MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN
(Il Mulino delle Donne di Pietra)
Mill of the Stone Women came out not long after the work that propelled the Continental Gothic into high gear Mario Bavas Black Sunday (1960). It came at the point where many of the aspects of the cycle had not been set in place and so it is somewhat different in tone to the films that followed. For one, it is in colour when most of the other Italian works were in black-and-white. Like Bava, Giorgio Ferroni has drawn his inspiration from the Hammer films that had kicked off a trend just a couple of years earlier with The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula/The Horror of Dracula (1958). There is the same lushness of mood and colour photography, the emphasis on the richness of the set dressings that made the Hammer films such distinctive works.
What makes Mill of the Stone Women stand out is the colour photography and the production design. The mills most striking set-piece is the carousel where we see mannequins moving around in a circuit depicting various tableaux of witches at the stake, women being hung, poisoners and a representation of Kali. These are vivid and striking. Elsewhere every corner of the mill seems filled with bric-a-brac and mannequin parts hanging and protruding from the wall in eye-catching ways.
The downside of Mill of the Stone Women is that it is far more sedate in terms of pace than the Hammer films or other works of the Continental Gothic were. It sets up a mystery but there is not much in the way of payoff until the third act when [PLOT SPOILERS] we get to Scilla Gabels mysterious death and return to life again. While the title leads you to expect something supernatural, the eventual denouement goes off in the direction of a mad scientist conducting rejuvenation experiments with his daughter. Added to the mix is a twist borrowed from Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) and its remake House of Wax (1953) with the scientist draining women of their bodily fluids and turning their corpses into the mannequins on his carousel.
The film was release in a dubbed version in the US in 1963. The credits of the English language version make claim to be based on a story from a collection called Flemish Tales by Peter Van Wiegen. In fact, the book and Van Wiegen do not exist and were made up by the publicity department.
Full film available online here:-