talent at full force here, mimicking to near disturbing perfection the face of a suicide by hanging, bulging eyes and tongue included. Credit has to be given to Vernon for maintaining that look for long enough to use as still footage later. Days after his death, Oliveira begins haunting his daughter through visions of his hanging corpse through mirrors and his disembodied voice calling to her from beyond. What is initially thought of as him continuing to assert his parental nature from beyond the grave is really much more devious and perverse, as one of the visions reveals that Oliveira had secret incestuous desires for his daughter where he’s shown holding her in a not so fatherly embrace.

Al otro lado del espejo (1973)

Robert Woods, another of the many American actors who went to Europe and became stars, has a brief but necessary role in his debut Franco film as Bill, Ana’s Jazz Band Trumpet Player. While a married man, Bill is unhappy because of his wife’s substance issues and longs to begin a fresh new romance. Initially happy to have the occasional fling with Ana, Bill realizes he’s genuinely falling in love with her, though tries not to push things as Ana has told him what brought her to the city. When Bill becomes the first victim of Ana’s depraved father’s beyond the grave machinations is when the ball begins to roll and tragedy looms over anyone who falls in love with Ana. 

DeVilDead : Critique du film MIROIR OBSCENE, LE (AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO)  (1973) et du DVD Zone 2

DeVilDead : Critique du film MIROIR OBSCENE, LE (AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO)  (1973) et du DVD Zone 2

Like with much of Jess Franco’s 1970’s work, multiple edits and cuts of his films were made, one of the international market, and one to appease the censors of General Franco run Spain. Usually the international edited version, whether German or French language, was Franco’s preferred cut of the film as it allowed him to do more he wouldn’t have been able to do in his native Spain, but surprisingly Otro Lado del Espejo was Franco’s favored cut of this particular film. The 2nd most popular edit is the French language version titled  Le Miroir Obscène, and features new scenes with Franco’s 2nd Muse Lina Romay. Romay plays Ana’s sister in the French cut, and it is her character, not Howard Vernon’s father character, that secretly desires a sexual relationship with Ana. As with the father character in the Spanish cut, Lina Romay’s sister character kills herself when Ana decides to get married, her method being to stab herself in the stomach and pelvis with a long poker. The French cut pretty much follows the pattern of Franco’s preferred Spanish cut, the only difference being it’s the sister, not the father, who calls Ana from beyond the grave to give in to their incestuous desires and possesses her to kill all the men who would try to steal her from her. :: Voir le sujet - [M] [Critique] Le Miroir obscène

Surreal, Artful, Hypnotic, Erotic, and everything in between, Franco’s Al Otro Lado del Espejo is the director at his most personal and artistic, successfully blending the materials that would make him famous/infamous world over and the visions he secretly wished to present onscreen. 

(As bizarre as this will sound, I actually recommend people check this Franco flick out. He doesn’t go over the top in terms of nudity and sex scenes, and is more interested in the interactions of the characters and the surreal visions of his leading lady Ana. The core of the subject matter is pretty adult for sure, but he plays with it ambiguously throughout the film, only getting explicit briefly in one of the very last scenes of the film. Emma Cohen’s performance is really worthwhile in the film and shows how underrated and underappreciated she is as an actress. I’ve seen the whole of the Spanish cut and some of the French cut, and while I understand why Franco preferred the Spanish version of the film as it kept more to the films he really wished he could’ve done more of, the French cut is still interesting in that it presents a sister/sister forbidden romance that was rarely touched in films dealing with Oedipal type subject matter. The French version I can’t recommend as it contains quite a few scenes of Lina Romay having sex with various partners to lure Emma Cohen’s character to the dark side, and of course such scenes are not for everyone’s taste, but is worth seeking out if you’re interested. Mondo Macabro did an excellent job with the restoration of the Spanish cut in visuals and audio, and is totally worth checking out.)

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For the French language cut



Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

Bitter Jealousy, an Ancestor’s Revenge, Ghosts of the Past, and an Amoral Statue

by Tony Nash

(Foreign Language Horror 2 Part 1)

(All Opinions are of the Author Alone)

(Possible Spoilers Ahead)

(Review is of the original Italian language version)

Italian Poster (from IMDb)

Un Angelo per Satana (An Angel for Satan) (1966) **** PG-13

Barbara Steele: Harriet Montebruno / Maddelena Montebruno / Belinda

Anthony Steffen: Roberto Merigi / The Sculptor

Claudio Gora: Count Montebruno

Mario Brega: Carlo Lionese

Marina Berti: Ilda, the Housekeeper (as Maureen Melrose)

Ursula Davis: Rita, the Maid

Vassili Karis: Dario Morelli, the Teacher (as Vassili Karamesinis)

Aldo Berti: Vittorio, the Gardener

Betty Delon: Barbara Lionese

Halina Zalewska: Luisa

Written by: Giuseppe Mangione & Camillo Mastrocinque, from a story by Luigi Emmanuele, adapted from the novel by Antonio Fogazzaro

Directed by Camillo Mastrocinque

Synopsis: Roberto Merigi, an aspiring artist who also restores damaged and aged art pieces, is hired by Count Montebruno to repair a once thought lost statue of an ancestor. He finds out quickly that the locals aren’t happy with his assignment, believing the statue to be cursed by a jealous ancestor of the Montebruno’s. Merigi soon finds himself smitten with the Count’s niece Harriet who’s just returned from her studies in England, who bears a striking resemblance to her great aunt Maddelena who modeled for the statue. Not long after, a series of tragedies befall the community, and the locals believe the curse is at work while Merigi is certain something very human is at work.

A Recollection of the Past (from Genre Grinder)

1966 closed one chapter of Italian cinema and opened the door of another. Gothic Horror had been very popular from the late 50’s, but the genre would soon fade away to more modern set Horror, and the quickly rising favorite new Western genre. The Gothic style Horror thankfully went out with a bang with two solid films: Mario Bava’s Operazione Paura (Kill Baby Kill) and Camillo Mastrocinque’s Un Angelo per Santana (An Angel for Satan). The latter made film history thrice for not only being one of last Gothic Horror films in Italy, but also one of the last Black & White genre films in Italy and lead actress Barbara Steele’s farewell to her tenure in Italy. The film is a solid mixture of the popular tropes of the supernatural, local legends slowly becoming to be believed as fact, and certain parties using the fear of the locals as cover for their nefarious deeds.

The Possessed Heiress Surveying the Locals (from The Bloody Pit of Horror Blog)

Director Camillo Mastrocinque’s decision to shoot the film in Black & White is a mix of aesthetic choice and necessity. With playing up the ghost story and possession story, Mastrocinque wanted to focus on mood and atmosphere, and Black & White evokes that perfectly. Most Italian Horror films of the time were shot in Black & White anyway, so Mastrocinque going back to what made the genre popular to start with is very fitting.

Harriet Being Possessed (from Twitter)

Barbara Steele, in her swansong to the Italian Horror films that made her famous, gives one of her finest performances as the innocent and pure Harriet Montebruno, and an evil ancestor named Belinda looking to destroy her. Steele slyly goes from persona to persona, being the rationale and unaware of the harm being done to her Harriet one minute to the sadistic and hate filled Belinda another. As Belinda, Steele plays the part up as a woman who, because no one ever loved her, would use the hate that brewed within her to kill all the love she saw around her. Steele even adds an interesting and nice little bisexual lesbianism to the character, suggesting the possibility that Belinda secretly desired the cousin Harriet bears a strong resemblance to, but at the same time hated the woman for having what she couldn’t. The part harkens back to Steele’s debut in Italian Horror with Mario Bava’s La Maschera del Demonio (Mask of the Demon/Black Sunday), in which she played another innocent woman made the pawn in a wicked ancestor’s scheme for revenge, though the former was most certainly supernatural while the latter could be either, nicely bringing Steele’s career in Italy full circle.

The Sculptor Merigi (from The Bloody Pit of Horror Blog)

Anthony Steffen, as he was rising to stardom via the Italian Westerns, took a little side trip to appear in his one and only Horror film as Barbara Steele’s romantic interest Roberto Merigi. Merigi is an artist hoping to make a living as sculptor, but is content at the moment to bring pieces that have been damaged in one form or another back to life. When he meets Harriet, Merigi’s otherwise mundane life quickly gets more to offer for him, and he made a few attempts to woo her. One night n a fevered frenzy, Merigi learns the of the curse brought about the wickedly jealous Belinda, and soon finds the curse coming to life all around him as Harriet goes through bizarre personality changes, and the otherwise peaceful locals become more and more unhinged. Steffen, infamous for being something of a wooden actor, uses this to his advantage as Merigi is an outsider who is looking in at the events around him, and his outsider status allows him to see the happenings more objectively, which will prove useful in clearing Harriet of wrongdoing.

The Brute Carlo (from Cineraglio)
Harriet’s Uncle the Count (from KinoLexx)
The Doomed Couple (from The Bloody Pit of Horror Blog)
The Creepy Vittorio (from IMDb)

A slew of Italian character performers including Claudio Gora and Italian Western regulars Mario Brega, Aldo Berti, and Greek-Italian Vassili Karis help make up the remaining characters in the little hamlet. Gora’s character holds quite a bit of importance in that he may know more than he’s telling in regards to the curse and what credence it truly holds to the community. Brega and Berti are two of the brutish members of the community who are generally only tough looking but are normally harmless and kind, but when the Count orders the restoration of the statue, things begin to downward spiral, and the once kind denizens begin to lose their minds.

The Statue That Started Everything (from The Bloody Pit of Horror Blog)

Craftsman filmmaker Mastrocinque creates one of the grand finales of Italian Gothic Horror with a piece that ties the supernatural, the moody atmosphere, the tension, and multi other tropes all together in a homogenous mixture that both pays tribute and acts as a grand opus to everything that made the genre what is was and kept it popular for the period it thrived in. The Queen of Italian Horror Barbara Steele may have been saying goodbye to the country that made her popular, but she would continue to act for another 20 to 30 years, her time in Italy prepping her for other types of roles she would receive later. US Blu Ray Distributor Severin Films did a magnificent job in restoring this rarely seen piece of Italian Horror, offering up a clear crisp image that highlights the black & white contrasts, and offers the option of the original Italian audio (which is the better track IMO) with translated English subtitles and the rarely heard English dub track.

( I highly recommend giving this film a look along with Mario Bava’s Kill Baby Kill as they are the best examples of how to finish out a genre film run properly, as when those kinds of films are done, they keep the possibility of a comeback in interest alive. As said above, star Barbara Steele gives a career defining performance in the film that sums up all the work she’d done in Italy at the time. The atmosphere, score, story, and the cast all make the film worth checking out.)

All images courtesy of Images and their respective owners

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Filed under: Film & TV: Potpourri, Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

The Undercover Sheriff

by Tony Nash


(All Opinions are of the Author Alone)

(Spoilers Ahead)

(Write Up is of the Original Italian Language Version)

Italian Poster (from lifeatfarm)

Una Bara per lo Sceriffo (A Coffin for the Sheriff/Lone and Angry Man) (1965) **** PG-13

Anthony Steffen: Sheriff ‘Texas’ Joe Logan

Eduardo Fajardo: Russell Murdock

Armando Calvo: Lupe Rojo (Red Wolf)

Arturo Dominici: Jerry Krueger (as Arthur Kent)

Fulvia Franco: Lulu Belle

Luciana Gilli: Miss Jane Wilson

George Rigauld: Mr. Wilson (as George Rigault)

Maria Vico: Elsie, Rojo’s Woman

Lucio De Santis: Mulligan, Rojo Henchman (as Bob Johnson)

Frank Brana: David, Rojo Henchman (as Francisco Bragna)

Miguel del Castillo: Sheriff Gallagher (as Migule del Castillo)

Jesus Tordesillas: Old Man Sven

Written by: David Moreno & Guido Malatesta (as James Reed)

Directed by: Mario Caiano (as Mario Cajano)

Synopsis: ‘Texas’ Joe Logan comes to town to join up with the ruthless Mexican bandit Lupe Rojo (Red Wolf). After successfully completing an initiation that involved hunting down and killing a failing gang member, Logan slowly works his way through the ranks. Unbeknownst to his friends who think he’s gone bad, Logan is really a Sheriff working undercover to not only break-up Rojo’s ruthless band of cutthroats, but to take out a particular member who murdered Logan’s wife sometime earlier.

A Figure Stares at Lupe Rojo’s Wanted Poster (from Wikipedia)

The popular Western motif of a Lawman going undercover or seemingly gone rouge to either: bring down a dangerous and ruthless outlaw and his gang, get some personal revenge on one or many of the gang, or even a combination of all of the above gets a very interesting and entertaining spin by the Italians. The Spaghetti Western genre was in the early stages of its giant boom thanks to Sergio Leone’s Per un Pugno di Dollari (A Fistful of Dollars) in 1964 and by 1965 at least half of all genre films made and released in Italy were Westerns. Una Bara per lo Sceriffo is one of the bridges in mixing taking cues from the American Westerns and the hard hitting gritty style the Italian Western would come to specialize in. It’s not too gritty, but at the same time doesn’t feel like that much of an imitation of an American Western, giving it a unique voice all its own.

Logan Getting Grilled by Rojo and Kreuger (from AvaxHome)

Sheriff ‘Texas’ Joe Logan is quite different from the usual lawman going incognito to track down ruthless outlaws in that he’s not above or afraid of breaking a few rules to get the job done. Given that the quarry are the kind of bad guys who would kill someone at the first hint they were double-crossers or traitors, having to go outside the normal methods isn’t too out of the ordinary. This is the first of the differences as American audiences of the time would’ve been quite shocked to see a Sheriff using the tactics Logan does. The two other noticeable motifs fans will see is the big businessman or politician who uses his position to double-cross the town, revealing he’s in fact working with the bandits and of course an ex flame of the hero who’s shockingly found to be in a relationship with one of the gang members. How the screenwriters spice up these motifs is that the high-up man isn’t one of those types who came upon a get rich quick scheme that he couldn’t pass up, but was a trickster from the start, looking to fleece the town the moment he got there, a so well hidden two-faced agenda, even the head bandit is fooled. Not too much is different with the ex flame story arc, save that the woman knows the bad guy is a bad guy and seems to have lost her morality in telling what is dangerous from what is skittish and is honest, but somehow is still a good woman for the most part.

Logan Faces Off Against the Odds (from Wikipedia)
Murdock Realizes the Jig is Up (from IMDb)

The film marks the first pairing of Italian Western regulars Anthony Steffen and Eduardo Fajardo, which led to four more films together. While the Italian-Brazilian Steffen has often been criticized as a ‘Wooden Poor Man’s Clint Eastwood’, here, and in 4 films this reviewer can name straightaway, gives one of the better performances of his career. His emotions are few in the film, but there’s a stoic and hard edge about the character Joe Logan that makes him very interesting to follow him around on his quest for vengeance and justice. There’s also a solid loving and caring side to Logan as he does his best to protect his friend Wilson and the man’s daughter Jane and the concern he shows to old flame Lulu Belle when he realizes she’s gotten herself involved with a bad guy. Steffen’s screen presence is used to great effect in the film, and the lack of emotion makes him able to sneak into the gang with ease. Spanish acting legend Eduardo Fajardo, one of the top two villains of the SW genre, gives another of his solid performances here in his first time playing gunslinger Russell Murdock. Usually Fajardo was the fancy dressed aristocratic like villain or a corrupt military man, but here he’s the traditional black-clad gunman with a chip on his shoulder. The 2nd in command to Rojo, Murdock is a sadistic brute who has no problem getting his hands dirty when robbing or killing, even doing little side jobs on his own. It’s shown early on that its Murdock that Lulu Belle is courting, Logan only having a vague knowledge of it. Logan keeps a watchful eye on Murdock, more because Murdock was involved in Logan’s past, though only Logan remembers.

(Author’s Note: For some reason in the English dubbed version, the Steffen character is called Shenandoah, even though if you look clearly at the other characters’ mouths moving, they clearly refer to him as ‘Texas’ Joe Logan in one variant or another. I imagine this big change was due to the success of the James Stewart Frontier Drama Shenandoah that came out the same year.

Lupe Rojo Shows He Doesn’t Play Around (from Trailers From Hell)

Puerto Rican actor Armando Calvo, an often overlooked figure in the Italian Western genre, is as excellent a villain as Eduardo Fajardo in the role of bandit leader Lupe Rojo. Although Fajardo gets 2nd billing after Steffen, it’s really Calvo’s Rojo who ‘s in charge of the gang. Rojo is quite a bit like the traditional Mexican Bandido in that he’s ruthless and has no pity for his victims. He also has a high amount of machismo as he treats his girlfriend more like something he owns rather than a romantic partner. Calvo plays Rojo with a devious intelligence, making him a really dangerous individual to tangle with, whether he’s the intended quarry or a bonus if the intended target is riding with him. While he has a partnership with the big shot Krueger, Rojo keeps just as close an eye on him as the rest of his gang, ending petty squabbles by threatening to kill anyone who disrupts the gang’s infrastructure. Rojo’s smarts are put to the test when Joe Logan looks to get payback on one of his goons for the death of Logan’s wife, while also putting an end to Rojo’s reign of terror.

Logan Joins in on a Rojo Bunch Card Game (from Wikipedia)

While the film deals in a fairly simple plotline with no twists or surprises, it’s executed in a very well done fashion. The suspense in wondering who Logan is after and how he’ll get out of a situation when his ruse is discovered by the gang is plenty to keep audiences intrigued and entertained. The shootouts aren’t at the standard the SW genre is known for, but the few that are are choreographed well. One dimensional characters are non existent in the film, each performer bringing in a nice amount of depth and complexity to his and her role, giving audiences enough reason to cheer and root for, boo at, and feel sympathy for. Some may rightly say it’s generic, but the director, screenwriters, and cast really make the simplicity shine bright.

Original Italian Opening (from SPACETREK66)

First off, I’d like to give a special shout out and thanks to Miss MOON GEMINI herself Debbi for starting up this interesting Blogathon and for letting me be a part of it and to share some of my love of the Italian Western. I highly recommend this one as a good starting point if any fans are looking for something a little different to fair by Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci as it offers up a classic storyline a lot of people know and is told in a different and exciting way. There used to be a US DVD release of the film from the company Wild East, but they sadly closed up shop at the start of this year, and the DVD has since gone out of print. There is a German DVD that has both the English dub and the original Italian audio track, but unfortunately only has German subtitles.

From My Personal Collection

The Italian version offers up the better narrative in my opinion, but fans can watch whichever version best suits them. If anyone is interested in the German disc, it is Region 2, so you’ll either need to get an All Region Blu Ray or DVD player, or you can play it on your laptop as they aren’t region locked. I highly recommend the German disc as it has a nice and crisp transfer with solid video and audio. Or you can check out the film here

All images courtesy of Images and their respective owners

for more info,_Una

For those interested in the German DVD

Filed under: Film & TV: Potpourri, Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

Murder and Mayhem in the World of Fashion

by Tony Nash

Part of The Cycle of the Melodic Gialli

(Spoiler Free)

(All Opinions are of the Author Alone)

(Review is of the Original Italian language version)

The Crimes of the Black Cat (1972) - IMDb
Italian Poster (from the IMDb)

Sette Scialli di Seta Gialli (Seven Shawls of Yellow Silk/The Crimes of the Black Cat) (1972) ****1/2 R

Anthony Steffen: Peter Oliver

Sylva Koscina: Francoise Ballais

Shirley Corrigan: Margot Thornhill

Giacomo Rossi-Stuart: Victor Morgan Ballais

Renato de Carmine: Inspector Jensen

Giovanna Lenzi: Susan Leclerc (as Jeannette Len)

Annabella Incontrera: Helga Schurn

Umberto Raho: Burton, Peter’s Caregiver

Isabella Marchall: Paola Whitney

Lilana Pavlo: Wendy Marshall

Romano Malaspina: Harry, the Photographer

Written by: Sandro Continenza (as Alessandro Continenza), Sergio Pastore, & Giovanni Simonelli

Directed by: Sergio Pastore

Synopsis: Aided by his faithful butler/caregiver and a close female friend, a blind pianist film composer starts his own investigation after learning of the death of an old girlfriend who was blackmailing the husband of a Fashion House owner. As he digs deeper, the agency’s other models, all of whom knew something, are slowly being picked off by the killer.

The Crimes of the Black Cat (1972) | MUBI
The Accomplice’s Calling Card (from Mubi)

The little known Italian filmmaker Sergio Pastore offers up one of the more intricate and well crafted early Giallos of the early seventies with Sette Scialli di Seta Gialli. Early 70’s Giallos had some very creative storylines and well played out camera tricks to hide the identity of the killer until the eventual big reveal, but Pastore takes this up a notch providing viewers with psychedelic style photography to heighten the sense of character emotions and having multiple red herrings and misleads, one of whom may or may not be a possible patsy. Pastore also ups his ante by having a good chunk of the film be like a police procedural as audiences are given fairly thorough points from the protagonist on the killer(s) motives, the method of which the crimes were accessed, etc., details that normally don’t show up in the typical Giallo and make trying to find out who the culprit is all the more interesting. An interesting twist within the Giallo genre, where motive and reasons for the killing are revealed only within the last 10 to 15 minutes, is that viewers know within the first 20 or so minutes as to why the first victim was murdered and who was conned into aiding and abetting the killer, but what remains a mystery is why the woman was killed, and why who she worked at the agency with are being targeted as well.

Sette scialli di seta gialla (1972) | il mio vizio e' una stanza chiusa
The Credits Pan Over the City of Copenhagen (from Il Mio Vizio e una Stanza Chiusa at WordPress)

The country of Denmark, the capital city of Copenhagen in particular, gets to be the setting of the interesting Giallo. Giallos often had exotic locations to compliment the story and atmosphere, and Sette Scialli di Seta Gialla is no different from its predecessors, contemporaries, and successors. All of the location scenes were shot throughout the beautiful city of Copenhagen, viewers getting a glimpse into the everyday life of the Danish people and the immigrants who decided to make Denmark their home. The city is very cosmopolitan, featuring a wide variety of restaurants, boutiques, homes, etc., even showing a nice mix of the upper and middle classes, all of whom get along in their own ways.

The Crimes of the Black Cat (1972) - IMDb
Double Bill CD Soundtrack (from the IMDb)

Manuel De Sica, a composer known more for doing comedies, dramas, and crime films, offers up a very cool score for his sole Giallo effort. Mixing Rock Fusion and Jazz, De Sica creates sounds and rthymm that puts audiences in the moment, and then give them the necessary breather yo ease up the tension.

The Crimes of the Black Cat (1972) - Backdrops — The Movie Database (TMDB)
Peter and Margot Discuss the Murder (from The Movie Database)

Anthony Steffen, an Italian-Brazilian actor mainly known for his roles in Italy’s Westerns, gives a surprisingly effective performance as Peter Oliver. A pianist who makes extra income composing genre film scores, Peter lives a fairly quiet and mundane existence, save for the fact that he’s been blind for the majority of his life. His life ends up taking a unique turn when, while enjoying a drink at a favorite bar, he’s certain he’s overhearing a criminal blackmailing a woman into helping them commit a murder. Later learning the victim was his ex-girlfriend, he takes it upon himself to find out what happened and prevent the killer from striking again. That’s he’s blind is actually an advantage for Peter, as he can tell things by how people move and speak, as well as odors and other varied sounds, his other senses significantly heightened and stronger to balance out his loss of sight . Aiding him are his caregiver and another former flame, who are certain his hunches are correct.

The Crimes of the Black Cat 1972 | Download movie
Peter Overhears a Plot (from WipFilms)

Steffen’s career was beginning to teeter at this point in time. The Western genre had been milked dry and overly internally cannibalized by the early 70’s, and Steffen had been named as one of the primary faces of it. While audiences enjoyed his presence, he unfortunately didn’t have the range needed to function outside of the Westerns. Steffen did do very well in the role of Peter, particularly in having to always look like he was focusing on the sounds and smells around him, actions which the blind engage in everyday. While it could’ve led to him being typed as the blind crime solver of the Gialli, Steffen could’ve tackled playing similar characters that would’ve extended his career, which unfortunately fizzled not long after. Some critics panning him as wooden and a Poor Man’s Clint Eastwood, as well director Pastore’s misfortune of his genius directing abilities not being recognized in his lifetime helped add to Steffen’s eventual retirement.

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Francoise & Victor Ballais, Fashion Couple (from Listal)
The Crimes of the Black Cat (1972) - IMDb
The Inspector Questions Margot (from the IMDb)
The Crimes of the Black Cat (1972)
Helga & Wendy, Colleagues and Lovers (from the IMDb)
The Crimes of the Black Cat [1972] : r/CineShots
Burton, the Faithful Caregiver (from Reddit)

A stellar cast of characters including Sylva Koscina, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Shirley Corrigan, Annabella Incontrera, Umberto Raho, and Renato di Carmine all make up the varied suspects and police in the film. Carmine’s Inspector Jansen has his hands full trying to figure out who had the best reason to kill the blackmailing Paola: devoted wife Koscina, ner’-do-well but straightened out husband Rossi-Stuart, or fellow model Incontrera. Corrigan and Raho provide the aiding sight to Steffen’s blind pianist as he puts the pieces together and bring the killer to justice.

(Author’s Note: I can’t go too much into the other character’s as it reveals possible spoilers to a well written Mystery story.)

Cauldron Films Trailer (from YouTube)

The Limited Edition Blu Ray

Picture Quality:

Cauldron Films offer up a stellar restoration on their third ever release, treating audiences to the film’s first ever 4K scan, also preserving the original 2:35:1 aspect ratio. The image is very crisp, every detail showing up on screen with definite clarity, not every fiber visible, but nothing blurry either. The opening credit sequence is very grainy, but in an interfering way, and in fact gives the film a nice amount of 70’s drive-in charm. After the opening credits, the film’s image is solid, with only minor damage visible twice. The colors are very vibrate and rich, reds, blues, browns, yellows, greens all pop with clarity. Day scenes are bright, but not too bright, and dark scenes are dark, but not too dark, allowing audiences to see everything.

Audio: Two main audio options are available – the original Italian and the English Dub. Both sound very fine, the Italian audio having about one or two instances of popping within the first half hour to 40 minutes, but still crisp and strong. The English dub is a little crisper. Strangely, a brief sequence reverts to the English dub when viewing the Italian Audio track. I can’t tell if this was because the Italian Audio in that brief sequence was unusable or if the sequence was cut from the Italian print and used in the English Dub version. Two subtitle tracks are provided: English translating the Italian track, and English for the Hard of Hearing with the English dub. The subtitles translating the Italian track are spot on, minimal spelling errors, very impressive for a company still in its infancy. Same goes for the Hard of Hearing subtitles.

Special Features: Six items make up the Special Features – an Interview, a Mini Documentary, two Audio Commentary tracks, a Trailer, and an Image Gallery.

The Interview Remembering Sergio Pastore is with the filmmaker’s oldest daughter Sara Pastore. She mainly recounts her relationship with her father, his bubbly personality, a general view of his career, and her happiness at her father getting the recognition he missed out on in his lifetime. She was unable to really speak on any of his films as most of them are lost and she never got to see them, but she was able to state she found Sette Schialli di Seta Gialli very impressive, calling it one of her father’s best. She even recounts he planned on giving her a small role in a bio film about an early Opera Soprano, but that he sadly died before principal filming began. Since Ms. Pastore speaks only Italian, her interview has translated English subtitles, again very spot on translation with minimal errors. Interview runs 17 minutes

The Mini Documentary Sergio Pastore: Un Ammirevole Indipendente (Sergio Pastore – An Admirable Independent Director) is a short bio on Pastore, narrated by daughter Sara, and with opening on camera comments from Sara and her younger half-sister Laura Pastore. The Documentary gives brief, but very informative information on Pastore’s career, and includes a clip of one of his last on-set interviews while shooting the never completed Mini Series The Return of Sherlock Holmes. Like Sara Pastore’s Interview, the Documentary is in Italian with translated English subtitles, a fine translation as well.

There are two Audio Commentaries are available to choose from:

The first Commentary is with Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson, two of the leading authorities on the Giallo film genre, recorded specifically for the Cauldron release. Their Commentary goes into an in-depth analysis of the film as a whole, how it was structured, the lives and careers of some of the people involved, including star Anthony Steffen, director & co-writer Sergio Pastore, and composer Manuel De Sica, and of course the themes and motifs Pastore explored.

The 2nd Commentary is actually from a Podcast called Fragments of Fear hosted by Giallo enthusiasts Jim Jilmstad and Rachel Nesbit. The Podcast was recorded two years prior to the announcement that Cauldron Films was going to restore and release the film on Blu Ray, so Nesbit and Jilmstad won’t be discussing the release, or that the brand new company Cauldron is bringing the film back from obscurity. Ms. Nesbitt and Mr. Jilmstad discuss their viewpoints on the production after having watched the film on the full screen Italian DVD released some time earlier. Their Commentary is similar to the one by Howarth and Thompson, but done more from the viewpoint of fans rather than critics, as their track wasn’t done for the Blu Ray.

Next up for the features is the US trailer.

The extras wrap up with an image gallery, done as a slidwshow, mainly showing off the films varied posters,

Bonus release items include some lobby style cards, featuring promotional/poster images, and Manuel De Sica’s amazing jazz fueled soundtrack on CD.

Blu-Ray DVD Releases Archives - HorrorBuzz
Promotional image of the Blu Ray (from HorrorBuzz

Solid twists abound this nearly forgotten piece of Giallo cinema, giving audiences one of the most intricate and absorbing Mysteries to ever figure out as they follow the lead in solving a strange rash of killings. Director Pastore was certainly a visionary, and it’s really a shame he didn’t get the same accolades his contemporaries did during his lifetime. The resurrection of his sole entry into the Mystery Thriller offers up great insight into a master craftsman in his use of camera angles, photography, and the directing of actors.

(I highly recommend this nearly forgotten slice of Italian Thriller that utilizes amazing trick cinematography to heighten the suspense. Cauldron Films has done an amazing job with the restoration of this under seen and underrated gem.)

All images courtesy of Images and their respective owners

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The Italians Try Grimm Fairy Tales

by Tony Nash

(Foreign Language Horror #5)

(Mild Spoilers)

(All Opinions are of the Author Alone)

(Review is of the Original Italian Language version) Queens of Evil [Blu-ray] : Haydee Politoff, Silvia Monti,  Evelyn Stewart, Ray Lovelock, Gianni Santuccio, Geraldine Hooper, Tonino  Cervi: Movies & TV

Original Poster (from Amazon)

Le Regine (Queens of Evil/The Queens) (1970) ****1/2 R

Ida Gialli: Bibiana (as Ewelyn Stuart)

Silvia Monti: Samantha

Haydee Politoff: Liv

Ray Lovelock: David the Hippie (as Raymond Lovelock)

Gianni Santuccio: The Mysterious Man/The Devil

Guido Alberti: The Priest

Written by: Benedetto Benedetti, Tonino Cervi, and Raoul Katz

Directed by: Tonino Cervi

Synopsis: A wandering Hippie stops to help a stranded older gentlemen on the road, only for the man to betray the Hippie’s act of generosity. When the man dies during the Hippie’s attempt to confront him on the act, the Hippie flees, thinking the cops saw him. He ends up in an isolated farmhouse owned by three sisters who welcome him warmly. Soon, the Hippie begins to experience a drastic change in his personality, and the sisters seem to exhort more control over him.

Queens of Evil (1970) | MUBI
The Foursome at a Party (from Mubi)

Lesser known Italian filmmaker Tonino Cervi brought the Fairy Tale back to its dark origins with the film Le Regine. Instead of doing a spin on one of the known tales, Cervi, along with his co-writers, crafted a totally original story that not only compliments on the stories that came before it, but adds new life to the age old concepts of magics. The three protagonists are sisters who share some kind of power, left open if it be natural power gifted from nature, or powers from otherworldly sources. When a Hippie fleeing from the police for a crime he didn’t commit stumbles upon what he believes is their home, they offer him shelter and protection, with the secret intent of playing a game with him as the prey. Cervi also weaves in subtext of the nature of relationships between men and women, particularly in regards to sex, as during the film’s progression the main male character slowly begins to lose his independent will while the seemingly shy women also begin to exhibit stronger signs of dominance and power over him, all while playing with his mind in ever increasing surreal moments. Each sister also shows her strong sexual prowess as they each at one point lure the unsuspecting young men into their beds for a night of passion.

Queens of evil 1970 Le regine | free downloand| Download movie
The Surreal Bibiana (from Wipfilms)
Blu Review – Queens of Evil (Mondo Macabro) - Horror Society
The Surreal Samantha (from Horror Society)
Queens of Evil
The Surreal Liv (from Mondo-Digital)

The notion of magics are taken to a new level with Le Regine, reminding viewers that there’s more to those arts than meets the eye, and the power behind them something that can’t be fully understood. At varying moments of the film, the character David experiences what can only be described as lucid nightmares, seeing things that are out of the ordinary world that can’t possibly be real, but are very vivid and lifelike at the same time. The question that arises for viewers is whether these visions are the result of David’s own psyche as he’s out in the middle of nowhere with three eccentric sisters who he assumes practice Pagan Earth rites, or are the sisters manipulating his mind with whatever kind of power they’ve learned or have been gifted. The camera and lighting of these scenes are very well done and are atmospheric, reminding audiences of pop art images.

Queens Of Evil (1970) — The Movie Database (TMDB)
The Sisters as They Are (from The Movie Database)
The Sisters When They Practice Magicks (from Amazon)

Italian actresses Ida Galli (credited under her Anglo stage name Ewelyn Stuart) and Silvia Monti, and French actress Haydee Politoff give mesmerizing and sultry performances as the three sisters. While they share bonds over many things, the sisters are unique in their own ways. Galli as Bibiana is the oldest of the sisters. Bibiana is the mature, quiet, and matronly sibling, preferring to keep to her hobbies and the practices she and her sister engage in. Like any woman though, Bibiana has her sexual desires, and as the trio become more and more powerful over their prey David, she uses her sensitive and motherly wiles to lure the young man to her bed as her sisters listen from their rooms, a little jealous, but also respecting each other’s wants and needs.. Monti as Samantha is the most adventurous of the siblings. Samantha doesn’t have Bibiana’s experiences, but she has a lust and zest for life, those passions exhilerated by the presence of David. She is in fact the fist sister to seduce David, impressing him and frightening him simultaneously while riding on his motorcycle, and then luring him to a secluded beach where she chases him into delirium before letting letting him caress her. Politoff plays the youngest sister Liv. Liv appears to be entering into the final stages of womanhood. She has the quietness and sensitivity of Bibiana and the curiousness of Samantha, but has her own down to earth personality. She is the first to meet David, but the last to seduce him, and in fact develops the kind of infatuation that first loves tend to produce. While jealous that her sisters can take David at will, Liv realizes it’s an element of the game, and she’ll have him soon enough.

Blu Review – Queens of Evil (Mondo Macabro) - Horror Society
The Unsuspecting David (from Horror Society)

British Italian actor Ray Lovelock (credited as Raymond Lovelock) gives a very interesting performance as David. A Wandering Hippie who believes in free love and freedom without constraint, David travels the world searching for his paradise. When he shows some good will to a stranded motorist, he gets an unusual lecture about the dangers of too many women lovers, and that settling into a proper marriage is the way to go. After the motorist betrays his kindness, David tries to find out why, only to watch in horror as the man crashes his car into a tree, dying on impact. Fearing he’ll be accused of murder, David flees, ending up in an isolated barn in the woods. Initially, he suspects nothing amiss with the sisters he soon decides to live with, believing they practice a form of Pagan faith system that focuses on giving thanks to Nature in varied ways. It isn’t too long before David notices a change to both his physical health and mental state. At the start he seems very viral and full of passions but as time passes, he begins to lose confidence in himself, becoming more and more dependent on the women in some way or another. When each sister takes him sexually is when he seems most alive, sharing carnal passions with each woman in different fashions. David has no idea what kind of change has come over him, but knows there’s something not right in his well being, feeling free, but yet somehow at a kind of mercy to the sisters, alternating between periods of bliss and periods of near psychedelic visions/nightmares that may or may not be warnings should he continue to stay where he is.

Queens of Evil
David Explores Eerie Woods (from Mondo Digital)

Rarely seen outside of Europe and Japan until recently, Le Regine is fine rare gem of a film, boasting a fine mix of horror, fantasy, and trippy psychedelia. Concepts of sexual relations between men and women get tested, as well as the concept of what true freedom may very well entail, and what anyone is really willing to give up or compromise on in the name of life and love.

(I highly recommend this to anyone looking for something different in the Horror genre. While it does play more to the realm of Dark Fantasy than Horror, the film still offers the occasional creepy moment and atmosphere as the unwitting David is drawn deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole. Tonino Cervi succeeds ten times over in keeping audiences in the dark as to what’s really going on, mixing eyepopping colors, and clever cinematography tricks. The Blu Ray from Mondo-Macabro, marking the film’s debut in US Home Media, looks fabulous, the visuals very immaculate and gorgeous and the audio clear and crisp. I haven’t watched the English dub, but did find the Italian original very even and clear, and superb English subtitle translation. Well worth a purchase)

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When the Sins of the Ancestors…..Come to Their Kin

by Tony Nash

(Foreign Language Horror #4)

(Mild Spoilers)

(All Opinions are of the Author Alone)

(Review is of the original French language version)

Michel Lemoine –
French Poster (from Home Popcorn)

 Les Week-ends Maléfiques du Comte Zaroff (7 Femmes Pour un Sadique/The Malicious Weekend of Count Zaroff/7 Women for the Sadist/7 Women for Satan) (1976) **** 1/2 NC-17

Michel Lemoine: Count Boris Zaroff

Howard Vernon: Karl, the Butler/Karl’s Father

Joelle Coeur: Anne de Baoisryvault

Sophie Grynholc: Zaroff’s Secretary

Martine Azencot: Joelle

Nathalie Zeiger: Muriel

Robert de Laroche: Francis (as Robert Icaret)

Patricia Mionett: Jeanne

Maria Mancini: Stephane/Stephanie

Written & Directed by: Michel Lemoine (loosely inspired by The Most Dangerous Game [1932] and the novelette by Richard Connell)

Synopsis: Aristocratic businessman Boris Zaroff is haunted by hallucinations of himself torturing and killing young women. His father, the original Count Zaroff, had 40 years previously hunted people for sport until he was killed by his own hunting dogs. Boris has inherited his father’s debauched interests, and the son of his father’s servant will do whatever it takes to see that Boris embraces his evil lineage.

Seven Women for Satan (1976) | MUBI
A Beautiful Victim (from Mubi)

Actor/Filmmaker Michel Lemoine, at the height of his independent career, decided to tackle the Horror genre in a new and different way. In keeping with his desire to highlight people’s erotic tendencies, Lemoine employs sex and romance as a catalyst for the tragedies to befall his characters. Inspired by the Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack film The Most Dangerous Game (and the 1920’s short story by Richard Connell), Lemoine devised an unofficial sequel that focused on the son of the villainous Count Zaroff, and the man’s struggle to avoid continuing his father’s trail of terror. What soon follows is a bizarre game of human morality vs. base instincts and human and otherworldly forces fight for control of Boris’ soul and mind. While scenes of extended nudity and simulated sensual acts are abundant within the film, Lemoine in no way uses them for the simple shock value, though some sequences even now might still have that effect on some. Lemoine didn’t make the film as Softcore Porn with a Horror theme/background, but instead chose to tell a Horror story where the Erotic plays a necessary and, in some cases, important function of the outcome of said story.

Seven Women for Satan
The Tortured and Tragic Boris (from Mondo Digital)

Lemoine offers a compelling, sympathetic, and sadly tragic performance of the title character Zaroff. Lemoine expresses this beautifully and perfectly in that Boris is a genuinely good man who is forever haunted by the misdeeds of his brutal father, and by the sinister and human forces that try to make him embrace that brutality. This also has the Lovecraftian feel of Inherited Guilt in which fiction characters can’t escape or find redemption from the crimes committed by those that came before them. Audience realize this from the very instant Boris is introduced after his first onscreen hallucination as he is clearly bewildered and shocked at the thoughts always going through his mind. When he tries to stop himself from doing any harm to a female hitchhiker he fantasized making love to, he accidently runs her over with his car. Fearing his teeth marks on her breast will lead to suspicions he tried to rape her, he dumps her body in a deep lake by his estate. This act traumatizes him, and forces him to remember the night the woman he loved was murdered right in front of him, but also keeps him from doing anymore harm to others. Temptation continues to fly for Boris when he interviews a woman interested in the job of house secretary, and while he prefers to make love to her, ends up powerless when his servant orders the Doberman guard dog to attack her. Images of both the woman he ran over and his beloved haunt his mind, relieving him of doing any evil, but unable to prevent it. The last straw finally breaks when Boris realizes a prank he intended to play on a stranded couple he offered overnight shelter to was made into vicious crime by his servant, sending him over the edge. The question then becomes will the humanity still within him be able to break free of his family’s horrible curse. per Seven Women for Satan [Blu-ray] : Michel Lemoine, Joëlle Coeur,  Nathalie Zeiger, Howard Vernon, Robert de Laroche, Martine Azencot, Michel  Lemoine: Movies & TV
The Evil and Wicked Karl (from Amazon)

-Swiss-German French actor Howard Vernon, a staple of European genre cinema, and cult icon Jess Franco’s favorite actor, gives one of his most menacing and villainous performances in the role of Karl the Butler. Karl’s father, also a butler, served the original Count Zaroff as his son now serves the Count’s son Boris, revealing a hint of intertwined destiny. Karl vowed to keep a promise to his dying father that he would ensure Boris would continue the Zaroff legacy of cruelty and debauchery by whatever means available to him. Vernon gives Karl an air of remorselessness, willingly putting innocent people at risk, even killing them himself to make certain his master will come to see the delights of the darkness, all with an unflinching gaze. Karl is the true villain of the film as he willingly, and even at times with a sense of pride, does all sorts of horrible things to keep his word to his father. Little does Karl know that his master’s conscious is very strong, and other forces will fight him with equal intensity to save Boris.

Love From Beyond the Grave (from LA FOUTOIROTHÈQUE)

Joelle Coeur, the French Erotic film icon, gives a hauntingly wonderful performance as Anne de Baoisryvault. Anne plays an uber important role in that she’s the good against the evil that is Karl. Anne would be the only woman Boris Zaroff really and truly loved, Boris being Anne’s light while trapped in a loveless marriage. Their happiness was cut short when during a secret rendezvous, Anne was shot in the back while dancing with Boris, (while her jealous husband was most likely the culprit, some believe it was Karl to ensure Boris remained alone) poor Boris unaware his beloved Anne was dying in his arms. Her death would shatter Boris, who himself went into sexual repression and isolation. When Karl makes plans to ensure his master embraces his father’s wicked traits, Anne returns from the afterlife to save the man she loves. Placing her image in mirrors and such in place of the women meant to be the targets of the diabolical plot, Anne works to keep Boris’ humanity and conscious alive to fight against the evil trying to turn him. Anne appears to Boris on several occasions to remind him of the good man she knows he is, beckoning him to return to the light with her. When Boris realizes the horrible betrayal of Karl involving an innocent couple he offered overnight shelter to, his grip on reality breaks, forcing Anne to resort to one last method to save him and his soul, a method she’d hoped to not have to use. This was to be Joelle Coeur’s final film, retiring not long after as she didn’t care for French cinema’s ever increasing move towards XXX Hardcore Porn over the usual Softcore she enjoyed making.

The Beautifully Haunting Zaroff Castle (from Tumblr)

Mixing the Gothic Ghost Story with Frano-esque violence and high Erotica, Lemoine paints an artistic grindhouse piece that is both shocking and beautiful at the same time. Lemoine employs some unique camera angles and shots, mainly in the halucinatory moments that work very well to show Zaroff’s ever teetering balance between the world he wants to live in, and the world the more evil forces around want him to submit to. The lead character is surprisingly sympathetic despite his weakness at the forces vying for his final destiny. Good vs Evil has never been done so eloquently as this film, the power on the side of good unrelenting in battling its sadistic enemy to save a man.

(I’ll leave it up to whoever reads this write-up as to whether to watch the film or not. While the erotic moments aren’t over done and bordering on the poor taste/disgusting element, some people may find the heightened use of them a little too much to handle, and that is those folks’ right to believe. There’s definitely more to like than hate with the film as Lemoine proves himself a very good and effective director who’s style is very overlooked. Many of his choices are solid, some that went further than necessary, and only one or two he didn’t need at all solidifying his abilities. The Blu Ray done in conjunction between France’s Le Chat Qui Fume [The Smoking Cat] and the US’s Mondo Macabro is a solid restoration that brings the film back to life, keeping the dream-like atmosphere Lemoine intended. Either release is highly recommended, though I’ll mention now the special features on the French edition aren’t English subtitle friendly. I admit this is odd as the English subtitle translation of the film itself is solid, a little better than the US edition, but both editions are good in their own ways.)

All images courtesy of Images and their respective owners

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The Gothic, Euro Erotica, Pre-Ordained Revenge, & Bizarre Science

by Tony Nash

(Foreign Language Horror #3)

(Mild Spoilers)

(All Opinions are of the Author Alone)

(Review is of the original German version)

Original Poster (from SPLATTERTRASH)

Im Schloß der Blutigen Begierde (Castle of the Creeping Flesh/In the Castle of Bloody Desire) (1968) **** NC-17

Janine Reynaud: Vera Lagrange

Howard Vernon: Der Graf von Saxon

Michel Lemoine: Baron Brack

Elvira Berndorff: Elena Lagrange

Jan Hendriks: George von Kassell

Pier A. Caminnecci: Roger de la Valiere

Claudia Butenuth: Marion von Kassell / Katharina von Saxon

Vladimir Medar: Alecos, Diener

Written by: Adrian Hoven (as Percy G. Parker) & Eric Martin Schinitzler (with uncredited contributions from Jess Franco)

Directed by: Adrian Hoven (as Percy G. Parker)

Synopsis: A debauched Baron asks five of his party guests to sneak away with him to his hunting lodge for more fun. When the Baron rapes one of the women and she takes off, the group soon find themselves at the mysterious estate of a reclusive Earl. The Earl and the Baron seem to know each other, and it isn’t long before the Baron’s guests discover they’ve inadvertently been put in the middle of a centuries old curse.

Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde -
An Eerie, Mysterious Castle (from Italo-Cinema)

Veteran German character actor Adrian Hoven, sensing the changing tide in German cinema in the late 1960’s, decided to start his own production company with a group of friends to make self-financed genre films to compete with the burgeoning New German Cinema movement. The first result of this new company was the Gothic Horror film In the Castle of Bloody Desire, in which Hoven mixed the classic Horror of the early 60’s and the contemporary Jazz music fueled Thrillers that were just gaining steam in Italy at the time. Having done a couple of the Edgar Wallace Krimi in the early to mid-1960’s, Hoven already had an idea of how to mix suspense and horror overtones/undertones together, and thus was able to get financing without much difficulty as the Krimi’s hadn’t become clichéd yet. When filming was complete, Hoven chose to use the pseudonym Percy G. Parker while editing and postproduction as he was still a very respected film and stage actor, uncertain if his contemporaries would deride him for doing a film filled with so much violent imagery and bizarre sexual behavior, some sequences in the film still maintaining the shock value felt in the period in which it was made.

Castle of the Creeping Flesh
The Enticing Valerie (from Mondo-Digital)

Janine Reynaud, a French model and actress known for her participation in Euro Erotic and Exploitation cinema, is an alluring delight in the role of Vera Lagrange. Vera is an aristocratic woman with cravings for the hedonistic in sex and adventure, always on the lookout for the next lurid good time. Her newest fascination is the Baron Brack, who shares similar interests as herself. Unbeknownst to Vera, Brack is also interested her equally lovely sister Elena. Vera and the others are soon on a quest for Elena after Brack forcibly has his way with her, and she flees the Baron’s hunting lodge in a delirious state. After the group find themselves in the castle of the Earl of Saxon where Elena has been kept safe, Vera begins noticing some strange happenings. The Earl tells her she bears a striking resemblance to his ancestor’s 2nd wife, who brought about the rape/defilement and death of his daughter. The Earl further explains that it was his ancestor’s murdering of his 2nd wife that led to his own execution as he attempted to use the woman’s blood to resurrect his daughter. Afterwards, Vera begins having bizarre hallucination dreams, dreading something sinister will happen.

In the Castle of Bloody Lust (1968) — The Movie Database (TMDB)
The Earl Recalls the Painful Past (from The Movie Database)

Howard Vernon, the German-Swiss/French actor who became one of Jess Franco’s main collaborators, gives a subtly chilling role (in one of his rare non-Franco films) as the Earl of Saxon. A nobleman who’s family has suffered a bloody and tragic history, the Earl had made the decision to cut himself and his family from the outside world so they can eventually be free of the dark past hovering over them. A chance at fixing this tragic line comes almost by destiny in the form of Baron Brack, and his innocent guests. The Earl and Brack appear to know each other well in spite of the fact the Earl is a total recluse who never goes beyond his estate. Having assured Brack’s friends the young lady they’ve been looking for has only suffered a mild shock and will be able to go with them by morning, the Earl tells them the history of his family. He says history repeated itself when his own daughter was attacked by an unidentified assailant, and died of internal injuries. Almost everyone in the party, save for three of the characters, bear strong resemblances to the parties involved in the first Earl’s daughter’s death, and the question quicky becomes if history continually repeats itself, or if a new tragedy can be prevented. That the Earl demands his guests wear clothing from the period the atrocity was committed in strongly implies this.


Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde -
The Damned Baron (from Italo-Cinema)

Michel Lemoine, a French actor who began in important art films and later become an icon in genre cinema, is at his slimy best in the role of Baron Brack. Brack brings the 19th century debauched nobleman to the 20th century, and is just as, if not more so, depraved as his predecessors. When the vivacious and flirty Lagrange sisters catch his eye, the Baron plots how to bed both of them. When the younger sister admits to flirting all in fun, the Baron becomes enraged and proceeds to savagely and remorselessly rape the young woman. After she flees in a hysterical state, the Baron’s lifestyle is soon to catch up with him. When he and his party end up on the estate of the Earl of Saxon, Brack’s paranoia in regard to the Earl and the history of the Saxon family becomes ever increasing, hinting that he somehow has played a part before.   

𝕰 𝖟 𝖊 𝖖 𝖚 𝖎 𝖊 𝖑 . 🐩🤍 on Twitter: "IM SCHLOSS DER BLUTIGEN BEGIERDE  — CASTLE OF THE CREEPING FLESH (Adrian Hoven, 1968)… "

A Twisted Elegy to a Disturbing Crime (from Twitter)

Jess Franco, the unofficial King of Shlock/Shock Exploitation cinema, provided some uncredited assistance in Hoven’s screenplay. The high dose of Erotica, surreal/bizarre imagery, and unusual special effects all scream Franco’s MO and style, and all are used to good effect within the film. Hoven doesn’t use these in abundance the way Franco usually did, instead intersplicing them when needed, the only extensive uses of these are during Valerie’s nightmare as she sees the vicious act against the Earl’s daughter through the eyes of the devious mistress. Why Franco isn’t credited in any known print of the film is never made clear in any film site, but as Franco was a really busy independent filmmaker, working on as many as ten features a year, it’s possible at least one contract prevented his credit for legal reasons.


Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde -
Two People Discussing Bizarre Fantasies (from Italo-Cinema)

Again, going for a more psychological approach to Horror, Adrian Hoven does very well with Castle of Bloody Desire, near flawlessly mixing contemporary and historical settings, having rich yet not overtly complex characters, and of course a nice range of atmosphere and vibes.

(This is one of the films I have to recommend with caution to many people. While the film doesn’t glorify the act done to the Earl’s daughter and much of the other bizarre behavior of characters, some sequences in the film can be seen by some as quite intense, which is perfectly understandable. The film does draw the viewer in, and much of it is as much a curiosity as it is entertaining to an extent. Again, this is another example of a film not being everyone’s cup of tea, and only appeals to a certain type of viewer. Like with a few other films I’ve talked about on this level, I don’t make a claim to fully understand what Adrian Hoven wanted to accomplish with his film, but I feel I was open minded enough to see what his attempts were aiming at. There are two Blu Ray releases of the film, one from Germany, the other from Severin Films in the US. Both releases are pretty good, many fans might being preferable to the US release as the subtitle translation of the German track may be more exact than the German release. and the extras on the German release may or may not be subtitled in English. Fans can’t go wrong with either release though as both have their strong points, especially the audio and visual transfers.)

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Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

When the Quest for Everlasting Beauty Goes Too Far

by Tony Nash

(Foreign Language Horror #2)

(Mild Spoilers)

(All Opinions are of the Author Alone)

(Review is of the French language original)

Shock Treatment (1973) - IMDb
Original French Poster (from the IMDb)

Traitement de Choc (Shock Treatment) (1973) R ****1/2

Alain Delon: Docteur Devilers

Annie Giradot: Helene Masson

Robert Hirsch: Gerome Savignat

Michel Duchaussoy: Docteur Bernard

Gabriel Cattand: Procureur de Boissiere

Jeanne Colletin: Camille Giovanelli

Robert Party: Colonel de Riberolles

Jean Roquel: Marcel Lussac

Roger Muni: Paul Giovanelli

Lucienne Legrand: Lise de Riberolles

Anne-Maria Deschodt: Henriette Lussac

Jean Leuvrais: Le Commissaire

Written by: Alain Jessua, Roger Curel, & Enrico Vanzina

Directed by: Alain Jessua

Synopsis: After a startling revelation on her life, businesswoman Helene Masson accepts an invitation from a longtime friend to spend two weeks at a rejuvenation spa run by the prominent Dr. Devilers. While the treatments do work and everyone sees nothing amiss, Helene begins to suspect something sinister when her friend commits suicide after a financial crisis and the imported Portuguese staff begin suffering what appears to be extreme altitude sickness.

Traitement de choc (1973) | Cinema of the World
The First Examination (from World Cinema)

French genre auteur Alain Jessua took the lore of vampirism and translated it into an allegory on the obsession with youthful beauty and the horrors of addiction. Instead of transfigured human beings who live nocturnally with fangs to consume the blood of their victims, Jessua has his culprits be unorthodox doctors of medicine who’ve channeled the destructive methods of the primitive African, Latin/South/Central, and Native American tribes that involved the consumption of the flesh and blood of their enemies. The recipients of this dark and twisted elixir love the effect of the serum, and their fear of old age makes them compliant in the methods of their ‘saviors’, thus leading to a kind of dependency that has a small, motely band of prominent French citizens returning to the little oasis every year to maintain their little secret on how to maintain their youthful appearance. The whole inhuman affair has its first bout of exposure when a regular client kills himself after bad financial tips force him to give up his treatments, the only example of someone feeling the effects of withdrawal, both literally from not getting the serum, and figuratively in that he already feels his true age coming to the surface, and the paralyzing fear of being shunned for no longer being handsome and young.

Shock Treatment (1973) image
The First Treatment (from Listal)

Jessua gives a surprising clue early on in the film as to what is going on by revealing the spa’s waiters and caretakers are young men ranging from their late teens to mid-20’s. and are of Hispanic or Latino – via the South and Central American countries, descent. One of the spa regular’s comments that up until recently the staff was made up of young Spanish men who needed work to support their destitute families, and now the head doctor is strictly hiring Portuguese workers. The young men are shown to be on a very unusual protein diet, and are kept working almost constantly, and seem to not be able to adjust to the lower altitude climate. That one of the characters states the spa hires mainly men of Hispanic or South/Central American heritage sets off a signal that this is important to what’s happening in the story, and how it ends up important is fairly shocking.

Shock Treatment
The Mysterious Benevolent Doc (from Mondo Digital)

Alain Delon, one of France’s finest genre & art house actors, delivers an excellent performance as Dr. Devilers. A college educated doctor going back to the roots of natural medicine, Devilers is certain he has discovered a safe and holistic serum to slow down the aging process. While the aristocratic crowd seems to be his primary cliental to his rejuvenation therapy, Devilers accepts any patient that can afford the price who feels they could benefit from his discovery. Delon portrays Devilers as a charming and gracious man who puts the patients at top priority over everything else, but it’s after one of his regular patients dies tragically that Devilers façade seems to crack. His charm conceals an intimidating menace that has everyone afraid to reveal what exactly goes on behind the scenes in his research for fear of being held as accessories to what very well could be criminal actions. While his aims at helping people maintain their youth a little longer are noble, how he managed to achieve that goal possibly meant going against the laws of men and the laws of a higher power, and an even more frightening aspect is a very real possibility he willingly gave up his own humanity and soul to succeed.

Traitement de choc - Alain Jessua - Critique - Tortillapolis
A Worried Helene (from Tortillapolis)

Annie Giradot, a lesser internationally known French actress, gives a mini powerhouse performance as Helene Masson. A simple independent businesswoman who felt her beauty would age gracefully, Helene had no allusions of what would occur in life as she reached middle age and seemed initially content with how she lived. When the man she was certain she would spend the rest of her life with abandoned her to be with a much prettier, and younger, woman, Helene soon found her world upside down, and certain realities flooding in that she’d been previously oblivious to, or had admittingly turned a blind eye to, forced her to rethink how she was aging, and maybe the youthful treatment recommended by a longtime friend might be in order to save herself from ending up alone. Ironically, some of the patients and Dr. Devilers himself tell her she looks radiant already and doesn’t ‘need’ the treatment the way others do, but are sympathetic to her reasons for wanting to give the treatment a try. At first happy with the result, Helene’s mind begins to go erratic after learning her good friend killed himself, and realizing he was telling the truth that the treatment is like being addicted to any drug.

Traitement de choc - Alain Jessua - Critique - Tortillapolis
A Not so Discreet Doctor/Patient Relationship (from Tortillpolis)

Delon and Giradot had worked together a decade earlier as would be lovers in Luchino Visconti’s tragic family drama Rocco e i Suoi Fratelli (Rocco and His Brothers), but this film wouldn’t prove to be a happy reunion. During the production of Rocco, Giradot fell in love with Renato Salvatori, one of the other actors in the cast, and after encouragement from Delon, the two married and seemingly had the quaint life most married people hope for. Not long before production on Choc, Giradot left and divorced Salvatori for another man, and upon seeing her on the first day of shooting, Delon slapped Giradot hard in the face. Salvatori was a close friend of Delon, and because he encouraged the couple’s romance, felt just as responsible for their break-up and Giradot’s infidelity, and was thus trying to relieve himself of the guilt he was bearing. Whether Delon was eventually able to reconcile with Giradot has never been documented.

Richard🔥Wells on Twitter: "Film time! Revisited Alain Jessua's SHOCK  TREATMENT (1973). Alain Delon is the Bond villain like head of an exclusive  health spa with *a dark secret*. Enjoyable schlock with social
A Day to Rejoice (from Twitter)

A scene that well highlights the hedonistic choices made by staff and patients alike comes in the form of a beach scene, not long after the first day’s injection treatment. All the patients, including Helene and Dr. Devilers himself, all get naked and frolic along the waves of the water’s edge. Initially this is to indicate the rejuvenation in youth everyone feels from benefiting from the treatment, this scene also hints at the radical truths revealed as the film progresses, and crimes against both man and nature come to light. The scene also is notable for one of the rare occasions Alain Delon went completely nude for a scene in a film, baring all for audiences to see in a very daring, and to a degree, courageous, moment.

Shock Treatment
Conversing in the Spa (from Mondo Digital)

While it plays out as more of a psychological Thriller, Traitement de Choc really is at heart an allegorical Horror film that plays up vampirism in a way that could probably happen, if someone did indeed put their mind to it. The story, acting, the cinematography, etc, are all top notch, and help to really establish the mood and pace Alain Jessua intended the film to have.

(I highly recommend giving this film a look; especially to women over forty who may have concerns over aging, trust me, this film will most likely ‘scare’ those fears right out of you when the big reveal near the end comes up. Metaphorical Horror has never looked better or been done as good as this film. Some might think the method is a little over the top, but it does have roots in reality, so don’t dismiss the film as wishful thinking, or fantastic Sci-Fi Horror. Annie Giradot’s acting may get a little over the top/melodramatic, at certain points, but it serves the film well, and adds to the effective tension director Jessua intended. Severin Films did a great job with the restoration of the audio and visuals, giving the film itself a rejuvenation of sorts.)

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Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

A Mix of Poe Horror, Wallace Krimi, and Modern Jazz

by Tony Nash

(Foreign Language Horror #1)

(Mild Spoilers Ahead)

(All Opinions are of the Author Alone)

(Review is of the original German language version)

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967) German movie poster
German Poster (from CineMaterial)

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (The Snake Pit and the Pendulum/The Blood Demon/The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism) (1967) **** PG-13

Lex Barker: Roger Mont Elise / Reinhold von Marienberg

Karin Dor: Baroness Lillian von Brabant / Baroness von Brabant

Christopher Lee: Count Frederic Regula of Andomai

Carl Lange: Anatol, the Butler (as Karl Lange)

Vladimir Medar: Peter Fabian

Christiane Rucker: Babette

Dieter Eppler: The Coachman

Horst Naumann: Voice Dubbing – Lex Barker

Herbert Weicker: Voice Dubbing – Christopher Lee

Klaus W. Krause: Voice Dubbing – Vladimir Medar

Written by: Manfred R. Kohler (loosely based on The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe, and inspired by the fiction of Edgar Wallace)

Directed by: Harald Reinl

Synopsis: After he is sentenced to death for the murder of 12 virgin women and practicing Satanism, Count Regula swears revenge on the descendants of those who brought about his demise. 35 years later, the son of the Crown Prosecutor and the daughter of the Baroness Brabant are lured to Regula’s castle.

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967) von Harald Reinl | M-Square  Classics
Regula’s Chamber of Horrors (from UCM.ONE)

1967 saw German cinema at a crossroads, newcomers Rainer W. Fassbender and Volker Schlondorff were beginning the age of New German Cinema, where more personal stories were being told that audiences seemed to empathize with, and the once successful genre films of directors like Harald Reinl and Alfred Vohrer were beginning to lose steam. While the Krimi films based on the novels of British crime fiction writer Edgar Wallace had helped bring a boom to the German film industry, the ever-rising popularity of the Giallos and Spaghetti Westerns in Italy were making it tougher and tougher for German writers and directors to keep up. Some co-productions with Italy did help the industry move along, but the popularity of import films dubbed into German were making the studios less and less keen on continuing making their own versions that were seemingly being made better elsewhere. Ideas were needed to keep the industry going, but the attempt to infuse Horror overtones to the Wallace Mystery Thrillers, only aided in the genre’s demise quicker, as critics and fans alike saw them as weak cash-ins on the Giallo craze.

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967) von Harald Reinl | M-Square  Classics
Regula Receives His Sentence (from UCM.ONE)

To combat the ever-encroaching Art-House movement that would mean many solid genre actors and actresses would be forced to return to the stage or go to television to keep working, Constantin Films greenlit a project that combined the Wallace Krimi, the Italian Giallo, the Gothic Horror of Poe, Corman, & Bava, and a strange blend of contemporary and period music, the result being The Snake Pit and the Pendulum aka The Blood Demon. Taking the very basics from the Poe classic The Pit and the Pendulum, the film begins with the aristocratic Count Regula being sentenced to death for murdering 12 virgin women after making a pact with the devil. Before being led to the place of execution, Regula vows to destroy the family of the Prosecutor for the Crown, and avenge himself on the woman who was to be his next victim. On the 35th anniversary of Regula’s demise, his last henchmen help to lure the surviving son of the Prosecutor and the daughter of the last victim to his castle to finish what he started a quarter of a century ago.

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967) von Harald Reinl | M-Square  Classics
The Haunted Forest of Andomai (from UCM.ONE

Director Harald Reinl takes some inspirations from both Roger Corman and Mario Bava when doing exterior scenes. As the film goes into night time, audiences are first greeted to a lush yellow/brown sunset that seems to fly across the screen in a psychedelic fashion that Bava and Croman used so frequently in their early color efforts. When night hits and the terrors of Regula’s Forest come to life, Reinl’s use of lighting, mood, music, and color is very reminiscent of Bava’s Gothic Horror films that lends a very effective feeling of the dangers the cast are soon to be introduced to.

The Bloody Pit of Horror: Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967)
Some Bizarre Religious Iconography (from The Bloody Pit of Horror)

Religious imagery and rights play a pretty important part in the film. Regula’s crimes are judged as not only an offence against his country, but an offence against the Holy Church as well. This is portrayed through a special ceremony performed every year on the day Regula was executed as to prevent his evil spirit from wreaking havoc on the surrounding towns that border his castle. That neither the Church or the Crown took possession of Regula’s estate confirms this wasn’t the usual political scheme to gain lands, but to genuinely rid the community of what they saw as evil incarnate as the castle is shown to be highly dilapidated and in disrepair. Statuary of the varied saints and even of Christ himself are shown sporadically in the early scenes, showing that strong forces from beyond are protecting the protagonists as they meet their destinies. Regula’s castle is filled with the polar opposite: wall paintings showcase tormented souls and demons engaging in the torture of said souls, while statuary of bestial demons guard and light the abode.

The Bloody Pit of Horror: Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967)
The Hero Works His Way Out of Danger (from The Bloody Pit of Horror)

Lex Barker, one of the many American actors who went to Europe after their careers in Hollywood dried up – later becoming a Superstar in Germany, plays the protagonist Roger Mont Elise, and his father Reinhold von Marienberg in the opening. A lawyer traveling through the countryside going over the many cases of his firm, Mont Elise is also trying to discover his past after learning he was left in a foundling home with only a nice sized dowery and a medallion as clues to who he really was. Feeling he’ll learn answers after a mysterious man gives him a letter saying a Count Regula can help him, Mont Elise will soon learn he’s the son of Crown Prosecutor von Marienberg, and that he’s been lured to the castle so Regula can fulfill his promise to eradicate the Marienberg family forever. Little is said about Reinhold von Marienberg as he’s only in the film for 15 minutes, but it’s clear he’s devoted to the country, the people, the Crown, and the Church that have made him defender of the realm and faith. He manages to ensure at least one relative will survive to keep Regula from succeeding in his plans.  Barker does very well in both roles, and while not the usual action hero type character he was used to playing in the German Westerns and Italian Adventure films of the early to mid-1960’s, Barker proved that not only was he still leading man material, but also an underrated performer.

The Bloody Pit of Horror: Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967)
A Villain in Life….
The Bloody Pit of Horror: Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967)
….And Death (from The Bloody Pit of Horror)

Christopher Lee, one of Britain’s finest character actors, and an icon of World Horror cinema, gets to play a very different type of villain in the role of Count Frederic Regula. An aristocrat taking the motif of the debauched wealthy and going to levels of extremity, Regula goes to horrid lengths to gain the power of immortality by brutally killing young virgins while also taking their fear to the highest point. When a would-be victim foils his plans and he’s condemned to death by the violent act of quartering by horses, Regula swears to avenge himself from beyond the grave. Through very elaborate means that are a mixture of science and black magic, Regula and his followers spend the next 35 years scheming and waiting for the right moment to complete their revenge. Lee is still playing the villain of course, albeit this go around playing a very human villain who has flaws, weaknesses, and limitations. While he is aided by forces that are both supernatural and scientific, Lee’s Regula has a precise time in which he must complete his task once awakened from his death like state, and Lee shows him as a confidant, but at the same time cautious individual. Lee offers a fairly restrained performance as Regula, keeping the character in the world of realism, only going into theatrics toward the very end of the film.

(Author’s note: Lee provides his voice for the English dubbing of the film, a rarity for Lee’s foreign language appearances. It’s difficult to tell though if Lee looped his dialogue not long after filming wrapped, or if it was some years before Lee was asked to dub himself as his voice sounds very deep, which it did become by the 1990’s.)

The Bloody Pit of Horror: Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967)
One of Germany’s Great Actresses (from The Bloody Pit of Horror)

Karin Dor, a popular German actress of the stage and screen, takes on the leading lady role of Baroness Lillian von Brabant. The daughter of the original Baroness von Brabant, Lillian arrives toward Count Regula’s castle under the false claim her mother had willed her some land around the area. Her mother had been an intended victim of the Count, but by luck and fate was able to escape and inform the authorities of the Count’s actions, earning her his wrath as well. Regula plans to have Lillian take her mother’s place, thus completing the process of eternal life. Dor mainly acts as the damsel in distress of the film, spending a good chunk of it screaming and in fear of her and her companions’ safety, but Dor doesn’t go into the complete cliché’s of the damsel role, showing courage in the face of danger, and a willing to risk her life for those she cares about. The film also marked her 2nd to last time working with occasional romantic love interest Lex Barker, whom she did 4 (one time uncredited) of Barker’s 7 Winnetou film roles with, the final time released a year after The Snake Pit and the Pendulum and a segment of an Espionage Anthology film. Dor and Barker enjoyed a nice chemistry together that was oddly not capitalized on enough as they clearly played well off each other, aided in that they understood some of the other’s native language.

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967) von Harald Reinl | M-Square  Classics
The Mad Henchman (from UCM.ONE)
Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel |
The Heroic Thief (from

German actor Carl Lange (credited as Karl Lange) and Slavic actor Vladimir Medar make up the main supporting cast of characters. Lange, putting on his best Lon Chaney Jr. and Dwight Frye impersonations, plays Anatol, Regula’s last faithful servant. Anatol carried out the majority of Regula’s plan of revenge against Prosecutor Marienberg by not only killing him, but most of the family as well. Before he could get to the infant son, Anatol was caught and hung by the neck, but Regula’s imperfect potion saved his life. Lange subtly mixes calm loyalty and raving mania as Anatol has a fanatical devotion to his master. Medar acts primarily as comic relief in the role of Peter Fabian, a small-time thief impersonating a Catholic priest. Initially trying to escape the bizarre situation he unintentionally found himself in, Fabian shows he has some sense of honor and loyalty as he chooses to stay behind and help Mont Elise save Lillian and her scared maid from the evil Regula and his equally demented servant Anatol.   

The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967) by Harald Reinl | M-Square Classics
The Ancestors of the Hero and Heroine Look on at Regula’s Execution (from UCM.ONE)

The only odd part about the film is the score by Peter Thomas. The music is an unusual mix of modern Jazz and Rock, which was very popular with Edgar Wallace films, and more classical style scoring associated to Gothic Horror. The Jazzy style Rock seems very out of place for a period piece, though it is still interesting to hear. When the film gets into the more sinister and supernatural parts, the score becomes more ambient and effective to strengthen the mood. The modern scoring still pops up here and there, but it’s done in such a way that it doesn’t take away from the intended atmosphere. The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism ( Die Schlangengrube und das  Pendel ) (Blu-Ray & DVD Combo) [ Blu-Ray, Reg.A/B/C Import - Germany ] :  Lex Barker, Karin Dor, Christopher Lee,
Title Card (from

While some musical cues don’t fit the atmosphere, The Snake Pit and the Pendulum is an effective slice of Gothic Horror that also made for the genre’s fine farewells. Mixing both Expressionistic and psychedelic visuals, and very good acting, the film might not be one of the best ever made, but is definitely entertaining and worthy of being in the upper echelons of the Horror genre.

(I highly recommend giving this film a look, as while the score can sometimes leave viewers confused, the film’s mood and atmosphere make up for it. It’s hard to tell at times if Christopher Lee enjoyed doing the film, or his character’s neutral feel was how the director asked him to play it, but Lee is still very effective in whatever role he played. The German company UCM.ONE did an excellent job with the restoration of the film, cleaning up the visuals and audio to a nice crispness. Unfortunately, the English subtitles on the disc are dubtitles of the English dubbing, and not translated from the German audio track. The UCM.ONE restoration also appears on the Severin Films release of the film for their The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee Box Set, again the subtitles being based on the English dubbing and not a translation of the German track. The film is definitely better in the original German audio, so not having translated subtitles is a bummer, but the film is still worth checking out either way.)

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A Play Within a Play, Or How Shakespeare Saves a Marriage

by Tony Nash

(WordPress Follower Appreciation #4: Master Mix Movies)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild Spoilers)

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Original Poster (from the IMDb)

Kiss Me Kate (1953) ***** PG

Kathryn Grayson: Lilli Vanessi/”Katherine ‘Kate'”

Howard Keel: Fred Graham/”Petruchio”

Anne Miller: Lois Lane/”Bianca”

Keenan Wynn: Lippy, Mob Collector

James Whitmore: Slug, Mob Collector

Tommy Rall: Bill Calhoun/”Lucentio”

Kurt Kasznar: “Baptista”

Bobby Van: “Gremio”

Bob Fosse: “Hortensio”

Ron Randell: Cole Porter

Written by: Dorothy Kingsley, adapted from the stage play by Sam Spewack (as Samuel Spewack) & Bella Spewack, freely based on The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

Directed by: George Sidney

Synopsis: A divorced acting couple put aside personal animosity to put on a production of Cole Porter’s musical take on Shakespeare’s romantic comedy The Taming of the Shrew. The film mixes both the production itself, and the backstage antics of the couple, and two of the other cast members as they figure out their romantic feelings, all while the lead actor does whatever it takes to keep his ex on the stage.

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Lois Showing Fred, Lilli, and Cole Porter Her Tap Dancing Skills (from NZIFF)

While the 3D craze was still the fashion of the early to mid 1950’s, the Musical genre got its taste of the fad with the film Kiss Me Kate. The film within a film, which explores both a theater company’s performance of a production and the backstage antics of the cast, and others associated to them, is a fine setting for the 3D process as it allows actors to punt items to the camera in a believable fashion that doesn’t feel as if they’re entirely playing to the camera for the sake of the effect, whether it be the throwing of a prop or the extended in focus view of an object. The film’s main comic element is the two leads constant bickering that finally has the leading lady having enough of her ex husband/male lead’s manipulations and ego, and the man’s zany efforts to keep her from leaving, and to keep the show from ending up a financial and critical disaster. Destiny or luck seems to be on his side when a member of the cast signs an IOU with the lead’s name for a gambling debt that has two Mob enforcers coming to collect, prompting the “hero” to play the mix up to his advantage, stating he won’t be able to “pay” if his leading lady walks out on the show, leading to very funny and outlandish events and situations. A solid side plot has an aspiring acting/dancing couple who’s budding romance is on the skids because of the woman’s flirtatious nature and the man’s bad luck in games of chance, which ignites the chaotic events of the night.

(Author’s Note: Cole Porter, who wrote the songs and music for the original stage version and the film, is given a small cameo played by Ron Randall in the film, isn’t a character in the original stage performances, only mentioned as being the author of the play.)

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The first big number of the play (from the IMDb)

Kiss Me Kate was one of the many successful modern takes on a Shakespeare classic, and one of the few Hollywood efforts to show what possibly might go on backstage before and in between the acts of a play/musical, including the tensions between big name stars who can’t seem to coexist in the same production. A lot of changes had to be made before MGM gave the film the greenlight to begin filming. The original script by married couple Sam and Bella Spewack had quite a bit of colorful language, swear words, and a lot of sexual innuendo. “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”, sung by the two hoods, had them performing the number during the Broadway version in a more comical manner that hinted the duo may have been homosexuals, which was a major no-no in the then still enforced Hayes Code, moved as a diversion by the hoods while Fred and Lilli had their big spat about Fred’s deception to keep her from quitting acting to right before the ending as a means of cheering Fred up after he believes he’s lost Lilli for good. There’s quite a bit else changed for the sake of cleanliness, but that’s the main bit everybody talks about.

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Lilli Being Swept off Her Feet (from Pinterest)
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Lilli as Kate the Shrew Singing “I Hate Men” (from Pinterest)

Kathryn Grayson, the Opera Soprano trained singer who went to Hollywood, is a sheer delight as both Lilli Vanessi and the title character of Shakespeare’s famous Shrew. Grayson’s voice and style is perfect for the nearly always frustrated Lilli who has a love/hate relationship with both her ex-husband and the acting profession, her voice going deep Alto every time someone gets her mad. While it’s clear she loves performing, the tough time she had with ex Fred Graham has soured her to the calling, and wanting to start afresh by marrying a wealthy and doting Texas Cattle Baron. The mix of the film going from the performance to the backstage shows Lilli is very much like the character of Kate in that the she’s quick temper, isn’t afraid to get physical, and would gladly punch the lights out of her would be suitor, but unlike Kate, Lilli loves to be romanced and dotted upon, just wanting the man she marries to treat her like an equal and a partner, rather than just a cog in the theater machine to success. Her ire really gets up when Fred stoops to a new low and cons two hoods into making her stay with the production, falsely believing Fred owes their boss money for a gambling loss, making the hoods wish they hadn’t taken the job when, during a scene in the play, she begins throwing very real dishes, pots, and vases at them. Her emotions eventually become conflicted upon realizing that Fred truly does care about her, but at the same time feels he did her wrong so many times when they were married the first time that she wonders if she can honestly trust him.

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Fred Trying to Remind Lilli of the Good Times They Shared (from TCM)
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The Wiley and Cunning Petruchio Making Plans With Father-in-Law Baptista (from The Blonde at the Film)

Howard Keel, with his Tenor-Baritone pipes and rascally persona, does a fine job in the roles of Fred Graham and Petruchio. A Poster Boy example of what a hammy ego-maniac star usually is like, Fred Graham is the kind of guy who may very well make a struggling actor or actress a name in the business, the main question really being how long will it take before the performer wants to strangle him for being too demanding and difficult. Fred is an actor/director who knows what he wants and knows what will make a show a success, but his methods for getting the job done are fairly questionable. Not above using jealousies and professional competition as a means to coercing hard to get actors and actresses to accept roles in his productions, Fred may have bit off more than he could chew when he goes too far in trying to match ex wife Lilli’s verbal barbs and she finally has enough and decides to quit show business. Panicking over the failure of the show, in both money and within the theater community, and what it’ll mean for his reputation, Fred once again gets far too desperate in his actions to save the show. After a co-star, who’s jealous of the swoons his girlfriend gives Fred, signs his gambling IOU debt with Fred’s name, Fred equally deceives the hoodlums who intend to break the debt holder’s body parts unless the money’s coughed up, by making them think Lilli’s performance is the only way the show will make money to pay them off, thus using force to make her stay. The plan goes awry in the end when Lilli manages to scare the hoods and Fred into letting her go by threatening kidnapping charges to the police. Realizing Lilli’s on to all his tricks, Fred tries being honest with her, saying theater, and he himself, are nothing without her talent and gracefulness, and admitting that it was his ego that fouled up their marriage. He then must wait and see what happens.

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Lilli is Unimpressed as Lois Shows Her Range (from SMITH RAFAEL FILM CENTER – California Film Institute)
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The Lovely Bianca Laments Her Marriage Woes (from Ultimate Movie Rankings)
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The Comic Hoodlums Lippy and Slug (from YouTube)
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The Duo in Disguise as Extras (from NZIFF)
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Bianca’s Vying Suitors (from Pinterest)
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The Frustrated Poppa Baptista (from Aveleyman)

Ms. Grayson and Mr. Keel are joined by a bevy of talented theater and film performers.

Anne Miller, the Queen of Tap Dance, is a hit as the other woman Lois Lane (no pun on Superman here) and the late casted Bianca for the Graham production. Lois is an aspiring performer actress/dancer who innocently flirts with Fred Graham to help move her career along. Her problem is that her boyfriend Bill Calhoun is content with being just another nameless hoofer in the chorus, and prefers the thrill of gambling over the excitement of applause and performing. His frustration over Lois and his bad luck is what leads to the crazy events later on, but in the end things work out for them. Keenan Wynn (Disney Legend Ed Wynn’s son) and James Whitmore, two of Hollywood’s more reliable heavies and antagonists, are blasts in the respective roles of Lippy and Slug, Mob debt collectors. When Bill’s losses at gambling round up to $2000, the duo’s boss sends them to either get the money owed to him, or to break the welching gambler’s arms and legs. Because they didn’t see Bill at the gaming joint, and only know the IOU bears the signature Fred Graham, the duo immediately head for the known Broadway star’s dressing room. Eventually they come to like Graham, and don’t relish the idea of beating him to a pulp for not paying, never finding out they’ve been given a bum steer by Bill. Oddly enough, both Wynn and Whitmore come off as more comical than menacing, as per script, and audiences can’t help but like them. Broadway fans will like that icon Bob Fosse made his first film appearance in Kate as one of Bianca’s suitors, Hortensio to be exact, and even in this small role, his song and dance talent can be clearly seen. Kurt Kasznar, known to most people as the bumbling and shifty Mr. Fitzhugh in Irwin Allen’s Land of the Giants, plays another unnamed actor playing the role of Kate and Bianca’s father Baptista. This guy clearly has no clue Fred and Lilli are at the breaking point of civility to each other, and shows the professionalism of actor’s by trying to keep the show going in spite of the mayhem.

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All The World’s A Stage (from The Blonde at the Movies)

The film is a highlight of the Golden Age of Musicals, along with Singin’ in the Rain, The Band Wagon, and Easter Parade, and while some of the film’s content can be seen as dated, old fashion, and borderline sexist/chauvinistic, the music and performances make up for the flaws, and the flaws of course can also be overlooked as an object of the time it was made in. It’s surprising the Musical didn’t do more in the 3D realm as 3D was perfect for the genre, allowing for the gimmicks to used in believable ways that didn’t look like playing to the camera.

(I do highly recommend this very well done Musical for anyone who likes the genre, and for those looking for a good place to start with it. There are some clichés involved with it, and some material that is dated, or hasn’t translated well for future viewers, but the film overall can still speak to many generations about the pratfalls of being in the theater, and how temperament amongst actors can make or break both personal and professional relationships. I do this one in honor of one of my more recent Followers Master Mix Movies, who loves all sorts of genre cinema, and seems to really like films that mix genres together, so I hope he takes a liking to this one. There is a Blu Ray available from the Warner Archives label, and while the transfer of the film is immaculate, only the original 3D print is used for the release that requires the specialized 3D TV and 3D capable Blu Ray player. The original release Blu Ray had both the 2D and 3D versions, but has long been out of print. The DVD is still a great option as it has the same transfer of the Blu Ray, but is the 2D version.)

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Filed under: Film & TV: Potpourri, Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics