Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Halloween Hootenanny - First Impressions: Castle of Blood (Antonio Margheriti, 1964)

I'm still on a huge Italian gothic kick at the moment, and seeing as I rather enjoyed Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye, I thought it'd be an ideal time to finally watch what is (if I'm not mistaken) Margheriti's most well regarded film... which is, luckily for me, also stuffed to the brim with castles, cobwebs, candelabras and atmosphere so thick that you could slice through it with a straight razor.

Journalist Alan Foster (Georges Rivière) enters a tavern one night and comes across Edgar Allan Poe of all people, who is in the middle of telling one of his famous tales of terror. Soon after, and while the pair are talking shop, the master of the macabre drops the bombshell that all of his stories are actually based on fact. Something of a sceptic on this matter, Foster soon finds himself accepting a wager from another man in their company, Lord Blackwood (Umberto Raho), who challenges the journalist to do what no mortal has achieved so far, and stay for the entire night (on All Soul's Eve) in his infamous haunted castle. Apparently unperturbed by the fact that all the previous people who tried this died, our protagonist soon eagerly accepts...

Needless to say, spooky shenanigans begin to occur almost instantly upon his arrival... and it isn't long until Foster comes across some unexpected company in the form of Elisabeth Blackwood (Barbara Steele), who explains that the journalist has actually been paid to keep her company for the night (if memory serves at least... if I'm making this all up please let me know). Perhaps unsurprisingly, soon after their initial encounter some seriously weird shit starts hitting the fan...

This is hands down one of the best Italian gothics I've seen so far, and I can see why it's highly regarded... and furthermore, it's easily the most visually sumptuous black and white example of the genre I've seen outside of the work of Mario Bava. There's not really anything else I can say about this for now, as it really is more of a mood piece than anything, but as with Bava's films, I'm sure this will no doubt yield more subtleties and intricacies of plot when I come to revisit it. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good gothic, and/or those who enjoy horror that's heavy with atmosphere. 

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