on October 20, 2002
This was great! I'd never seen this film until this newly released, uncensored international version put out by Synapse. It shows how perfectly a black-and-white film can be used to produce growing, sustained horror with atmosphere. With the lights out, I watched this little gem, and occasionally paused the film to listen to the house when I thought I'd heard an unusual "bump" in the night; after all the horror films I've seen, that doesn't happen that often any more.
Castle of Blood (in Italy, "Danse Macabre") was directed by Itallion icon Antonio Margheriti, who made a name for himself with Sword and Sandle and Sci-fi films. In this movie, he created perhaps one of the best evil dead stories of all time. The premise, an eager, young reporter for the London Times meets Edgar Allen Poe and a companion of his, Blackwood, at a tavern called the Four Devils. From the start, we feel as though we've stepped right into a Poe story, where everything is dream-like, and turning slowly towards some approaching horror. Our hero is offered a wager that he can not survive the night in Blackwood's family castle, emerging at dawn unscathed. The castle is supposed to be haunted by something not just frightening, but deadly. In order to assure an interview with Poe for his paper, the young man takes the bet, not at all believing in the supernatural. What follows is a night fraught with evil manifestations, as ghost after ghost must relive the last insanely violent moments before their deaths in the house once a year. Our hero, aided by a beautiful exotic ghost played by Barbara Steel (fresh from her success in "Black Sunday") discovers his very soul is in jepardy unless he can escape the claustraphobic, shadow-filled interior of the house.
We're treated to murder and mayhem, and a plot that quickens in pace until it reaches an urgent pitch at the climax of the film that leaves us sitting on the edge of our seats.
This movie may not be for everyone, especially young, jaded movie-goers used to glossy red slasher films and cgi monster effects. This is old-style ghost-story telling, where black-and-white filmography is used for the full effect of atmosphere and character empathy. This is also not a film for children, as there is nudity and a brief scene of lesbianism. Four film sources were used to reproduce this original, longest version of the film (it was released in America with the afore-mentioned scenes cut), so at times the sound track switches to Itallion with english subtitles. These scenes are usually brief and do not detract at all from the movies appeal. Understand too, this film is over forty years old, and some of the film elements used to put it back together were hard to find and slightly damaged by time; they are still of such a fine quality, you hardly notice it. The movie is presented in widescreen with a mono soundtrack. Though the voices of the Italion actors is dubbed in english, they did a fine job, so don't worry about a silly, bad acted dubbing that many associate with foreign films from that period.
So, if you like fog-shrouded castles, evil ghosts seeking human blood, and fearful flights through dusty, cob-webbed hallways, this is your movie.
on April 7, 2003
The film opens in London, where visiting writer Edgar Allan Poe is relating his story "Morella" to a group of English gentlemen. Alan Foster, a reporter, disputes Poe's occult theories and states his belief that there is no life after death. Another man present, Count Blackwood, claims that he owns a haunted castle and challenges Foster to spend the night there.
The reporter accepts the challenge. Poe and Blackwood convey him to the castle via carriage, leave him at the front gate, and promise to return for him in the morning.
Inside the castle, which Foster had supposed was deserted, he encounters the lovely but eerie Elisabeth, played by Barbara Steele. They rapidly form a romantic attraction and soon find themselves in bed together. But as their intimacy increases, Foster discovers that his new paramour has no heartbeat. . . .
Things quickly go downhill from there. The reporter learns that there are several occupants in the castle-all of them having died there by violent means in years past. They need to drink blood to sustain their phantasmal after-life-and of course they have Foster sized up as their next donor. He spends a fair amount of time running through the castle, trying to escape the vampiric entities. With the aid of Elisabeth, he finally emerges from the castle and flees to the front gate, where he thinks he will be safe. . . .
Long a staple of late-night television under the title Castle of Terror, Castle of Blood has now been released to DVD for the first time, in an enhanced and re-mastered version, by Synapse. Some scenes from the original European version that were deleted from the American and British releases have been restored, but with French dialog and English subtitles, since the scenes were never dubbed into English. The new footage includes:
·The European title sequence under the title Danse Macabre. (The English-language title sequence is included in the bonus materials.)
·Some extra dialog by Edgar Allan Poe at the Four Devils Inn.
·Poe's discussion of his theory of tragedy during the carriage ride from the inn to Lord Blackwood's castle.
·Additional entreaties by Elisabeth to Foster in their bedroom scene.
·In one of the flashback scenes, a longer and slightly more erotic encounter between Elisabeth and Julia, a woman fated to become another revenant at the castle-just before Elisabeth kills her.
None of the new footage dramatically changes or enhances the plot, but it's nice to see the film in its intended full-length version. The print quality is good, although the black-and-white contrasts were not as crisp and sharp as I expected. But this may be a limitation of the original source material, not a fault of Synapse's restoration of the film for DVD.
Castle of Blood is not particularly subtle in its narrative approach, but it has a creepy Gothic atmosphere and some interesting metaphysical conceptions. And of course, the always-welcome presence of Barbara Steele. This is one of the better Italian horror movies, in my opinion.
on May 23, 2002
This is a fine example of the Italian Horror film genre which took American Drive-Ins by storm in the 1960's (American title: CASTLE OF TERROR). Star Barbara Steele, having made a sensation in Mario Bava's BLACK SUNDAY (aka: MASK OF SATAN) in 1960, appeared in a string of Euro-Horror classics over the next several years with this film being one of the best. Directed by Bava protege/rival Antonio Margheriti (aka: Anthony Dawson) the story is original and compelling, but the atmospheric black & white cinematography is actually the star of the picture. Sadly, the English dubbing is not very good (it never is really), but the score is hauntingly beautiful. If this DVD is actually the European release print then expect some flashes of nudity, a bit of lesbianism and extended gore in the films mid-section that were trimmed for U.S. release. For fans of Barbara Steele this is a must have, and those who enjoy a good creepy horror story, beautifully filmed will also want to add it to their collections.
You could say that "Castle of Blood" is based on the best story Edgar Allan Poe never wrote -- despite what the opening credits say, I cannot find any Poe story called "Danse Macabre."
But despite that, this vintage horror movie is still quite entertaining as a Gothic tragic romance. It suffers from a rather thin plot, but makes up for it by soaking the entire story in atmosphere -- lots of dungeons, coffins, crazed murders, cobwebby corridors, and vampiric ghosts. A danse macabre indeed.
Edgar Allan Poe (Silvano Tranquilli) is on a visit to England, telling a gruesome story to his friend Lord Blackwood. A cocky journalist, Alan Foster (Georges Rivière) is there to interview him, but he ends up taking a wager from Blackwood -- to disprove the supernatural, he'll spend the night of November 2nd (All Souls' Day) in Blackwood's haunted castle.
The castle turns out to be as creepy as expected, but not as abandoned -- Alan meets the beautiful Elizabeth (Barbara Steele), and falls for her despite the fact that she's... well, dead. As the night goes on (with the help of the local wacky scientist), Alan sees the tragedies that led to her death, and those of the other ghosts who drift through the place. But he doesn't realize that the ghosts have plans for him too...
"Castle of Blood" was one of those beautifully decadent-looking Eurohorror movies, full of sumptuous atmosphere and genuinely creepy ghosts. It seems slow by modern standards, especially since there isn't anything jumping out or gratuitous gore'n'guts.
The plot itself is rather thin, with a contrived love story (they fall in eternal love in five minutes!). But who cares? That plot is substantial enough to carry all this atmosphere -- creepy, ghastly atmosphere, peppered with the occasional gruesome murder or flashback to parties. The castle itself seems like a dead rotted thing, covered in cobwebs and dust.
And the story picks up substantially in the second half, when Alan finds out what made all these ghosts in the first place (it involves stabbing, bludgeoning, and lesbian groping). Then director Antonio Margheriti throws a deliciously gruesome plot twist into the story, which elevates it from a ghost story to real, bloodthirsty horror.
Riviera is the one weak link in this movie's cast; his Alan is so smug and stiff that it's hard to care what happens to him. Instead, the good performances are provided by the dead: Steele as the frightened ghostly waif, Margarete Robsahm as her chilly maid, and Arturo Dominici as the most sedate horror scientist ever. Tranquilli also gets a nod for his solid cameo as Poe.
The Westlake version of this movie is not as good as the movie itself, though -- the first few minutes are very grainy and green, and while it improves a lot, it's never really what you'd call crisp. The print has some brief jumps, crackles and lines, and that mediocre English dub. Dedicated fans of this movie will want to get the official rerelease, but this one is good enough for an introduction.
"Castle of Blood" is short on plot, but miles long on atmosphere. And it turns out that it's all this vintage horror movie needs -- nasty ghosts, sumptuous decay and a giant castle.
on October 26, 2002
This is a movie to rival Black Sunday with its candlelit, thick, gothic atmosphere. A writer spends the night in a castle populated with the living dead. Barbara Steele is once again cast as one of the undead and is a beautiful, tragic figure in this black and white masterpiece. Miss Steele is the defintive "living dead girl" in the era of gothic horror. The DVD is very good in both sound and picture quality. A must have for any fan of great gothic horror.
on November 27, 2002
Having recently read of director Antonio Margheritis' death from heart attack, I found it ironic that my copy of "Castle of Blood" arrived almost on top of it. I finally found the time to sit down and watch it and ,wow, was I impressed. I had never seen it before and had only read about it. Synapse has done a wonderful job in restoring this treasure. It's a tricky tale and you really have to pay attention. The dialogue is excellent and appropriately morbid in explaining the happenings and the metaphysical reasons behind them. Margheritis' direction is tight and keeps the action going without lapsing into confusion which would have been easy to do. The photography lingers in lurid detail on the dark and shadowy set pieces and most impressively on the otherworldly beauty of Barbara Steele as a sad and dissolute figure doomed by tragic fate. She and several others are bound to relive their final violent moments on earth once a year on the "night of the dead"---the anniversary of their deaths--- in the castle they occurred in. A writer accepts a strange bet from Edgar Allan Poe and a direct descendant of the castle that he won't survive this night if he stays alone in the "empty" place. There, he encounters these "lost souls" and witnesses them reliving their deaths. They need to be replenished with human blood on this "night of the dead" so that they may "live" again the following year. Steele is the Ist one he encounters and the writer determines to save her from eternal damnation. This is a dank, dark, gloomy film and is amazingly intense and even scary. The music score is great and perfectly enhances the horror to the hilt. Film is also relentlessy morbid from the writer meeting Poe in a tavern called the "Four Devils" all the way through to the last ironic shot where we see the writer has lost the bet. I cannot recomend this DVD enough. Extras include the alternate American opening credits as well as the lurid American theatrical trailer. "Danse Macabre" is certainly just that. A fitting tribute to a great director and a wonderful rendering of a near masterpiece of Gothic horror.
I'm a huge fan of Italian director Antonio Margheriti, aka Anthony M. Dawson, even though I haven't seen very many of his films. How can this be? Because the ones I have seen revel in low budget schlocky glory. Margheriti is responsible for such classics as "Alien From the Deep," the infamous "Cannibal Apocalypse," and "Killer Fish." He's also the man who brought us several highly entertaining shoot 'em up action/war films, films like "Indio," "Indio 2," "Tiger Joe," "The Last Hunter," "The Hunters of the Golden Cobra," and "Ark of the Sun God." If you need any additional evidence pointing to Dawson's relevancy in the realm of low budget cult classics, he directed the catastrophic "Yor, the Hunter from the Future." If you've seen this disaster, you know how important Margheriti is to lovers of cheese cinema! I'm dying to see all of these films--and a few others--arrive on DVD. Until then, I'm contenting myself with the precious few of this director's earlier movies that have come out, or are soon to come out, on disc: "Castle of Blood," "The Virgin of Nuremberg," and "Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye" among them. "Castle of Blood" inevitably draws comparisons to Mario Bava's "Black Sunday."
Bava made the superior film, but "Castle of Blood" is just as entertaining in its own right. A black and white entry in the gothic horror field popular in the early 1960s, Margheriti's film possesses all the right elements for a creepy good time: a gloomy castle, ghosts, Barbara Steele, and Edgar Allen Poe. Fun! The movie begins when a journalist by the name of Alan Foster (Georges Riviere) stumbles over the inimitable Poe (Silvano Tranquili) and a companion drinking at a small inn somewhere in England. Eager to interview the writer of superb supernatural tales, he soon agrees to a proposition offered by Poe's drinking companion, one Sir Thomas Blackwood (Umberto Raho). Blackwood owns a decrepit castle out in the sticks, a castle long rumored to hold the restless spirits of long departed souls. On one specific day of the year, he convinces someone to stay in the haunted building. And wouldn't you just know it? The night Foster stumbles into the bar is that very day of the year. Agreeing to Blackwood's bet, the journalist figures he can at least coax an interview out of Poe during the coach ride to the castle. The chances of him filing that story in the morning, however, will decrease with every minute he stays in the castle.
Blackwood's estate is indeed haunted, haunted by several spirits both benevolent and hostile. The first apparition Foster meets, Elisabeth Blackwood (Barbara Steele), couldn't be any nicer. She falls hard for the journalist, and he for her, before the truth about her status in the castle emerges: she's as dead as a doornail. That's sure to put the kibosh on any future matrimonial plans. What's worse, Elisabeth has a few companions to keep her company in eternity. One of them is another lady, the evil Julia (Margarete Robsahm), who has her own designs on poor Elisabeth. There is also a doctor in the house...er, castle who has resided there for quite a few years. Throw in a burly, thuggish looking chap and the hapless couple who took Sir Blackwood's bet the previous year, and it soon becomes apparent that this castle is a rocking place on one night of the year. As the evening proceeds, Foster witnesses the grisly circumstances that led to these people haunting the castle. Alan also discovers why Sir Blackwood went to such great pains to secure fresh meat for the estate. You see, the spiritual denizens of the castle need something from the living if they wish to reappear every year. I leave it to you to discover the identity of this item.
"Castle of Blood" has many good things going for it. The best part of the movie is Barbara Steele. This raven haired beauty starred in a number of these black and white European gothic horror movies, most notably in Bava's "Black Sunday," so it's always nice to see flaunt her copious charms again. She's like the original Goth chick--dark and dangerous yet incredibly sexy at the same time. Moreover, Margheriti gives us a fairly racy scene in which Steele and Robsahm make it abundantly clear what ties their two characters together. It's sort of surprising to see such behavior alluded to in a movie made way back in 1964! Anyway, Steele's appearance helps the film immeasurably. Another effective element in "Castle of Blood" is the atmosphere, which positively oozes doom and gloom. The masterful use of black and white photography helps, no doubt, but so does the claustrophobic ambiance of the castle. This is a building that screams at the top of its lungs, "I'm haunted!" Perhaps the only drawback to the film is pacing, which drags a bit when Foster first arrives at the castle and spends what feels like an eternity wandering about the premises. Aside from that small problem, "Castle of Blood" deftly delivers the chills and thrills.
This "Uncensored International Version" supposedly contains scenes cut out at the time of the movie's original release. I suspect we're talking about a flash of nudity towards the end of the film, and maybe a bit of the gore (tame by today's standards). A photo gallery, a trailer for the film, liner notes, and an alternate opening sequence round out the disc. If you like horror films, definitely give this one a watch. And if you think Barbara Steele is a serious babe, you'll love Margheriti's film. It's not quite as good as "Black Sunday," but it's darn close. Pick up a copy today!
on February 13, 2003
The simple fact is that this kind of film is a specialized taste. Imagine an old Universal horror film with the budget ramped way down and the Gothicism ramped way, way up.
It's like an extravagantly rich cheesecake, not everybody appreciates a flavor so strong and cloying. You have to love thick gothic atmosphere, stagey black & white cinematography lingering long on a dark castle full of dust, suits of armor, strange sounds and...something else. Much of the film's first half hour is devoted to the protagonist simply & silently exploring the castle by torchlight. There are other things here to enjoy, a ripely macabre plot and the eerie beauty of Barbara Steele, but this film is for those who relish lush Gothicism for its own sake. And you know who you are.
on February 27, 2004
A fine example of the Italian horror-film of the sixties mostly concerned with atmosphere. A journalist is spending the night in a haunted mansion to prove Edgar Allan Poe wrong on his theory of life after death (!). The investigation of the old dark house and endless walking down dark corridors make up for most of the running time, but then Barbara Steele shows up and after two minutes they're in love. Well, the story is actually quite good, almost tending towards a greek tragedy with adultery and three people dying within ten seconds. As we have come to expect from the Italian horror-cinema there are plenty of hints to lesbianism, necrophilia and algolagnia, but as usual it's rendered with a lot of taste and poetical manner. Fans of Bava's Black Sunday will be pleased to see not only the otherworldly Barbara Steele but also the stoical Arturo Dominici, who played Javutich, as Dr. Camus, who becomes the journalist's spiritual guide in the haunted house.
The DVD looks great, but the sound is mildly worn. It can occasionally be difficult to make sense of the dialogue. As a European I'm often annoyed by the lack of subtitles on many american DVD-releases.
on January 13, 2003
If you're in the 40-50 age range and grew up with Famous Monsters of Filmland,you know this film and have suffered through the off-track audio vhs versions and probably have a butchered late nightowl TV version(Castle of Terror)in your vid collection.Up till now the only readily available version was a heavily edited US version seen in very few drive-ins.Toss both of them.The years of numbing frustration that made nonbelievers of us for the'ultimate complete version'are over.It's here and this is it.So complete it includes French with subtitle scenes seamed in perfectly.Besides the fact that it's a beautiful print(goodbye monochrome)!A Barbara Steele steal!