Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
What's it about
In a secluded castle, a mad scientist picks the wrong wife to torture and kill.
Is it good movie?
Dr. Stephen Arrowsmith is not real super happy when he catches his wife, Muriel, making the beast with two backs with the manor's gardner, Jonathan. So he does what any self-respecting mad scientist would: he slowly tortures them to death, and uses his dead wife's blood in a medicine/magic hybrid to return his elderly housekeeper/lover to a youthful state.
If you're thinking it can't be that easy, you'd be correct. You see, all the money was Muriel's, and her will was not so kind to Dr. Peter. So he brings Muriel's allegedly insane but beautiful cousin, Jenny, into the mix. The plan is to marry her, drive her 'round the bend, then have her deemed incompentent and become executor of her estate. Easy peasy, except she starts receiving visits from her dead cousin, who wants all sorts of nasty revenge on her dear hubby.
There are a lot of pluses to this film, but ultimately the negatives stack up higher. The black and white cinematography is almost accidentally gorgeous. Apparently the set was difficult to light, so DP Enzo Barboni just lit the whole room really bright out of frustration. The resultant depth of shadow gives the film a lush, mysterious look. And the horror is there. From the unsettling title card images of emaciated, demonic figures, to the decades-preceding Hostel-like torture scene, to the Creepshow vibe when the dearly departed lovers return to make the scene, skin-crawling will happen when you watch. Hell, Muriel even looks a damn hell of a lot like Samara when she menaces Dr. Peter.
Unfortunately, the film just collapses under its own weight. There are just too many elements thrown on top of each other, like how too many logs thrown on a fire will smother it. The history between Dr. Peter and the housekeeper Solange is never clear or given the screentime that the plot demands it have, it is never explained why anyone would ever have thought Jenny unstable, nor why Muriel would come back from the grave to hate on her. And the introduction of Dr. Derek's character as a potential love interest for Jenny is just too much for the already spread-thin premise to handle. By the time we get the horror back at the end that we saw at the beginning, it is sort of too late. We're already bored.
Video / Audio
Vdieo: As I pointed out in the review, the film is absolutely gorgeous to view. Severin did a bang-up job cleaning up the print, presented here in widescreen with a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.
Audio: Dolby Digital, but mono. And either the audio is synced really poorly, or this is one of those deals where the predominantly Italian actors spoke English, but were dubbed later by people without ethnic accents. In close-ups it takes you out of the movie a bit.
Barbara Steele: In Conversation: Even into her 70's, Steele is still whip-smart and beautiful, and full of candor and charm during this 30-minute delving into the history of her career and personal life during such. I could have watched her and listened to her for twice as long.
Black, White, and Red: An Interview with Director Mario Caiano: This interview, in Italian with English subtitles, sticks closer to the movie, but is slightly less satisfying. Interesting trivia is given on the film, but after watching the luminous Steele for half an hour, this John Landis-looking dude doesn't cut it. I kid, I kid.
Trailers: There is a UK and a US trailer included for all the trailer junkies out there.
Barbara Steele is impossibly gorgeous in both her roles in this film, and Helga Liné (Solange) ain't no slouch neither. Both are enough to watch this film, along with the nice bits of horror I mention above. Just remember to keep your finger on the FFW button to get through the ponderous and boring crap comprising the middle of the film.