Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Castle of Blood (1964)

Castle of Blood (Danza macabra), directed by Antonio Margheriti, is a fine piece of Italian gothic horror dating from 1964. The story isn’t terribly original – a writer makes a wager that he can survive a night in a spooky castle on the Night of the Dead. The claustrophobia of the film, and the feeling of entrapment you get in a nightmare, more than makes up for any shortcomings in the plot. Plus there’s a wonderful performance by Barbara Steele. The Synapse DVD version was compiled from several sources, so it’s partly in English and partly in subtitled French! It was apparently (according to the liner notes) made to cash in on the success of the Roger Corman Poe films in Italy, which is why the framing story involving Poe is there. Other interesting snippets in the liner notes – it was filmed using a three-camera setup, as used in television but very seldom in film; and Margarete Robsahm, who played Julia, was so embarrassed by her lesbian love scene with Barbara Steele that she retired from acting! It was also heavily cut on its initial US release. The liner notes compare it to Mario Bava’s 1973 masterpiece Lisa and the Devil, a comparison which actually makes sense. The black-and-white cinematography is extraordinarily moody and the whole film has the logic of nightmare. An impressive film, more atmospheric than scary but all the better for it. A must for Barbara Steele fans, or for anyone who likes subtle horror, or has a decided taste for the gothic.

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