Wednesday, 1 October 2008

The Virgin of Nuremberg (1963)

The Virgin of Nuremberg is mostly your standard 1960s Italian gothic horror movie, but with one or two interesting twists. New bride Mary arrives at her husband’s gothic castle in Germany to find that her new home comes complete with a fully equipped torture chamber in the dungeon. It appears that one of her husband’s ancestors had a particularly evil reputation, and earned the nickname The Punisher for his fondness for torture. This is disturbing enough, but then she starts seeing a mysterious figure prowling the castle, bodies start turning up, and the vaguely sinister housekeeping starts mumbling about The Punisher’s return. Could it be that he really has come back?

Variations on this basic plot turn up in several other Italian gothic horror flicks of this period, but the twist here is the way The Punisher’s story is tied in to more modern history, specifically involving the Nazis.

Director Antonio Margheriti was no Mario Bava, but he was a highly competent craftsman with a sound sense of visual composition and a genuine flair for the gothic, and he generally (as in this case) keeps things moving along at a fairly brisk clip. The presence of Christopher Lee as a sinister and badly scarred family retainer with a possibly dubious military career behind him adds to the general atmosphere of foreboding. Rossana Podestà is an appealing enough heroine, and the supporting cast is perfectly capable. The movie is surprisingly gruesome for 1963.

The Shriek Show DVD release lacks extras but looks and sounds terrific. It’s definitely worth a look if you enjoy 60s eurohorror.

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