20. CASTLEMANIA: Something that takes place in, where else, a castle.
A couple of months ago, I was doing my usual weekend of looking at used DVD stores when I noticed an older man staring at the stacks of used movies. He stopped and asked, “Do you mind if I ask you what movies I should get?” It turns out that his wife had recently died and he missed watching horror movies with her and wanted to bring back some memories. He had no idea how streaming worked and had just gotten a DVD player, so as we continued talking, it turned out that he really liked Barbara Steele in movies and was surprised that he could own this film. It made me feel really great that I could help someone out like this as well as realize that Ms. Steele has been bewitching men of all ages all around the world for decades.
Mario Caiano has made movies across nearly every genre that an Italian director can work in, from peplum like Ulysses Against the Son of Hercules to westerns such as A Coffin for the Sheriff, giallo like Eye in the Labyrinth and berserk freakouts like Love Camp 7, The Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe and the kinda giallo Ombre Roventi.
This is the kind of gothic madness that I love so much, starting with Stephen Arrowsmith (Paul Muller, Malenka) discovering his wife Muriel (Steele) having the gardner plant some seeds inside her. He shoves a hot poker in the man’s face, burns her with acid and then electrocutes both of them before removing their hearts and gviing their blood to de-age his servant Solange (Helga Liné!). And then he finds out that he isn’t the heir to the castle — it turns out that Muriel has an identical sister named Jenny (also Steele) who is mentally deranged but will become his new bride.
I’m in. All in.
Stephen and Solange begin to gaslight Jenny but she has the ghosts of the dead lovers on her side, as well as Dr. Derek Joyce (Marino Masé, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times). This movie looks beyond beautiful and really allows Steele to showcase her acting skills (and her piercing eyes).
“If you’re gonna scream, scream with me,” sang Glenn Danzig in the Misfits’ “Hybrid Moments,” which was inspired by this movie. Nightamre Castle is everything great about black and white gothic melodrama and I just want to live within every frame of this film. It’s also the first horror score that Ennio Morricone would write.
You have so many choices to see this. For the easy way, just stream it on Tubi. Or you can do what I did and buy the Severin blu ray, which has commentary by Steele, an interview with Caiano and Castle of Blood and Terror Creatures from the Grave included.