NEW WORLD PICTURES MONTH: Scream of the Demon Lover (1970)

Scream of the Demon Lover goes by many names. Blood CastleIl castello dalle porte di fuoco (The Castle With Doors of Fire). El Castillo de FrankesteinKillers of the Castle of BloodAltar of BloodEl asesino del castillo sangriento (The Bloody Castle Killer). Scream of the Demon LoverLe monstre du château (The Castle Monster). Murhaaja kauhujen linnassa (The Murderer In the Castle of Horrors, what a title!). Ivanna: El castillo de la puerta de fuego (Ivanna: The Castle With the Doors of Fire). Mördaren i skäcken hus (The Killer In the House of Horrors). Das Geheimnis von Schloß Monte Christo (The Mystery of Castle Monte Cristo).

In the U.S., New World Pictures cut it down to 78 minutes so it could fit on a double feature with The Velvet Vampire. It was also syndicated for television with all of the nudity missing, of course.

Biochemist Dr. Ivana Rakowsky (Erna Schurer, Strip Nude for Your KillerDeported Women of the SS Special Section) is a very rare thing: a woman in an Italian gothic horror film who is capable and not just a damsel in distress — well, she is at times, but work with me here — but a capable scientist who travels to the castle of Baron Janos Dalmar (Carlos Quiney, who played Zorro in three films, Zorro’s Latest Adventure; Zorro, Rider of Vengeance and Zorro the Invincible) to assist him in his experiments. She has some problems getting there. The only person that will give her a ride to the castle, Fedor (Ezio Sancrotti), tells her that she’ll die in there and then tries to assault her.

The Baron isn’t very kind to her either. Not at first, as he believes no woman can be a scientist. She shows him that she can handle it, even if his housekeeper Olga (Cristiana Galloni) has issues with her. Also, seeing as how this is an early 70s Italian/Spanish horror movie, there are also plenty of psychosexual moments. You see, Dr. Ivana sleeps in the nude and she has dreams where a scarred man visits her bedside and tortures her. Somehow, in the midst of all this, these two mismatched leads fall in love after science fonds them.

Castle Xenia has many secrets. After all, Igor Dalmar, the last owner, blew himself up real good and the Baron is his brother. Igor’s body is in a milk bath and he wants Dr. Ivana to help him bring Igor back to life. Olga, in case you didn’t guess, used to be with the Baron. And the new maid, Cristiana (Agostina Belli, who somehow went from being in movies like this and The Eroticist to being in the original Scent of a Woman), seems to want the lady doctor more than any man in this movie that still has his skin on.

As you can imagine from the town in the open of the film, young women are dying and everyone thinks it’s the Baron. The man who keeps torturing the good doctor with a red hot poker and fumes while whispering, “Stay pure,” hints that these girls have all died because they weren’t virgins. And even more to the case of whodunit, each of these young ladies has lost their innocence to the Baron before they were killed. So who is it? Olga, who hates every women who gets near her forever lost lover? Cristiana? Or is Igor perhaps not so bereft of life? And why does the Baron have a library of werewolf and occult books that rivals Danzig’s?

Director José Luis Merino also made the Paul Naschy movie The Hanging Woman, another movie with a ton of other titles but I prefer Beyond the Living Dead.

This movie hits all my buttons. Foggy castle. Strange science. Gorgeous young scientists with diaphanous see-through gowns carrying candelabras through a cobwebbed castle. Gnarled up monsters sneaking their way through the countryside with dogs howling in the Bava-esque moonlight. Man, I’ve been thinking about this since I watched it and every review I read that says that it’s a boring dubbed Italian piece of schlock makes me want to conduct sinister experiments in the night and get this thing up to a higher rating on IMDB while unleashing my hound — a five-pound chihuahua — on anyone with the bad taste to dislike this epic.

This movie is part of Severin‘s Danza Macabra box set along with The Monster of the OperaThe Seventh Grave and Lady Frankenstein. It’s exciting to be able to get the full version, uncensored, with the kind of quality that Severin delivers for this movie.

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