CASTLE OF BLOOD
THE CASTLE OF TERROR; THE LONG NIGHT OF TERROR
Antonio Margheriti was one of the hacks of the Italian exploitation industry. He touched on numerous genres within his career that ranged between the 1960s and his death in 2002, ranging from action films to the Italian space opera, the giallo film, peplum and several cheap spaghetti Westerns. Throughout most of his films, he was credited as Anthony [M.] Dawson, as with the trend of the era for people taking English-sounding names to sell the films in the US. A good deal of Antonio Margheritis output was unadulterated hackwork but Castle of Blood/The Castle of Terror which should not be confused with Margheritis earlier Gothic The Virgin of Nuremberg (1963), which was also retitled The Castle of Terror is one occasion upon which Margheriti achieved far more than that.
Margheritis opening of the film has an incredible atmosphere that is a near-perfect evocation of the Italian Gothic. The entry into the castle comes with much in the way of lurking black cats, cobwebbed halls and dust-covered living rooms, candles mysteriously blown out, the pendulum on a clock that starts moving one minute and is stilled the next, or mysterious scenes where Georges Riviere sees a man and woman dancing to music in a room but the room is empty when he opens the door. There is the cameo appearance of Edgar Allan Poe the Roger Corman adaptations of which beginning with The House of Usher (1960) were the source of inspiration for much of the Italian Gothic (while this also makes the completely fictitious claim to being partly based on a Poe story) who narrates a fearfully told tale as the film opens. The later venture down into the crypt to find Barbara Steeles corpse, which is mummified but still breathing, is a masterpiece of production design. The black-and-white atmosphere looks superb in the beautifully crisp dvd rendering.
Not long in, there is the introduction of Barbara Steele as the sister. The film gets an undeniable effect out of casting Steele as what at the outset seems an ordinary girl in need of rescuing. However, Steele plays the part with a nervous emotional fragility. Added to her natural wide-eyed looks, this gives her the appearance more of a cliche mad woman than a standard Gothic heroine. After she beds hero Georges Riviere and he rests his head on her chest, she lies back and calmly announces with chill regard: My heart doesnt beat it hasnt for ten years. Im dead. This is followed by the abrupt shot where the bare-chested Phil Karson/Giovanni Cianfriglia bursts in and stabs her as she lies in bed.
Much of the rest of the film centres around Georges Riviere present as witness while the original events are played out by the ghosts and his attempts to escape the fate that is intended for him and take Barbara Steele away. Castle of Blood is unusual for films of this period in featuring a complicated web of desires among the murdered parties, all of whom seem to want Barbara Steele, one of which is a woman with lesbian desires. This latter is a theme that was ahead of its time and is something that would not enter the horror genre for another few years with Hammers Karnstein adaptations and sundry lesbian vampire films.
Antonio Margheriti remade Castle of Blood a few years later in colour as Web of the Spider (1971) starring Anthony Franciosca as the hero and with Klaus Kinski as Edgar Allan Poe.
Antonio Margheritis other genre films are:- Assignment Outer Space (1960), Battle of the Worlds (1961), the peplum Devil Against the Son of Hercules (1964), the peplum Hercules, Prisoner of Evil (1964), the Gothic The Long Hair of Death (1964), the Gothic The Virgin of Nuremberg (1964), War of the Planets (1965), The Wild, Wild Planet (1965), the spy film Lightning Bolt (1966), War Between the Planets (1966), The Snow Devils (1967), the giallo The Young, The Evil and the Savage (1968), the giallo The Unnaturals (1969), the invisibility comedy Mr Superinvisible (1970), the Gothic Web of the Spider (1971), the giallo Seven Dead in the Cats Eye (1973), the gonzo Western comedy Whiskey and Ghosts (1976), the cannibalistic Vietnam Vets film Cannibal Apocalypse/Cannibals in the Streets (1980), the adventure film Hunters of the Golden Cobra (1982), the post-holocaust barbarian film Yor, The Hunter from the Future (1983), the adventure film The Ark of the Sun God (1984), Treasure Island in Outer Space (mini-series, 1987), the alien nasty film Alien from the Deep (1989) and the sf/action film Virtual Weapon (1997).
Full film available online here:-