A Trailer a Day Keeps the Boogeyman Away! Terror Creatures From The Grave (1965)

“They rise from dank coffins in the dead of night, murdering their victims in an orgy of slaughter!”

TERROR CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE (1965)

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Walter Brandi  (The Playgirls and The Vampire 1960,Bloody Pit of Horror 1965) plays Albert Kovac an attorney who arrives at a strange desolate castle to settle the estate of the recently deceased Dr. Hauff. Starring the magnificent icon Barbara Steele who plays Cleo Hauff, the young widow who is having an affair. Riccardo Garrone plays Joseph Morgan and Mirella Maravidi plays Hauff’s daughter Corinne. Alfredo Rizzo  plays Dr Nemek, and Luciano Pigozzi is the trusted servant Kurt. The history of the castle has been haunted by a curse, furthermore Dr Hauff used to dabble in the black arts and claimed to be able to summon the spirits of the dead victims of the plague to wreak vengeance on those he felt betrayed him.“The water will save you.”

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‘Go back to the dead!!!’

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In this atmospheric Gothic Italian horror film from the 60s, there are several creepy and classical effective moments of morbidity and gruesome death scenes. And disembodied hands are always sort of yucky.

Beautiful Barbara
just magnificent in her Barbara Steele-ness

Truthfully, I could watch anything that Barbara Steele was in, she has such a splendid kind of sensuality that just oozes off the screen, and those darkly fervent eyes that mesmerize. (wow didn’t really mean to rhyme there)and while this isn’t really a stand out vehicle for her in any way as compared to her other work, the film is not a bad little romp through some vintage Euro chills for it’s 87 minutes, even without the Italian version’s brief gratuitous breast shot. Directed by Massimo Pupillo (Bloody Pit of Horror 1965 with Mickey Hargitay, La Vendetta di Lady Morgan 1965 with Erica Blanc and Barbara Nelli as Lady Susan Morgan and Django Kills Softly 1967) Cinematography by Carlo Di Palmi who worked on Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966’s masterpiece Blow Up.

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See ya round the snack bar, no butter on mine thanks-MonsterGirl

The Film Score Freak recognizes Mario Bava’s ‘Black Sunday’ and Jo Gabriel’s ‘Waking The Dark’

Black Sunday 1960 ‘La maschera del demonio’ & Jo Gabriel’s ‘Waking the Dark’

Here is a music/film mash up tribute to Bava and Steele, using edited clips from the classic film and a song off my neo-classical lo fi album The Last Drive In!

Mario Bava’s masterpiece of Gothic horror starring the legendary Barbara Steele is the vengeful witch Katia Vajda / Princess Asa Vajda who rises from the tomb to possess the body of her descendant!

“STARE INTO THESE EYES… discover deep within them the unspeakable terrifying secret of BLACK SUNDAY… it will paralyze you with fright!”

MonsterGirl (Jo Gabriel)

Danza Macabra / Castle of Blood (1964) “I Was Prepared To Spend The Night With Horrible Ghosts Instead I Find You!”

Castle of Blood / Danza Macabra 1964

This is one of those films that as a little MonsterGirl, it left a lasting impression on me.

I can remember when I’d first watched this as a child in my room late one weekend night. There was an early spring breeze blowing the curtains in and out in the precious darkness of my bedroom. I had my own little black and white television set. The cool and fragrant air puffling from outside kept wafting in. I felt sensations of chills and excitement.

I hadn’t  yet seen anything quite as hauntingly mysterious as the of Gothic dark beauty of Barbara Steele and the ball room scene that almost transported me into the television set, right into the ballroom itself. Feeling part of the ghostly ball.

It remained in my psyche for days. For years now actually, as it was one of my first experiences with Gothic romantic horror. The sensations of longing, death and shadow overtook me. Back in the 60s when they used to run this film late at night, I vaguely remember seeing it in total, not having cut out the scene with Julia kissing Elisabeth, so the lesbian overtones that remained in the earlier version of Castle of Blood aired in its entirety. Though this is my memory of the experience and not necessarily a fact.

I had purchased a copy of the film from Sinister Cinema  (who really do have an impressive Catalogue) which lost some of the film’s continuity because it cuts out certain portions, perhaps because of the language inconsistency in places or the dubbing. Recently I obtained the film as it had been original released.

In particular the segment where Julia tries to convince Elisabeth that they belong together, and she makes very overt sexual advances toward Elisabeth after defending her from being killed by her lover Herbert. The edited version only alludes to the fact that Julia has an attraction toward Elisabeth which could be perceived as merely jealous rivalry. It’s the same with the newly released DVD version of Narciso Ibanez Serrador’s masterpiece,  The House That Screamed 1969 with Lili Palmer, where the lesbianism was rampant at the boarding school but a lot of the scenes have been hacked to pieces. Thank god I’ve saved all my original VHS factory releases and have a version that is closest to the one I remember from the actual movie I saw in the theaters during it’s official theatrical release here in the U.S. Mary Maude is way too hot with that whip, to hack that segment apart. And Lili Palmer kissing Christina Galbo’s back after she makes Irene (Maude) whip  Teresa mercilessly needs to come to it’s visual fruition in order to show Sra. Fourneau’s sexual repression.


Along with Castle of Blood/Danse Macabre there were a few other films that effected me so profoundly when I was really young.

Such is the case with Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (1971), Lemora-A Child’s Tale of The Supernatural(1973), The Haunting (1963), The House That Screamed (1969) Rosemary’s Baby of course. Silent Night Bloody Night (1974), Night of The Living Dead (1968), Curse of The Demon (1957) The Devil Commands (1941) and The Uninvited (1944) and Horror Hotel

 

With Castle of Blood, It’s more about the imagery rather than the coherent story telling. Truth be told on recent viewing I found many a plot hole and unanswered questions, yet it really doesn’t matter. Antonio Margheriti has created a lasting atmosphere of yes, the macabre. A haunting shadow place, where phantoms waltz to an otherworldly melody.

The device of using Edgar Allan Poe as an active character in the play adds an interesting element to the story yet the origin of  Danse Macabre comes from French composer Camille Saint-Saëns who wrote his “tone poem” in 1874 as an art song for voice and piano and then reconfigured it for violin. It is based on a French superstition that claims that Death comes at Midnight on every Halloween night, and calls forth the dead to rise from their graves and dance for him while he plays the fiddle.

Directed by Antonio Margheriti who adopted the American name Anthony Dawson after realizing that the translation of his name was actually Anthony Daisies, thinking that it was too effeminate for his persona. The prolific Italian director, Margheriti started out in the 50s Italian film industry as a scriptwriter, but went on to direct science fiction, horror, and spaghetti westerns and cult Giallo films. Just to name a few, he directed Steele in The Long Hair of Death 1964 and Christopher Lee in Horror Castle (The Virgin of Nuremberg) 1963 Claude Rains in Battle of The Worlds 1961, Web of the Spider 1971 and the awful Cannibal Apocalypse 1980. Most of his films were directed under the pseudonym Anthony Dawson. Margheriti was the only Italian film maker that worked directly with American production companies like MGM, United Artists, 20th Century Fox and Columbia Pictures, to name a few.

Of interesting note:

Director Richard Morrissey denied for years that Margheriti had anything to do with directing Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein. Morrissey claims that Margheriti mostly worked as a technical adviser on that film only actually directing a very brief segment of the film.

Castle of Blood stars the inimitable, the iconic doe eyed Barbara Steele as Elisabeth Blackwood. Georges Rivièreas Alan Foster, Margarete Robsahm as Julia Alert. Arturo Dominici ( Henry Kruger) as Doctor Carmus. Silvano Tranquilli ( Montgomery Gleen ) as Poe and Umberto Raho (Raul H.Newman) as Lord Thomas Blackwood and Giovanni Cianfriglia as Herbert although IMDb has him listed as Killer? He did do the killing in terms of stabbing, choking, neck breaking and blood drinking.  Sylvia Sorent is the bride.

When the film’s credits roll they say Story by Jean Grimaud and Gordon Wilson Jr. From Edgar’s “Dance Macabre” screenplay by Grimaud and Wilson. Yet I am unaware of any of Poe’s short stories that this would have been based on. This is why I refer to Saint-Saëns tone poem of the same name which seems to be the preeminent and prevailing origin of this theme.

Here is the closest poem I can think of that Margheriti might have been envisioning the correlation to Poe. Here’s an excerpt.


SPIRITS OF THE DEAD by Edgar Allan Poe

  • Thy soul shall find itself alone
  • ‘Mid dark thoughts of the gray tombstone
  • Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
  • Into thine hour of secrecy.
  • Be silent in that solitude
  • Which is not loneliness, for then,
  • The spirits of the dead who stood
  • In life are before thee, are again.
  • In death around thee, and their will
  • Shall overshadow thee: be still.

The wonderful Music composed by Ritz Ortolani  later on he must have shortened his name to Riz. Margheriti used Ortolani for so many of his various genre films. He’s known for so many earlier scores, for films such as The Yellow Rolls -Royce, One on Top of The Other 1969 Woman Times Seven 1967 with Shirley MacLaineThe Vilachi Papers with Charles Bronson 1972 and most recently for Kill Bill Vol 2 and Inglorious Bastards 2009

The short synopsis goes as follows. A young English journalist Alan Foster shows up at the 4 Devils pub to try and get an interview with Edgar Allan Poe. He finds Poe telling a ghost story to another man seated at a table inside the pub. He winds up making a wager for ten pounds with Lord Thomas Blackwood that he cannot survive the infamous “night of the dead”, which is the first midnight in November. Each year Lord Blackwood does this, with unsuspecting victims who wind up falling prey to the phantoms who dwell there in his ancestral castle. Lord Blackwood’s grandfather was The Hanging Judge of London. Alan decides to take the bet, and the 3 men take Blackwood’s carriage to the castle. Once at Castle Blackwood, Alan meets the beautiful Elisabeth and both instantly form an attraction. Lord Blackwood sends people to the castle each year so Elisabeth might walk one more year.

Also lurking in the castle is the mutually exquisite Julia whose portrait hangs in the great hall, and seems to come alive when ever Alan looks at it. Julia seems possessive of Elisabeth and warns her not to befriend Alan, but Elisabeth has fallen for the handsome young man who will “bring her life.” What Alan soon finds out after making love to Elisabeth only to find no heart beat, is that she is truly dead, a ghost, who has come forth on this night with the other inhabitants of the castle who must drink the blood of the one who has wagered their life away, in order that they might dance again the following November.

Eventually Alan succumbs and is reunited in death with his beloved Elisabeth, who not only has a ghost husband William but a lover, the gardener and stable beefcake, Herbert. Along the way, Alan is guided down a slippery path of self destruction by scientist/doctor Carmus who warns him of how the senses live on after death. Each year the dead relive their destinies, and re enact the way they each met their deaths. In the end, Alan escapes the inner sanctum of the castle’s vampiric ghosts with the help of Elisabeth only to have the great iron gate spike impale him through the neck.

I do have several questions of my own, such as, why Elisabeth Blackwood being the sister of Lord Thomas would have her grave randomly placed on the outside grounds instead of the family tomb, and if so who’s corpse was it inside the crypt, that materializes and which ghost did they become in the flesh?

Elisabeth’s husband William? Or the newlyweds, which were the last people to take the wager or Carmus? None of these people, would be buried in the underground crypt as they only chose the castle as a wager or a quiet place for Carmus to do his experiments away from doubting colleagues. It certainly wouldn’t have been Herbert the gardeners’ tomb inside. So this creates a rift in the continuity and coherency for me as a contextual spectator, although the visual narrative makes up for this confusion, at least for me it does.

Also If the last couple to die came back this night of Alan’s destiny, how,  if they hadn’t had any blood yet did they manage to materialize?

Continue reading “Danza Macabra / Castle of Blood (1964) “I Was Prepared To Spend The Night With Horrible Ghosts Instead I Find You!””

MonsterGirl’s Sunday Nite Surreal: Black Sunday/La Mashera del Demonio 1960

BLACK SUNDAY/LA MASCHERA DEL DEMONIO Directed by Mario Bava & starring the immortal iconic otherworldly —Barbara Steele

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This timeless Gothic masterpiece is also known as The Demon’s Mask, Revenge of the Vampire and House of Fright. It is the Maestro Bava’s first film as a solo director, since first working as a cameraman with another auteur of the dark Riccardo Freda, Bava co-directed I Vampiri (1956)

With the presence of the enchanting & luscious beauty of Steele– the film becomes a romantic exercise in the Gothic style of European horror. Her eyes alone could mesmerize an audience with an effervescence that few possess with their gaze.

Bava also controlled the prowling camera style and Nedo Azzini’s sets are emblematic of the netherworld the story is steeped in.

Like a malefic allegory shown with gruesome keenness, Black Sunday is loosely based on Nikolai Gogol’s The Vij.

Barbara Steele manifests two characters the mirror image of each other–Princess Asa Vajda is tortured and burned as a witch. This is how the film opens with a ferocity that propels the film into a whole other level of classical horror. It is the stuff that dark fairy tales are made of… and nightmares.

The iconic spiked Devil Mask that is pounded into Asa’s face for the crime of adultery, or what was considered to be an act of ‘witchery’ Women’s wiles have always been considered powerful, tempting and dangerous to men.

The local Inquisitor calling Asa a witch, condemning her to such a brutal death bears ironing for he is Asa’s own brother. Once Asa returns to claim her revenge she vampirizes Katia in order to rejuvenate her life force.

It is now 200 years later, and Katia Vajda the descendent of the persecuted Princess Asa, is the spitting image of the beautiful ‘witch.’ Asa and her lover Javuto (Arturo Dominici) rise up from the tomb, cobwebs, scorpions and spiders to wreak revenge on the legacy of the Vajda family curse.

One of the most memorable scenes in horror film history is the resurrection of Javuto from the crumbling ground, the smoky dark clouds surround his devil-masked rotting visage underneath–as he claws his way out of his grave and lurches off into the ghostly night.

The special effects, masks, faces, matte painting etc. were done by Bava himself with brother Eugenio Bava. The face of Asa which bears the marks of the spike holes from the devil-mask adds a chilling effect to the film. It also creates the image of the monstrous feminine that strives to conquer and drain the life from those she’s fixated on. The two characters that Steele plays are contradictory figures, one virginal and innocent, the other blood thirsty and evil. Asa was unholy because of her sexual desires.

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Black Sunday’s expressive influence and it’s grande sense of classical horror is rooted in the idea that a woman’s sexuality cannot be destroyed, and will always inevitably return by it’s own primacy enduring the scars of the violence inflicted upon her. That which the world order, particularly religious zealotry and patriarchal law attempt to oppress with come back twofold just to shake up the order of things.

The ultimate threat appears as the merger of the two Vajda’s women Asa & Katia… the virgin and the whore. Bava continued to make films where men desperately tried to destroy the lure of women’s desire and their desirability…

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STARE INTO THESE EYES… discover deep within them the unspeakable terrifying secret of BLACK SUNDAY… it will paralyze you with fright!