Tuesday, October 29, 2013

SYNAPSE FILMS APPRECIATION WEEK: Castle of Blood - Italian Atmosphere Made of Steele

Castle of Blood aka Danse Macabre is a beautiful, subtle Gothic tale of horror that isn’t much for pomp and relies on atmosphere, music and mood to get its creepies on. It’s the kind of movie that you might find in the Corman school of filmmaking circa 1964. If it had been an AIP production, it would have starred Vincent Price as Edgar Allan Poe which would have felt right as rain. It’s an Italian production and features Barbara Steele with music by the legendary Riz Ortolani and directed by the iconic Italian director, Antonio Marghareti. In short, this movie is the Italian version of an early AIP/Poe classic done up like a Bava picture and leaves the gratuity and Techni-color to the imagination. Synapse Films Appreciation Week continues with a truly atmospheric horror feature that is absolutely perfect for Halloween enjoyment.

Synopsis from Synapse Films:

When American author Edgar Allan Poe visits London, he is approached by British journalist Alan Foster, who becomes the target of a peculiar wager. Not believing Poe’s assertion that all of his macabre stories have been based on actual experience, Foster accepts a bet from Poe and his friend Sir Thomas Blackwood that he cannot spend an entire night in the Blackwood’s haunted castle. Once in the abandoned castle, Foster discovers he is not alone. He is approached by two beautiful women, a handsome man and a doctor of metaphysics who explains they are lost souls… damned to replay the stories of their demises on the anniversary of their deaths!


What if Edgar Allan Poe traveled to Europe and was given the test that might just scare even the great master of the horror story to death? That’s the basic premise here though it doesn’t need to be Edgar Allan Poe in the driver seat to make it interesting. Castle of Blood was made during a time where horror was becoming less hokey mostly due to studios in England and Europe proper. Just think of Black Sunday four years Castle of Blood’s senor. These are films that rely on frightening music to set a mood and contrasty, Black and White images on screen that let shadows play on your eyeballs as if the images themselves are made by candlelight. Castle of Blood feels like it was made for the darkest night; A horror story for around the campfire or perhaps in polite company sipping high octane spirit digestifs.

Steele plays dark and creepy as well as she plays intelligent and seductive. She is a favorite of Italian cinema, her eyes grabbing ahold of the viewer and wrenching the terror from his popcorn hand. This is a story of dark mystery and fantasy. It is a haunted house tale told in a castle (and the blood isn’t as prominent as the name would suggest). As a fan of Ortolani’s famous Cannibal Holocaust score, this is a much more general horror theme and less innovative. If you want horror-subtle and a movie that might pair nicely with The Haunting or The Uninvited, this would be it.

The Synapse edition is a complete, uncensored version that contains missing footage from previous releases. While it was necessary to do so, these newly found/added scenes contain subtitles rather than dubbing. This can throw you off if you’re not ready for it, so by all means keep focused while watching. These added scenes are detrimental to understanding the plot points. The transfer looks good, and this release includes the US theatrical trailer as well as the US opening credit sequence. These classic Synapse Films release always seem to contain truly excellent liner notes as is the case with this one, liner notes by Tim Lucas. It isn’t exactly a pact disc, but for a film of its vintage it is the best release one might hope for barring a higher definition transfer in the future.

Castle of Blood is available from Synapse Films NOW!


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