Euro art house director Roger Vadim adapted Blood and Roses in 1960, from Sheridan Le Fanu’s Sapphic vampire novella Camilla, setting down in contemporary Italy.
A lonely and bitter young heiress – jealous of her cousin’s engagement to another woman – becomes dangerously obsessed with legends surrounding a vampire ancestor, who supposedly murdered the young brides of the man she loved (IMDb).
The role of Carmilla was cast by Annette Vadim and Elsa Martinelli plays Georgia Monteverdi engaged to Leopoldo (Mel Ferrer). Camilla is secretly in love with Leopoldo. He and Georgia host a costume party to celebrate their upcoming wedding, which includes fireworks, that wind up unearthing the grave of Milarka, who is Carmilla’s ancestor, a vampiress. Milarka now possesses Camilla and designs to corrupt the lovers. Although the film is in technicolor, Vadim shoots his impressionistic dream sequence in black-and-white with red-tinted blood.
The film stoked the theme of the lesbian vampire, though not explicit, the trope gained traction in the late 1960s and 70s with Hammer Studios. Martinelli also appeared in The 10th Victim 1965.
Hayley Mills comes from acting royalty, she is the daughter of great British actor John Mills and the younger sister of Juliet Mills. I happened to have the good fortune of meeting the gorgeous Juliet Mills twice at the Chiller convention here in New Jersey. I have to say that I’ve never met a more kind and gracious actor who has a profound inner glow. Having already been a fan, I’m even more enamored with her.
Hayley was discovered while at her parent’s home in 1958 by director J. Lee Thompson who immediately cast her opposite, of her father in the thriller Tiger Bay 1959. Her breakthrough performance, winning an award at the Berlin Film Festival and being acknowledged in Hollywood by Walt Disney signed her to a five-year contract. There she starred in Pollyanna 1960 garnering rave reviews and a second hit was for The Parent Trap 1961. She went on to do That Darn Cat! 1965 and The Trouble with Angels 1966.
Mills had been offered the role of Lolita in Stanley Kubrick’s film (1962) but her parents warned off the part fearing the sexual nature of the role would taint her iconic image of purity. Sue Lyon was cast in the role instead, but Mills regretted not taking the part.
in Twisted Nerve 1968, Hayley Mills plays Susan Harper who befriends psychopath Martin Durnley (Hywel Bennett) who appears to be a painfully troubled young man, taking on the persona of a six-year-old boy who calls himself Georgie. His mother (Billie Whitelaw) infantilizes Martin. He has a brother with Down syndrome who has been hidden away in an institution. Georgie becomes fixated on the lovely and patiently kind, who realizes there’s something very wrong with Martin who ultimately goes into a murderous rage.
After Twisted Nerve in 1968, Hayley Mills went on to do more psychological thrillers in the 1970s – Once again co-starring with Hywel Bennett in Endless Night in 1972, and Deadly Strangers in 1975.
Anna also comes from acting royalty being the daughter of actor Raymond Massey. She is known for her role as Helen Stephens in Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom 1960 starring Karlheinz Bohm as Mark, a disturbed young man who films women as he kills them with a tripod sword so that he can get off on their reactions of terror. Anna plays Helen Stephans, the one girl that Mark feels a connection.
Once Mark is drawn to Helen they begin to spend time together. In Helen’s innocence, she remains out of danger from his dark, deranged eye on women’s suffering.
She also appeared in Otto Preminger’s Bunny Lake is Missing 1965, the psycho-sexual thriller drenched in paranoia. Carol Lynley reports her little girl missing, but there seems to be no evidence that she ever existed. Anna plays Elvira Smollett one of the teachers at the school where she disappeared.
Massey went on to do two more horror films in the 1970s, Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy 1972 and The Vault of Horror 1973 an anthology directed by Roy Ward Baker.
“TEACH HER TO TAKE CARE OF ME LIKE YOU DO” — Luis talking to his mother ‘Madame Fourneau‘
Before there were shows like Criminal Minds, CSI or Dexter where I learned about dis-articulation, the graphic motif used in the human marionette themed Season 8 episode 10 of Criminal Minds ‘The Lesson’ directed by Matthew Gray Gubler (Meow!) not only for me, the most adorable, desirable nice guy, and brilliant quirky actor but outstanding director as well. Just watch Mosely Lane or the afore mentioned episode starring the equally brilliant….Brad Dourif as Adam Rain the Marionette Master who creates living puppets to re-enact a childhood trauma. I never heard of ‘Enucleation’- or removing the eyes with a highly sharpened melon baller until Criminal Minds.
This is all the stuff that gives me… yes me!!!!, MonsterGirlthe heebies, the pip, and the whim whams and perpetually horrific nightmares for days, months even. BUT!
Before there was such contemporary graphic violence pouring forth from the television screen, or feature scare films deemed ‘torture porn’... that it could almost wear your psyche down to its raw unsheathed fibers… there was a beautiful elegant, and mind-bending kind of psychological horror.
With The House That Screamed, the fear and anguish mixed with the exquisitely restrained performances by the ensemble of actors is more powerful than movies like Wolf Creek and Hostel which merely brings you excruciatingly close to realism and as violent as a trip to the slaughterhouse.
There ARE certain films that remain a haunting experience… but in a way that serves as an emotional release not a shock to your sympathetic nervous system.
One film, in particular, will always be one of my favorite classical horror films of all time. The House that Screamed (1969) directed by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador starring IMHO one of the finest actresses Lilli Palmer is rife with so many social taboos yet still maintains its elegance. Filled with images of Sado-Masochism -the archetypal Devouring Motherhood, the effects of repression, and young nubile beauties’ whose libidos are firing off sparks all over the boarding school. The untenable gap between adults and children, a brutal secret society of Sapphic sadists, an Oedipal complex brought to an eventual disturbing climax fit for modern screening.
Lilli Palmer’s (Body and Soul 1947, Mädchen in Uniform (1958), and The Boys from Brazil 1978) are about Madame Fourneau, the headmistress of an all-female school for ‘troubled’ or ‘unwanted girls’.
Lilli Palmer as teacher Maria Rohmer in Mädchen in Uniform, had a heady lesbian theme running through its narrative which here is reprised in a Spanish horror film that reaches back to Grand Guignol.
The rigid and stale institutionalized environment of The House that Screamedmolds ‘good girls’. This repressive sexual confinement, it bursts wide open into a sensationalist breeding ground for the lesbian as predator trope. The repressed older woman is taken in by the beautiful innocence of a wild girl who defies her rules, pushing back against Palmer’s obvious infatuation, she makes Palmer’s character suffer as a voyeur as she awakens out of the nubile young adolescent into her sexual primacy as a seductive maiden. Palmer’s pain is exquisite.
Her son Luis is played by the eternally cherubic looking if not eerily handsome John Moulder-Brown.(known for his stint in a few 70s psycho-sexual thrillers like Deep End 1970 & Forbidden Love Game 1975 directed by another underrated Spanish director Eloy de la Iglesia.
The House that Screamed is epiphanic of the thing that dreams and beautiful nightmares are made of… not these latest hellish journeys through graphic violations of the mind, body and soul, obliterating, annihilating any patch of humanity left to detect, without a purpose, a meaning nor cathartic release…
This film is an elegant horrifying waltz, textural, voyeuristic Spanish thriller, and timeless late 60s horror film… an absolute masterwork of art. From the acting, cinematography, Neo-Gothic art & set direction, the incredible use of lighting, music, and sound design (each frame exists with its own individual cue that marks the scenes with a spine-chilling ambiance, a chorus of whimperings & glossolalia) and the fabulous period wardrobe designed by Víctor María Cortezo.
The film begins with Teresa (Cristina Galbó What Have You Done To Solange? 1972) being dropped off at a remote, finishing school for said “problem” girls run by the severely domineering Madame Fourneau (Lilli Palmer), whose impish son, Luis (John Moulder-Brown) is held captive himself, by his mother’s doting maternal iron hand. (Moulder’s outre boyish expression is creepy in and of itself.) Yet it bares out the ironic theme of pure evil laying in wait behind the mask of purity. Luis is left to scour the perimeters of the school, voyeuristically gazing through small peepholes observing and befriending certain girls, like a rat who scurries behind the walls, he manages to arrange clandestine rendezvous with certain of the nymphs he chooses, while watching them during their weekly shower ritual–nightgown on–nudity is NOT an option unless you beg the wrath from the headmistress! (It throws her into a hypnotic-homophobic/homoerotic fugue).
There are several disappearances assumed to be a case of the girls being runaways as they are known for their sexual liaisons with delivery men, but there is something much more sinister lurking at ‘Le Residencia’- The Finishing School the alternate title to The House that Screamed 1969.
The narrative, the film’s oxygen is apprehensive. As tautly wound as one of Teresa’s mother’s (the prostitute) corsets. Driven by the beauty of a frightening impressionist painting, the cinematography, (Godofredo Pacheco & Manuel Berenguer ) and the applied use of color, conjuring the film’s atmosphere like a Gothic masterpiece of terror. Colors are also very emblematic of the works of Mario Bava having given his films a lush surreal dream-like quality to them, making work like Black Sabbath 1963 a memorable walk through a lush nightmare. The House That Screamed evokes a world of repression, decay, and an unseen menacing eye that is brushed with vibrant liquid-like colors.
The rigid yet pulsing tempo of the pace that is leading us to the horrifying conclusion, the haunting exquisiteness of the score by Waldo de los Ríos, its beautiful simplicity which leaves me humming for days… the visual perspective that allows us to participate in the claustrophobic, repressive quality of tristesse about the school. The eroticism is so very self-contained. It’s this type of eroticism that I find more compelling than any literal sexual exploitation and B nudie flick unless the point is ‘exploitation’ (which I’m a complete fan of )and beauty is not the operative function. The psycho-sexual elements and the horror story are not overstated, they are trembling below the surface waiting to hyperventilate from all the tension. This is one gorgeous horror film that never gets old for me.
Guillermo Del Toro who is probably the only auteur I think could attempt a re-make having used a similar eye with Pan’s Labyrinth 2006 and The Devil’s Backbone 2001 which had that sensibility that allows the horror to appear beautiful. As of late, I’ve become a fan of Eloy de la Iglesia and his style of storytelling. I’ve given these kinds of films the more powerful title of “Fable horror” The stunning and quiet sensuality brings you just to the edge but does not indulge your fight or flight response.
If you haven’t seen The House That Screamed and are curious about a film that led the 60s out with an elegant scream, and if you’re a fan of Lilli Palmer then take a stab at this one. Oops sorry for the ironic cliche there. I think you’ll be able to watch it without one hand over your face and no threat of night terrors either… If you want nightmares, just watch Criminal Minds while eating a large bowl of pasta at 10 pm then go straight to bed… I promise it’ll be far worse than anything you’ll experience from Serrador’s incredibleThe House That Screamed!
It’s been Sunday Nite Surreal… Have a light-hearted Sunday Nite from your EverLovin’ MonsterGirl