THE BLANCHEVILLE MONSTER
The Blancheville Monster is like B-budget Continental Gothic. It ticks most of the boxes for any film coming out during the cycle a big decaying old family mansion and adjoining abbey; black-and-white photography highlighting gloomy shadows; family secrets; a disfigured figure lurking around the grounds; a sinister doctor tinkering in hypnotism. Alberto De Martino creates some great Gothic images the hooded, burn-scarred figure of the father hovering over Ombretta Collis bed; Ombretta wandering through the grounds in a nightgown with candelabra and being drawn to the magnificent ruin of the abbey where the father invokes her to come inside and join him in death; dreams of her running through the woods in a wedding gown; even a scene that pays homage to Vampyr (1932) where she is buried alive and the camera looks up from the coffin as she lies trapped but still alive. On the other hand, Alberto De Martino shows he is not Mario Bava anywhere outside of these scenes where the film slows down and becomes prosaic and talky. The disappointment is that after such a great build-up, the film reaches an improbably contrived mundane ending involving murder plots and people hidden behind masks.
The film apears to be very loosely based on Edgar Allan Poes The Fall of the House of Usher (1839). Poes name does not appear anywhere on the credits, even though Poe was in huge vogue during the 1960s, following the success of Roger Cormans The House of Usher (1960). There are undeniable similarities between the two the brother Roderick/Rodrige; the big decaying family mansion; the sister who is buried while still alive. On the other hand, The Blancheville Monster adds a good deal more that is not in Poe a sinister doctor who may be hypnotising the heroine; a Barbara Steele-like housekeeper (Helga Line) who may be poisoning Ombretta Colli; the hooded, disfigured father. Nor do we get anything about the crippling over-amplification of the senses with which Roderick Usher is traditionally afflicted.
Alberto De Martino was a regular director in the Italian exploitation genre and covered most of its sub-genres, including the peplum and the giallo. His other genre films include: the peplum Medusa Against the Son of Hercules (1962) and The Triumph of Hercules (1964), the spy film OK Connery/Operation Kid Brother (1967), the giallo The Man with the Icy Eyes (1971), the possession and exorcism film The Tempter/The Antichrist (1974), the Antichrist film Holocaust 2000/The Chosen (1977), the superhero film The Punaman (1980), the psychic film Blood Link (1982), Miami Golem (1985) and Formula for a Murder (1985).
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