Thanks to Dustin Fallon from Horror and Sons for this entry. Beyond having a great web site, Dustin has really helped us get people to see our site and get writers for this project. It’s really appreciated! Thanks for watching so many movies for this month’s project!
Originally filmed as Terror, the 1963 Spanish/Italian production The Blancheville Monster is a musty, dusty Gothic horror affair that’s just rife with classic horror trappings and features more than just a touch of American soap opera melodrama, although that last part probably wasn’t overly intentional. The film was directed by Italian filmmaker Alberto De Martino, whose later horror credits include 1974’s The Antichrist and 1982’s Blood Link. However, Martino may be best remembered for a film so schlocky that it was featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater, 1980’s The Pumaman.
Set in Northern France in 1884, the film opens to find young countess Emilie de Blancheville returning home to her family’s ancestral estate after many years away at school. Accompanying her on her trip are her friend, Alice, as well as Alice’s older brother, John. John is secretly in love with Emilie, but it would seem to be a very poorly kept secret. Just as poorly kept of a secret is Alice’s own growing romantic interest in Emilie’s brother, Rodéric, a man that she only knows from hearing Emilie read the letters that he has sent his sister over the years.
Upon arriving at her family’s castle, Emilie is saddened to learn that her father was killed in a fire just a few years prior. Her family’s servants have passed on in her absence as well and have since been replaced. In addition to a new butler, the family has taken on a new housekeeper as well: a much younger, attractive woman named Miss Eleonore. Eleonore is played by one of the better known starlets of 60’s and 70’s (and even later) European cinema, Helga Liné. Liné appeared in numerous horror and genre films, such as Horror Express, Horror Rises From the Tomb, and Nightmare Castle. Liné had a tendency for playing evil or sinister characters, surely due to her ability to be both sensual and emotionless in the same shot.
It doesn’t take long for eerie occurrences to begin around de Blancheville Castle. As they sit for their first meal, a sound much like the howls of an old hound dog or the cries of an injured man can be heard in the distance. Rodéric explains that the sound is indeed just that of an old dog, carried by the wind from one of the surrounding “peasant villages”.
At almost immediately the same time, the new family doctor arrives at the castle. He is introduced by Rodéric as Dr. LaRouche , the tension instantaneous between the two men. Rodéric excuses himself to escort his house guests to their rooms, but essentially warns the doctor that he will return. This leaves LaRouche alone with Eleonore, filling the air with a different sort of tension. There is some vague allusions to double-crosses and other “devious activities” before LaRouche hands Eleonore what appears to be three small vials.
As with any good Gothic horror, a storm rages through the night. Alice is woken by thunder, and begins to wander the darkened halls and corridors of the old stone structure. She hears a gasping sound coming from a stairwell and ascends her way up to a shuttered door. Throwing the door wide, she finds Eleonore standing over the prone body of a severely burned man. A syringe filled with a dark, viscous fluid is clutched in her hand.
Rodéric is forced to reveal that the burned man is in fact he and Emilie’s father, the Count de Blancheville. While the elder de Blancheville had indeed survived his injuries, he had also been driven bat-shit crazy. The syringe that Eleonore had intended to use on him was filled with a sedative intended to help abate the old man’s ravings and rages. Without the injection, the Count has broken free from his chamber and is roaming the castle grounds at large.
Making this family reunion more memorable is the fact that dear ol’ Dad has become obsessed with a curse allegedly placed on his family, one that will befall them should a female descendant reach her 21st birthday. In order to prevent this prophecy from fulfilling, the Count must now murder his own daughter before her next birthday, just mere days away.
The Count de Blancheville appears throughout the castle, usually at his Emilie’s bedside. Almost hypnotically, he frequently makes her rise from her slumber and sleepwalk to the family tomb. There, he systematically attempts to shatter his daughter’s psyche, almost willing her into accepting her impending death. Why he never chooses to actually kill her while he has her in this defenseless state may be the film’s biggest mystery.
The passive-aggressive behavior from our aspiring practitioner of filicide leaves the film free to muddle up the remainder of its runtime with soap opera style love triangles and rampant melodrama, filling the screen with more “red herrings” than a bag of Swedish Fish! Everyone is in love with everyone else, while jilting another all in one breath. You’d be forgiven for expecting Eric Braeden to pop up as “Victor”, but that would be one too many “shady fuckers” for a film to handle.
Buried somewhere in all of this mess is the overlooked fact that the Count de Blancheville is apparently a ninja. Not only can the Count slink from room to room throughout the castle undetected, hiding in the old castle’s multitude of shadowed corners and nooks, but he (or she?) can also launch large blocks at his prey from the castle walls while theoretically still in another room at the time. “Spoiler alert”, or something.
The entire thing culminates in one giant pretzel of double-crosses and fake outs. Characters die only to later return. Ya know, kinda like when “Marlena” supposedly died in that plane crash on Days of Our Lives, only to be “revived” from a coma later on. At least no one in The Blancheville Monster gets possessed by a demon.
Most casual horror fans will probably find The Blancheville Monster to be an insanely boring film… and they’re not entirely wrong. It’s filled with tiresome exposition and moves at a plodding pace. Even ardent Gothic horror fans may be hard-pressed to find much of exception, excluding the beautiful, yet foreboding, architecture of the old castle itself. And despite having Edgar Allan Poe’s name attached to its original title, the film has little to nothing to do with his stories. Skip this one and go watch Barbara Steele in The Ghost, which is conveniently also included in this set.
Thanks for letting me be a part of this series! I loved the idea from the second you told me. There are just so many great films (and great a few not-so-great ones) that I was introduced to through this set.
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