AKA: Das Schloss Des Gralens
AKA: La vergine di Norimberga
AKA: The Virgin of Nuremberg
I decided I wanted to watch something a little different, so I turned to TCM, because while the mention of that station may bring forth mental images of Casablanca, truth be told, they play all sorts of shit. At one point I even caught them playing The Garbage Pale Kids movie. Color me shocked. Unfortunately they usually air the kind of stuff I like to watch at O-Dark-thirty in the morning and, damnit to hell, I’ve got places to go and don’t function well on only 2 hours of sleep. So most of the time I just end up recording half the stuff that interests me, so I can scroll through it later upon my leisure. And thus I came upon this… um…. Well, this Italian horror film set in Germany and dubbed into English, I guess? Oh! And it has Christopher Lee? Perfect!
Horror Castle is a gothic horror from the 1960’s. A newly married nobleman and his beautiful bride are visiting his ancestral castle in Germany. The wife wakes up and notices her husband missing one night, goes to investigate, and seemingly stumbles upon the aftermath of another woman being killed in the castle’s medieval torture museum (A room no home should be without.)
And of course no home torture museum is complete without the Iron Maiden. I know I don’t know what I’d do without mine.
She passes out and wakes up later, being told by her husband and others that it was all just a bad dream…. except for the creepy-ass head maid who apparently didn’t get the memo, because she informs her mistress that “he” has returned “to plant the seed of terror in shameless woman’s hearts.” The “He” in question being “The Punisher.” Sadly, this is not the The Punisher Marvel comic book fans would hope for, but rather a 300-year-old ancestor of her husband who delighted in torturing and killing women.
Oh, and one of the maids has just gone missing.
I’m of the belief that one should not be judged too harshly based on a family’s past, but this sort of shit is the kind of stuff that should be disclosed before marriage.
Not being a big believer in ghosts (or not being too bright, take your pick), the New bride fakes taking her prescribed sleeping pills and wanders around trying to solve the mystery of the castle.
Mystery #1 being: Who decided ‘blood red’ was the most appropriate color for the torture room?
This little film has a hell of an atmosphere. Despite being set in the Ninteen-sixties, the surroundings and set pieces, and the time spent around the ancient castle, will from time to time make you feel like you slipped into a period piece. Patterns are antique, curtains abound, and there are conveniently placed candlestick holders to light and flicker when a thunderstorm rears its ugly head. You get the idea.
The heroine of the tale, Mary, has the very unfortunate affliction of being prone to fainting spells earlier in the movie whenever she runs across something particularly dreadful (like all those pesky dead bodies for instance). But she toughens up later in the film and shows a bit of common sense when she realizes, after stabbing The Phantom’s wandering hand, “it’s not a ghost if it bleeds.” Huzza! Good job, darling. There be a brain inside that pretty little head and it knows how to use a knife. She’s also smart enough to be suspicious of everyone, including her new husband, as he is suspiciously absent when the dead bodies start to show up.
But sadly she is not smart enough to know how to ask questions without making the help suspicious of her.
This film was a bit bloodier than I was expecting, it being from the 60’s and all. At one point a woman has part of her face eaten off by a rat and they’re not afraid to show you the after effects. They don’t shy away from the act itself either. Though it’s not as graphic as it could have been, it’s still uncomfortable to watch. Not exactly torture porn, but probably one of the earlier precursors to it.
There are a couple of miniature sets in the film. Most of them blend in rather well, but there are a couple that are more noticeable, especially a particular recurring one. None of them are stellar, but they’ll only be truly off-putting if you let them be.
Those who watch enough of these movies will probably be able to predict who the killer is. I’m sure no one will be all too shocked. Though I was pleased to see an actual back story included, there is some WWII stock footage that stands out quite a bit, despite obvious efforts to have it blend into the production.
Maybe it’s him!
One nice thing to see was some of the reasoning behind the killers actions apart from the earlier suggested “she was a whore”, especially when there is no such evidence ever presented to make us believe that the victims were “shameless women” in any way. Perhaps this is a plot hole, or perhaps it can be explained away by his slightly tragic back-story.
Ultimately though, and despite the death toll, the killer is portrayed as a tragic figure, to the point where he is even granted a tender reunion with Christopher Lee in a scene that would appall (but not shock) me to find out had been the inspiration for many a disturbing homoerotic horror fanficion.
Overall, I enjoyed Horror Castle. It’s got a great atmosphere with some gorgeous gothic visuals and a good pace. It’s probably going to be really predictable to those familiar with the genre, but to those attracted to the more aesthetically pleasing horror pieces this one is probably worth a look.
Horror Castle is available on Amazon.
It is also available on DVD.