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November 06, 2005

Castle of Blood

Castle of Blood/Danse Macabre
Anthony Dawson (Antonio Margheriti) - 1964
Synapse Films DVD

My internet is working very intermittently. I am trying to play catch up with some films I saw starting last week when I returned home. I wrote about several films but have done no postings until now.

Castle of Blood is the kind of film that use to appear on late night broadcast television back about thirty years ago. It's not particularly scary but it is spooky. Stylistically the film is based on the template established by Mario Bava's Black Sunday including the casting of Barbara Steele. The film is so visually dark, with minimal light resembling illumination by a candle or two, with much of the screen in shadows or totally black, that one can imagine the unease of watching this film in a movie theater.

The basic premise is that a mid-19th century journalist, Alan Foster, bets that he can live through the night at a supposedly haunted castle. The people who previously died in the castle are to come back to life on this night. In setting up the story, Foster meets up with Edgar Allan Poe, visiting London, and the castle's owner, a gentleman with a dark secret. Foster takes the bet to disprove Poe's assertion that his stories are all factual. Most of this business was just a roundabout way of cashing in on the popularity of the Roger Corman films based on Poe's stories. Amazingly, the film was written by Sergio Corbucci under the name of Gordon Wilson Jr., one of the more credible Anglo pseudonyms used in this movie.

Margheriti gets a lot of milage out of the aforementioned use of light, as well as some cobwebs and dry ice. With her huge eyes and gaunt face, Steele is photographed in such a way that emphasises her skull-like appearance. The DVD was taken from a French version of the film which was apparently the most complete version available. I saw the film with a primarily English language track which jumped into French at certain moments. The advantage was seeing what scenes were edited for the American release including a couple of shots more clearly indicating off screen sexual activity, a suggestion of lesbianism, and a brief topless scene. Sometimes there is an advantage to waiting forty years to see a film on DVD.

A very smart essay on Margheriti can be found at Senses of Cinema

Posted by peter at November 6, 2005 07:29 AM


I miss these kinds of movies on the Late Show. When I was working odd hours it was a real pleasure to watch something spooky in my jammies. I didn't see Castle of Blood but it sounds like my sort of horror.

Posted by: Campaspe at November 9, 2005 08:15 PM