Monday 15 April 2024

Castle of the Creeping Flesh (1968)

Adrian Hoven’s Castle of the Creeping Flesh (original title Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde) is a German eurohorror movie which falls into the gothic horror in a contemporary setting sub-category, with a bit of added weirdness.

We start with a party with a very high decadence factor. Baron Brack (Michel Lemoine) is trying to persuade Vera Lagrange (Janine Reynaud) to go to bed with him. He persuades her to accompany him to his isolated hunting lodge. She is more than willing. There is however some confusion, three other guests turn up at the ledge as well and Brack ends up at the lodge with Vera’s sister Elena Lagrange (Elvira Berndorff).

Elena has been extremely flirtatious but seems uncertain if she actually wants to sleep with Brack. They do have sex, and her feelings about this seem to be decidedly mixed to say the least.

Vera then turns up, along with Brack’s fiancée Marion, Marion’s brother Georg and Elena’s fiancé Roger.

Elena mounts her horse and disappears into the night. The woods are not safe so the others set off to find her. They discover that she has ended up at the castle of the Earl of Saxon (Howard Vernon), a man with a reputation as unfriendly recluse and an eccentric. The Earl is a doctor and he has been conducting medical experiments with a colleague of sorts. The Earl has his own mad scientist laboratory.

The Earl is upset since his only child, his beloved daughter, was raped and murdered three days earlier. The Earl intends to take steps as a result, and those steps can best be described as bizarre. His daughter is dead but he hopes to ensure that this is only temporary.

The whole party of rich idle decadents ends up at the castle where they receive a warmer welcome than one might expect.

Then things start to become gradually more weird. The party of decadents hears the grim family legend. A few centuries earlier an ancestor of the present Earl also had a beautiful innocent daughter who was raped and murdered. She was betrayed, the ancestor took his revenge and was later beheaded. The family curse dates from that time.

That ancient story will be repeated, by life-size marionettes.

It will be repeated again, in Vera’s dream. If it’s a dream. It might be repeated yet again.

The castle seems to be a place where past and present, legend and fact, dream and reality, all intersect and bleed into each other. Vera has a strange violent dream but does the dream come from her own overheated erotic imagination or from the castle itself? To what extent is it a dream?

There is also considerable doubt about the extent of the Earl’s grip on reality.

Events may be building towards a tragic climax, assuming that anything that happens in the castle is real.

I always say that any movie can only be improved by the inclusion of a guy in a gorilla suit. This movie demonstrates that a guy in a bear suit can work just as well. You might be wondering what a bear is doing in this movie. Once you see the movie, you’ll still be wondering.

There’s surprisingly (for 1968) a lot of gore, in the form of surgical scenes. There’s a moderate amount of topless nudity and some sex and some rape all of which caused major censorship problems and the film was heavily cut at the time.

Howard Vernon is always fun to watch. Michel Lemoine is suitably oily as the sleazy Baron Brack. Janine Reynaud gives another of her extraordinary mesmerising performances.

Castle of the Creeping Flesh
was written and directed by Adrian Hoven (best-known for Mark of the Devil) but there is a Jess Franco connection. Franco apparently made some contribution to the writing of this film and Hoven had made several appearances as an actor in Franco movies such as Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden (AKA Succubus, 1968), Two Undercover Angels (AKA Rote Lippen AKA Sadisterotica) and Kiss Me, Monster (1969). And Janine Reynaud appeared in all three of those films.

It might be a little clunky at times but Castle of the Creeping Flesh has enough weirdness and ambiguity and sleaze to satisfy eurohorror fans and it’s highly recommended.

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