Sunday, 30 November 2014

Euro - Horror Vaction: Castle of Blood (aka Danza Macabra) (1964)

Castle of Blood (aka Danza Macabra) (1964)
Director: Sergio Corbucci and Antonio Margheriti
Starring: Barbara Steele, Georges Rivière, and Margrete Robsahm
Running Time: 87 min

   I'm pretty excited to check this out for a couple of reasons.   The first being that it has one of my favourite "scream queens" Barbara Steele in it.  Ever since, I saw her in "Black Sunday", I have become a long time fan. Nobody can wear a mask like that gal.  Secondly, I'm a fan of director Antonio Margheriti, who since this film has written and directed a number of entertaining films like, "Cannibal Apocalypse", "Killer Fish" and "Yor, the Hunter from the Future".  So, this should be fun film and I have surprisingly high hopes for it to be great.

  Alan Foster is a arrogant journalist who finds Edgar Allan Poe in a pub, on a dark stormy night and asks him for an interview.  Poe agrees to one but Alan seems to be determined to prove Poe's claims that his stories based on actual events and occurrences in his life are in fact, fictional.  Alan goes further and claims that there is no such things as ghosts and it's a lot of baloney.  So Poe's drinking companion, Lord Blackwood challenges Alan to stay at his haunted castle for the night, it being All Soul's Eve, and if he survives then Lord Blackwood will give him a 100 pounds.  However, Lord Blackwood warns him that anyone who has taken this bet before has never been seen alive again, but this just spurs Alan into saying he'll do it for 10 pounds.  With the bet on, the three men leave the pub to travel to the castle.
  Lord Backwood and Poe say goodbye to Alan at the castle gate and tell him they will return for him at 6 am if he survives.  Alan smirks, then opens the steel gate and wanders into the dark towards the abandoned castle.  He wanders the grounds and then heads into the castle.  In the deserted halls, he meets up with Elisabeth Blackwood, who claims to be the sister of Lord Blackwood and they joke about the wager and how silly it is to think that ghosts exist and all that other nonsense.  She shows Alan to his room and after a little chit chat, they are interrupted by Julia, who wishes to say good night and to make sure that Elisabeth will be going to her own room tonight.  Angry, Elisabeth leaves with Julie but returns shortly to Alan's room to say good night one last time.  They end up having the sex and everything seems cool, until after they do it.  Then Alan notices that Elisabeth has no heartbeat.  He asks her now this is possible and she explains it is because she is dead, stupid.  It gets worse because Elisabeth's lover then storms into the room and stabs her! Alan chases him out of the room and shoots him in the back.  However when his body hits the floor from the gun shot wound, it disappears.  Has Alan bitten off more than he can chew and is he in a house filled with spooky spirits looking to feed on the blood of humans to survive or... is he just having a complete mental breakdown?  Either way, can he survive the night or will they feast on his flesh?

  This was a fantastic ghost story and I like that they wrote in Edgar Allan Poe into it. Directors Sergio Corbucci (Django, I'm Getting A Yacht) and Antonio Margheriti (The Long Hair of Death, Killers Are Challenged) tell a very eerie and complex story of love and revenge with supernatural consequences.  These are a different kind of ghosts, more of a hybrid of a ghost and a vampire. (Ghampire, Vost).  Anyway, they seem to need to feed on the blood to survive at least once a year, which is interesting twist on specters that have played out in the past.
  The Alan character, played by Georges Rivière (Horror Castle, Run, Psycho, Run)  is some what unlikeable at first and you can't wait for him to him to meet his demise but as the film moves on and the spirits appear, his cockiness dissipates and you begin to feel bad for the character, even hoping desperately that he will escapes. Also, Barbara Steele (Terror Creatures From The Grave, Piranha) is awesome in this as Elisabeth Blackwood.  There is something about those big beautiful eyes that are so incredibly captivating and can emote just the right feeling for each scene.  This is probably her best role that I've scene her in with the exception of Mario Bava's "Black Sunday".
  Also, I was really surprised at the large body count in this film.  As the night goes on in the film, Alan witnesses the murders from the past that started it all and then a few others that have occurred because of Lord Blackwood wagers.  The bodies just pile up and this leads to a terrifically gruesome ending.

  My only issue with this film was that Alan was able to shoot one of the ghost before and it disappeared, but he never tries to fight off any of the other ghosts to try to escape.  However, the ghost that he shot does return and perhaps he knew that it was pointless.
  Also, you don't ever find out how Elisabeth Blackwood dies.  The whole film I waited to find out if she took her own life or died in another horrible way and that's why her spirit haunts the castle.  Even if they said it was because she caused so many other deaths, due to her infidelity and adulterous ways, and now her soul was forced to walk the halls of the castle forever that would be great but there is no explanation, which is a shame.  However, these are both very minor things and don't really effect the overall enjoyment of film.

  This is a fantastic ghost story and I found it really enjoyable.  The story is very intricate and well put together, there is a considerable body count and has a great ending that everyone can enjoy, well almost everyone.  If you're looking for a spooky story about haunted castles than this should be at the top of your list.

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