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September 10, 2007

Virgin of Nuremburg

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La Vergine di Norimberga
Antonio Margheriti - 1963
Shriek Show Region 1 DVD

I received my copy of Tim Lucas' epic study of Mario Bava last week. I hope to find the time to read this huge and heavy book sometime soon, and perhaps comment on it. In the meantime, I got around to seeing this film that was inspired by Bava as well as the Hammer films that were released in the early Sixties. There is also a nod to Rebecca for good measure. One of the related tangents is that Virgin of Nuremburg was co-written by Ernesto Gastaldi, the extremely prolific wriiter who also co-wrote Bava's Whip and the Body and served as that film's second unit director.

It is in fact some of the behing the screen credits of Virgin of Nuremburg that I found more interesting than the actual film. In addition to Margheriti, who co-wrote and directed the film under his English language pseudonym of Anthony Dawson, and Ernesto Gastaldi's credit as Gastad Green, the third writing credit went to Edmund Greville, the director and sometimes writer who began his career with Abel Gance and Rene Clair. Seeing Ruggero Deodato's name as an assistant director was no big surprise, but Bertrand Blier? Which reminded me that the last film that I had seen by him was Too Beautiful for You back in 1989.

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While she does portray a newlywed, Rossana Podesta does not play the title role. The title actually refers to the torture device better known as the iron maiden. I have know way of knowing if John Schlesinger was thinking of this film with the horror film segment in Darling, but through the first hour of Virgin of Nuremburg, Podesta's costume consists of her frilly, somewhat suggestive nightgown. A spirit from the past, known as The Punisher, has come back to make use of the torture devices in the castle Podesta now calls home.

While lack of logic has never gotten in the way of my enjoying a horror film, my big problem is that trying to make this particular villain sympathetic is the most tortured element of Virgin of Nuremburg. The Punisher turns out to be Podesta's father-in-law, a former Nazi officer. In the most gruesome part of the film, we are provided with a back story that tells of how the man was one of several officers who attempted to kill Hitler rather than continue fighting. This particular officer was operated on while alive and surgically altered to look almost like Max Schreck in Nosferatu. Perhaps Virgin of Nuremburg in Italian was different regarding this part of the narrative, but in the dubbed English version, I saw a guy who never learned the lesson of karmic payback.

There is some fun to see the actor, billed as "Cristopher Lee", as a menacing presence with his scarred face. Riz Ortolani's jazzy score seems out of place when the screen image is of the iron maiden, but on its own terms makes this film more interesting to listen to than actually see.

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Posted by peter at September 10, 2007 09:31 AM


I've never seen this film but with October quickly approaching I am gearing up for a month of horror. From your post it sounds as if you haven't seen the Italian version. Is it available, or as with "Z" for so many years, just the dubbed version.

By the way, in the screen shots you posted the villain does look a lot like Max Shreck from behind. And the profile of Christopher Lee had me do a double-take: for a split-second I thought it was a young Jimmy Stewart in color.

Posted by: Jonathan Lapper at September 12, 2007 10:58 AM

I don't know if there is an Italian language verson available as a Region 1 DVD. By the way, even Christopher Lee was dubbed in the English language version.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at September 12, 2007 11:55 AM

I loved this film obviously a lot more than you did, but I enjoy just about anything Margheriti does and Italian horror films from that era in general. Jazzy scores like Riz Ortolani's and a complete lack of logic (or as I like to call it - great use of "dream logic") tend to often come with the territory.

I love the atmosphere Margheriti creates in every film. It's so thick you can cut it with a knife and Virgin of Nuremburg is no exception.

Posted by: Kimberly at September 13, 2007 03:56 AM