Santo en el Museo de Cera (1963)

You have to hand it to the people who made Santo movies, this time Alfonso Corona Blake (who made Santo vs. Las Mujeres Vampiro) and Manuel San Fernando (who made three Santa Claus movies and the American version of Johnny Socko).

Santo is an obsession for me, as he perfectly finds himself in nearly every genre through his long career. He’s a detective. He fights monsters. He becomes a spy. He appears in a gothic horror occult exploitation film. He battles aliens. He goes to the Bermuda Triangle. And then he’s in a karate movie. Santo can be all of these things and so much more.

This time, I can only assume someone watched House of Wax and thought, “This movie would be better with lengthy wrestling scenes and a masked hero.”

The evil Dr. Karol looks the same as he did when he came to Mexico twenty years ago as the survivor of the Dachau concentration camp. He runs a haunted house packed with some of your favorite monsters that come to life, because have you ever seen a horror movie set in a wax museum where things go well?

By the end of the movie, this gets all Dr. Moreau with animal men get whipped. But you have to love a movie where Santo tells the police he’ll get back to crimefighting just as soon as he finishes his next match.

You can watch the American version of this on YouTube:

Santo en el Hotel de la Muerte (1963)

Federico Curiel had no idea how to make a Santo film. Instead of putting the Man in the Silver Mask front and center, he was a side character as normal people became the heroes. Nobody wanted that. However, this one does have a great poster and some atmosphere.

The real stars of the movie are Fernando Casanova, Ana Bertha Lepe and Beto el Boticario, while Santo just shows up as needed to stop evil from attacking the people Curiel really saw as the stars.

There’s a decent match with Santo and Black Shadow, some fun jazz and a great hotel. It’s not anywhere near where our hero would soon go, but it’s not a bad time.

You can watch this on YouTube:

From Russia With Love (1963)

Was this movie a success? Well, it made $78 million on a $2 million dollar budget, which would be like $661 million in today’s money. Yeah. This is the very definition of success.

United Artists had doubled the budget available of Dr. No, which allowed them to film on location for the first time. There was a mad rush to get this done by October 1963, with production running over budget and past schedule.

President John F. Kennedy had named this Fleming’s novel as one of his ten favorite books of the year and it would be the last movie he’d view at the White House before his death.

Most of the crew stayed on, except for production design genius Ken Adam, who went on to work with Kubrick on Dr. Strangelove; title designer Maurice Binder and stunt coordinator Bob Simmons, who still found the time to do a few stunts in the final film.

From Russia With Love is the movie that introduced many of the Bond trademarks, like the pre-title action sequence, a major villain in Ernst Stavro Blofeld (who is only given a number and a ? as to who played him; it’s Anthony Dawson with Eric Pohlmann’s voice), bravura stunt action, gadgets, a catchy theme song with lyrics and the proclamation that “James Bond will return…” in the credits.

Think Marvel has the trademark on franchises? These guys pretty much wrote the rulebook.

After James Bond (Sean Connery) killed Dr. No, SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) has begun training agents to kill off 007, starting with Irish killer “Red” Grant (Robert Shaw, Jaws), who starts the film by killing off a Bond lookalike. He’s a formidable foe for our hero, continually saving him throughout the film so that he can have him all to himself. The fight between the two — actually done mostly by Connery and Shaw — worried many making the film for its sheer brutality.

SPECTRE’s other goal is to use Bond to steal a cryptography advice from the Russians and then finally kill him. In Bond’s way are chess garndmaster Kronsteen (Number 5), Rosa Klebb (Number 3) and the mysterious Number 1, who will eventually be revealed as Bond’s chief nemesis Blofeld.

At least Bond has Ali Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendáriz, one of the many actors on The Conquerer to die from cancer; he’s noticably in pain for much of the film and gutted out his scenes until he was admtted to the hospital. He snuck in a gun and killed himself when the pain became too much) and love interest Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi, who also appears in the spy films Operation Kid Brother, Special Mission Lady Chaplin and The Last Chance) on his side.

Grant has the plan to blackmail Bond, as he has a video of him making love to Romanoval Bond responds by killing the man with his own weapon. Only Klebb remains, what with her knife shoe, but Romanova shoots her and heads off with Bond on a romatic getaway.

From Russia with Love also sets up Q as Bond’s weaponsmith and the soon to be trademark opening of the series with scantily clad women and superimposed titles. It’s the last film where Sylvia Trench, Bond’s would-be girlfriend, appears.

For many Bond fans, this is the holy grail for what Bond is all about. It was also Sean Connery’s favorite film of the series (as well as being the most highly regarded by Lois Maxwell, Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig). Indeed, the scene in which Bond and Romanova first meet in his hotel room is so classic Bond that it’s the go-to audition scene for potential Bond actors and Bond girls.

It’s also the last Bond project that Connery would appear in. Wondering how that’s possible? Well, in 2005, Electronic Arts made a game adaption and Connery not only allowed his likeness to be used, but came back to re-record dialogue more than twenty years after his last Bond role in Never Say Never Again.

PURE TERROR MONTH: The Sadist (1963)

About the author: Robert Freese has been a staff writer for Videoscope Magazine since 1998. He also contributes to Drive-in Asylum. 

Teachers Ed Stiles (Richard Alden), Carl Oliver (Don Russell) and Doris Page (Helen Hovey) are on their way to L.A. for a Dodgers game when their fuel pump goes out on a desert back road. They pull into a seemingly deserted filling station but find no help. Ed pokes around looking for a replacement fuel pump while Carl and Doris discuss the rules of baseball over a couple cold Coca-Colas.

It’s not long before giggling, gun-toting loony Charlie Tibbs (Arch Hall, Jr.) and his psychotically silent gal pal Judy Bradshaw (Marilyn Manning) make their presence known. They hold the teachers hostage, pushing Ed to fix the car so they can make a getaway (Tibbs and Bradshaw are on the run for a recent murder spree and the authorities have an APB out on them. Ed knows that as soon as the car is fixed, it’s “bullet in the head time” for each of the teachers.).

Soon, Charlie tires of waiting and starts terrorizing the teachers, particularly middle-aged Carl. He pistol whips the poor guy then, in one of the most cold-blooded scenes ever committed to film, makes the guy beg for his life while he swigs down a Grape Nehi. Charlie promises to shoot Carl when he finishes the soda pop. 

At this point, viewers know beyond a shadow of doubt that anything can happen to anyone at any time. Please don’t think for a second that just because this picture was made for drive-ins back in 1963 that it is some goofy, throwaway horror flick. This sucker is mean, nasty, plays dirty, has teeth and isn’t afraid to use them.

Inspired by real life psychopath Charles Starkweather and his 14-year-old girlfriend Caril Fugate, Hall, Jr. pours on the crazy the second he creeps onto the screen and does not let up until the film’s conclusion. Manning’s character is 18, as we’re told by a radio news report, and her silent portrayal of Judy is absolutely chilling.

Amazingly, the film starts at a high point early on, and continues to ramp up the thrills until the final chase through the desert. The Sadist is a taut, twisted psycho-thriller that has never gotten the credit it deserves for helping evolve the “psycho/slasher” genre. This is definitely a film cut from the same mold as Psycho and helped pave the way for such gruesome drive-in fare as The Last House on the Left and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (It is easy to see the characters of Charlie and Judy as early prototypes for Mickey and Mallory Knox from Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers and the image of the barefoot and bloodied heroine wandering out of the desert, away from the psychopaths, into seeming safety, is a familiar trope in most of the films by Rob Zombie.).

Don’t get me wrong, The Sadist is not nearly as graphic as the films that evolved from it, but for a flick made in 1963 with the drive-in audience in mind, it has many truly shocking moments and is a wonderfully effective psycho thriller.

Hall, Jr. starred in a string of drive-in films for his father, stuff like The Choppers in 1961, Eegah in 1962, also with Manning, and Deadwood ’76. After appearing in two films with Hall, Jr., Manning did one more feature, 1964’s What’s Up Front!, before leaving the picture business.

Hero Alden appeared in a number of films and TV shows over the years, including horror flicks like The Pit and Deadline. This was Hovey’s single foray into filmmaking, which is a shame as she delivers a great performance. (She was Hall, Jr.’s cousin.) Russell worked on a couple of other films during this time period but only acted in one other flick, portraying the greasy-faced Ortega in Ray Dennis Steckler’s classic The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-up Zombies.

Director Landis went on to write and/or direct a couple more exploitation flicks aimed at the ozoners, Rat Fink and Jennie, Wife/Child among them. The sharp cinematography is courtesy Vilmos Zsigmond, who started his career working on small indie flicks before graduating to an illustrious big time, award-winning Hollywood career.

I’m happy The Sadist is part of the Pure Terror collection, as well as others, as it allows more fans easier access in discovering this tough little exploitation gem (It doesn’t hurt that there are 49 other titles along with it from which to pick a Friday night double feature. Might I suggest pairing this one with Anatomy of a Psycho or The Embalmer for a terrific double shot of 60’s psycho-drama.).

PURE TERROR MONTH: They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1968)… or The Madmen of Mandoras (1963)

Thanks to Dustin Fallon from Horror and Sons for this entry. He’s always been a big promoter of our site and has been instrumental when it comes to getting writers for this project. Plus, he’s one hell of a nice guy. 

They Saved Hitler’s Brain is a 1968 film directed by David Bradley, who also directed 2 well-known films starring Burt Lancaster, “Peer Gynt” and “Julius Caesar”.

You know what? Strike that last sentence.

The Madmen of Mandoras is a 1963 film from director David Bradley, who also directed 2 well-known films starring Burt Lancaster, “Peer Gynt” and “Julius Caesar”. They Saved Hitler’s Brain is really just the same damned movie, re-titled for television distribution in 1968 and featuring new footage shot specifically for its broadcast re-release.

The new footage, which is essentially an entirely new opening for the film, is a bunch of muddled nonsense that attempts to expand upon the original film’s plot, but in truth adds nothing of value or importance to the film, and actually slows down the film’s pacing. The film opens with a scientist who has been working on a secret government project to create a serum for the deadly chemical weapon known as “G-gas” (which the government fears may be used as a weapon by hostile countries) being blown to bits when he triggers a bomb connected to his car. A government agent, who looks suspiciously like Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley, is assigned to the case.

The opening moments of The Madmen of Mandoras are edited into this new footage through the use of some rather abrupt and jarring transitions, with the difference in film quality immediately apparent. These scenes highlight a military briefing on the lethal “G-Gas”, where it is stated that the antidote must remain well guarded, as its falling into the wrong hands could have dire consequences for the entire world. Of course, this just means that a scientist working on the antidote is soon captured by agents of the surviving Third Reich!

They Saved Hitler’s Brain attempts to add some additional action to its runtime by meshing footage from the original film with the newly created scenes so that it appears that Eckersley and his new female partner are trying to thwart the abduction. However, both agents fail to do so and are killed for their efforts, saving viewers the nightmare of dealing with them any longer. This, in essence, wraps up the “Hilter’s Brain” portion of this review, as well as the newly created portions of the film. Now, forget they ever happened because they are total shit!

As for the real film, The Madmen of Mandoras….

Near the end of WWII, Nazi scientists discover a means of preserving the life of Adolph Hitler into perpetuity, allowing the man to continue his plans for world domination for years to come. Well, at least his severed head is preserved, severed from his body and placed into a small glass tank filled with various “life-sustaining” fluids. A decoy of the Fuhrer is left behind to deceive the Allied forces into believing that the madman had been killed and his plans for domination thwarted. The surviving officers of the Reich, with Hitler’s head in tow, flee to the fictional South American island nation of Mandoras, where they secretly plan their next steps.

Years pass and with the creation of the G-gas weapon, the Nazis have found the key to their resurgence. The only thing standing in their way is the antidote, which counters the gas’s effects, should it ever be released. As such, Nazi agents are sent to America with orders to abduct a certain Professor John Coleman, one of the scientists working on the serum. However, the government of Mandoras is not without knowledge of the Nazi’s schemes and have sent their own agent to prevent the plan from succeeding.

The Mandorian (Is that the correct terminology for the natives of this tiny fictional country?) agent fails and Coleman is taken despite his interference. Also captured are Coleman’s youngest daughter, Suzanne, and her boyfriend, David. The next intended target is Coleman’s son-in-law, Phil Day, who works for US intelligence. Granted, they weren’t intelligent enough to predict an incident such as this, or Coleman would have had some sort of security detail. The Mandorian agent prevents Phil and his wife’s abduction, but is shot and killed in the process. However, as this is a movie, the man is able to disclose the entire elaborate conspiracy to Phil before he expires.

Phil and his wife, Kathy, soon board a flight to Mandoras. Upon landing, the couple are “greeted” by the island nation’s police force, which in this case is just Creature From the Black Lagoon co-star Nestor Paiva and his seemingly slow-witted assistant. The couple are treated as “special guests” of the nation, even though no one should have known that they were visiting, and are shown to the island’s finest hotel. Okay, so it’s the only hotel.

Not long after settling into the hotel room, the Days’ are shocked to find a man sneaking into their room, despite their still being in it at the time. After a brief scuffle, the man is introduced as “Camino”, the twin brother of the Mandorian agent killed in America. Camino discloses that he, like his late brother, are working to stop the Nazi resurgence. He warns the couple that many nefarious eyes are now watching them and that danger can wait around any corner.

Essentially ignoring this warning, Phil and Kathy head out to a small local bar. There, they find Suzanne dancing away to the brass band that is playing. Suzanne informs her sister that the men that kidnapped her were quite friendly, which really doesn’t seem like the actions and behavior of a group known for their acts of genocide. Suzanne is also not aware of David’s whereabouts, but she also doesn’t seem overly concerned either. The good nature of the Nazis is proven untrue when a failed attempt on Phil’s life leaves another man dead and a dancer with a bullet in her side. After the dust has settled, Phil notices that Kathy and Suzanne are no longer in the bar. Making matters worse, Phil is arrested before he can even begin to search for the women.

Phil is escorted to the Mandoras’ presidential palace, which the Nazis have overtaken to use as their new base of operations. Phil is placed into a jail cell, where not only Kathy and Suzanne await, but Professor Coleman as well. David resurfaces, revealing himself to be a Nazi officer who has been involved in the plot for quite some time, brutally bitch-slapping Suzanne when she confronts him. However, the incarceration proves to be brief when Paiva and the nation’s president appear to release the captives, disclosing that they’ve secretly been fighting against the Nazi insurgence.

Hitler’s severed head finally makes its grand entrance, leading his forces as they prepare their bombers for a worldwide G-gas attack. This plan doesn’t get very far though, as Phil, Camino, and the rest of the men launch an all-out assault on the small, single-engine plane that is actually shown. I did mention that this was a low-budget film, right? You won’t be seeing much more than stock footage of bombers. Here, you’ll just get a Cessna.

As one might expect, the heroes win, preventing the world from falling into the hands of the Third Reich. What you might not expect, especially from a film of this age, is the grisly closing image of Hitler’s disembodied head, here portrayed by a wax mold, gruesomely melted away by flames. While it is quite evident that the head is indeed wax, it’s still fairly gnarly watching the wax melt away like layers of skin and flesh from the skull-shaped creation. In fact, the scene was deemed disturbing enough to viewers that it had to be (marginally) edited down for the television re-issue.

The Madmen of Mandoras, or They Saved Hitler’s Brain, or whatever you choose to call it is a fun slice of pro-American/anti-Nazi propaganda layered in a healthy dose of 1940’s/50’s era comics “pulp”, and sprinkled with a pinch of early 60’s pop culture sensibility. It doesn’t require a lot of thought and generally moves at a steady pace, although the footage added to the television re-release does make the first half of the film drag noticeably. The film feels more than a little dated by today’s standards, but still provides some solid entertainment for a rainy weekend afternoon or one of those nights when you’re just not sure why you are even still awake.

Goldilocks and the Three Bares (1963)

Before treating the world to the delights of Blood Feast, the team of Herschell Gordon Lewis and David F. Friedman would introduce us all to the world’s first nudist musical. Before Something Weird Video found this movie, it had been lost for 36 years. In the book Taste of Blood: The Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis, author Christopher Wayne Curry said that he hoped the film would be found one day, to which Lewis replied, “Oh my, I hope not.”

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x58ylp2_goldilocks-and-the-three-bares-trailer_shortfilms

Nightclub singer Eddie Livingston is after press agent Alison Edwards until he learns the dark secret that she’s a nudist. However, his friend, the comic (I use that term incredibly loosely) Tommy Sweetwood sees the joy of the nudist life and plays Cupid to the couple, getting Eddie and Alison to enjoy all manner of activities in their birthday suits, like riding on a boat, swimming ,water skiing and even riding a horse. Soon, they’re in love and all is aces, baby.

This film sadly displays little of the fun that Lewis would later employ in his films. It’s almost like you’re waiting for Faud Ramses to show up and start eating tongues.

That said, I kind of love that former light heavyweight champion Joey Maxim is presented as such a big deal in the film. Watch as he reads his lines off the cuff of his shirt! That said, Maxim had a pretty great boxing career, including defeating British boxer Freddie Mills in a match for the aforementioned title. That match was the last of Mills career, as Maxim hit him so hard that three of Mills’ teeth became embedded in one of his gloves.

How strange that what was taboo and sexy in 1963 is quaint and nearly boring today. But hey — a nudie-cutie musical! That’s something, right?

Blood Feast (1963)

I’m proud to say that Herschell Gordon Lewis was born in the same town as me, Pittsburgh, PA. He was lured from a career as an educator into being a radio station manager and then, well, advertising got him. I can relate. I’ve spent the better part of 25 years doing the same. But then Lewis got smart. He learned how to make money.

He began making movies with David F. Friedman, starting with Living Venus. Their nudie cuties would be innocent today, but showed way more skin than mainstream films. These weren’t high art. They were made to turn a profit and they sure did, from movies like Boin-n-g! and The Adventures of Lucky Pierre to the world’s first — and probably only — nudist camp musical, Goldilocks and the Three Bares.

Once nudie movies got boring, Lewis needed another tactic. He found it. Oh wow, did he find it. Gore. Blood everywhere, guts all over the screen and no limits to the depravity that he’d fester on drive-in screens nationwide. It all started with Blood Feast.

This is a pretty simple film: Faud Ramses wants to make sacrifices to the Egyptian goddess Ishtar to resurrect her, so he kills beautiful young socialites when he’s not catering their coming out parties. He’s also wiping out anyone that requests a copy of his book, Ancient Weird Religious Rites.

Shot in Miami, Florida — where life is cheap! — in just four days for just $24,000, Blood Feast used all local ingredients for the gore, except for a sheep’s tongue that came from Tampa Bay. Friedman was a genius at publicity, helping the film succeed, giving out vomit bags at screenings and even applying to get an injunction against his own movie in Sarasota so that it couldn’t be shown.

Lewis and Friedman didn’t stray too far from their sexy roots, bringing in June 1963 Playmate of the Month Connie Mason to star in the film. She would come back for Lewis’ even more astounding Two Thousand Maniacs!

As for Lewis, he left filmmaking in the 1970’s, served some jail time for fraud and then began copywriting his way to even greater success, a second — maybe even third or fourth career — later in life. He wrote and published over twenty books, including The Businessman’s Guide to Advertising and Sales PromotionDirect Mail Copy That Sells! and The Advertising Age Handbook of Advertising. His books were all over the place at my first agency job and I was shocked to discover that the author of these books — one of the godfathers of direct mail and eblasts — was also the American godfather of gore. Sometimes. life makes sense.

In 2016, Arrow Video released a huge boxset of his films and the man whose work was often in grimy drive-ins and Something Weird video cassettes finally began to be appreciated as an auteur. Funny, as he was the man who said, “I see filmmaking as a business and pity anyone who regards it as an art form.”

You know those movies that they warn you about and tell you that they’ll warp your mind and make you a maniac, how you’ll never be the same again? This is that movie. You should probably watch it right now.

It’s available on Shudder with and without commentary from Joe Bob Briggs.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

Mario Bava is a genius. This is the root of all giallo before The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and it stars John Saxon as Dr. Marcello Bassi and Leticia Roman as Nora Davis, a young girl who travels to Rome only to witness murder after murder. No one believes her because there’s no corpse. And it only gets worse for her.

Nora was in Rome to help her sickly aunt, who dies the first night that she’s in the city. After walking to a hospital to alert Bazzi, Nora is mugged. When she awakens, she watches a man pull a knife from a woman’s back. The police think she’s an alcoholic and send her to a sanitarium, where she’s rescued by Bazzi.

One of her aunt’s friends, Laura (Valentina Cortese), goes on vacation, allowing Laura to stay in her home. But our detective fiction obsessed heroine can’t resist snooping, finding a series of articles about a serial killer that the press are calling the Alphabet Killer, as he or she kills in alphabetic order. The last murdered person was Laura’s sister, but that was ten years ago. That’s when the phone rings and a voice tells her that “D is for death” and how she will be the next victim.

Nora begins to fall from the doctor and after they tour the city, she gets a phone call that leads them to an empty room with a recorded message telling her to leave the city if she wants to live.

The giallo conventions that we know and love originate here: a foreigner who can’t remember every detail of a murder, now in danger from the killer and unable to be helped by the police, causing them to turn to their own detective skills. Red herrings abound. And the killer seems to be one person, only for their identity to come out just before the end of the film. What is missing are the more psychosexual and high fashion parts of the genre, but don’t worry. They’ll soon show up in force.

The film was the least commercially successful picture of Bava’s career, as giallo films didn’t find favor until Argento’s 1970’s efforts. It was released in the United States by American International Pictures as Evil Eye, part of a double bill with Black Sabbath. This version features a different score and more of an emphasis on comedy.

You can watch this movie on Shudder.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: The Ghost (1963)

An Italian horror remake of 1955’s Les Diaboliques, I’ll give you one reason to watch this movie: Barbara Steele. Otherwise, it’s a brooding take on murder and gaslighting. And while this is directed by Riccardo Freda, stars Steele and has a character named Dr. Hichcock, it is not the same movie as The Horrible Dr. Hichcock. While this movie was shot right around the same time, it is also not a sequel per se. There are some people who care about these kind of things. Like me.

The ailing Dr. Hichcock and his housekeeper Catherine are engaged in a seance whole his wife Margaret (Steele) is having a love affair with Dr. Livingstone (Peter Baldwin, who in addition to acting in this movie and I Married a Monster from Outer Space, went on to become a director, being behind the camera for TV movies such as the aborted Revenge Against the Nerds TV show pilot, The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Girls Get Married and The Brady Brides series follow-up).

Soon, the doctor is dead and Catherine, Margaret and Livingstone get none of the money. And the key to his safe? Well, he’s literally taken it to the grave. Every time they think they get close or find the money, they’re thwarted. And soon, Catherine the maid is possessed and throws shade on the lovers, convincing Margaret that she should kill the not so good doctor.

The close is where this movie turns the screw. Hichcock has been alive and well the entire time and he murders Catherine, his co-conspirator, and incriminates Margaret. She had been planning suicide and poured a glass of poison, which Hichcock thinks is poison. He begs for the antidote, but she walks away to be arrested for Catherine’s murder. As the movie closes, Hichcock seals himself away inside his castle to die.

Should you watch it? Do you like gothic romantic horror ala Bava but want to see one with none of Bava’s directorial flair? How much do you love Barbara Steele? That should inform your opinion. The good news is that if you have an Amazon Prime membership, you won’t have to pay anything to watch it.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: The Blancheville Monster (1963)

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.