Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Long Hair of Death (Raro Video Blu-ray) - Barbara Steele Goes Italian Gothic... Again

Castle of Blood isn’t for everyone, but I really enjoy it. I make sure to watch it every couple of years to reconnect with the slow paced, Gothic pictures of Italy. You watch Castle of Blood directed by Antonio Margheriti and Black Sunday from Mario Bava first thing in the morning, and you can end up in a very quiet, peaceful, eerie way. I can’t do this type of movie all the time especially not late into the evening but on a dreary afternoon in December I can find the time to watch an unsettling tale of modest terror. That brings us to Raro Video’s release of The Long Hair of Death, like the previously mentioned movies, stars Barbara Steele, is an Italian production and has some damn fine music to gently guide you into creepsville.

As always, I am a fan of Raro productions enjoying the slip sleeve, cover arts, booklet art and content as well as an assortment of goodies on the Blu-ray itself. Raro takes the time to put trailers, interviews and, more recently, an introduction. The Long hair of Death features an intro from Chris Alexander of Fango fame which provides context for the film and some sound advice about how to experience Long Hair. He’s also responsible for the essay in the handsome booklet included with the disc which further gives depth to this underappreciated mood movie. Transfer looks good. No immediate issues to report.

The movie itself has a strong opening though it reminds me a bit too much of Black Sunday lite. Then again I suppose that that is the subgenre itself. The story of course surrounds witches and the supernatural and opens on a unique inquisition, not quite as damning as the scene from Black Sunday. It is more subtle and thus less impressive. As Chris Alexander points out in his discussion of the film, it is slow through the middle. A drudge through the snow that gradually builds to a fine ending that cuts off abruptly but not before providing some horrific and ghastly images of spirits of the “dead” and one very impressive corpse. Truth be told Black Sunday has always felt a bit slow through the middle and Castle of Blood is little less than plowing through peanut butter with a dull spoon. I think that’s part of each of these films’ charm; the ascent into something supernatural from what would appear to be the mundane. The pacing simply allows you time to fall into a slumber before having your eyeballs forced open. Think of each of these pictures as a roller coaster… there’s a quick hill and then a slow, steep riser all the way into the heavens that precede a crash landing in the pits of Hell, or at least the Gothic period piece of Hell with camera tricks and unrealistic though impressive makeup.

This isn’t a Bava flick. This is Antonio Margheriti who does a fine job at capturing and moving forward a new style of storytelling made famous by Bava. The main distinction between Bava and Margheriti is severity in terms of content, contrast and violence. It’s still early in the Italian cycle. Bava made Black Sunday in 1960 and this followed four years later. Shortly there after the previously mentioned Castle of Blood would hit as well as Nightmare Castle. All with Barbara Steel. All slow and steady but with expertly crafted finales that made the period Goth sleepers tolerable and rewatchable.  This will not be everyone. The MTV audience (if such a thing still exists) will find this better than Xanax to knock you out, but for those of you who enjoy a tale of supernatural horror, not horror AHHHH, horror BOO, this is a must watch.

The Long Hair of Death is available now from Raro Video.

Special Features

  • Video Introduction by Chris Alexander, Fangoria Magazine
  • Interview to Edoardo Margheriti
  • Interview to Antonio Tentori
  • A fully illustrated booklet on the genesis and production of the film by Chris Alexander / New and improved English subtitles translation
  • Italian original Trailer
  • English Original Trailer
Synopsis from Raro Video:
In a 15th-century feudal village, a woman is accused of witchcraft and put to death. Her beautiful older daughter knows the real reason for the execution lies in the lord's sexual desire for her mother. After confronting the lord on the matter, she, too, is killed. A much younger daughter is spared and taken in by her mother's killers. Once she is of age, as a horrible, deadly plague sweeps the land, she marries the lord's worthless son. Then, during a brutal thunderstorm, the older daughter mysteriously reappears and begins to avenge her mother's death.

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