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December 16, 2014

The Long Hair of Death

long hair of death.jpg

I Lunghi Capelli della Morte
Antonio Margheriti - 1964
Raro Video BD Region A

Anybody looking for scares is probably going to be disappointed with The Long Hair of Death. Maybe fifty years ago, there were a few screams at the sight of what was suppose to be the decaying corpse of Barbara Steele, with a handful of maggots moseying around the remaining flesh near her eyeballs. Otherwise, what we have is pleasure of the camera surveying a deep, dark dungeon decorated with spiderwebs aplenty.

And while the experience is nothing like seeing this film theatrically, this very handsome blu-ray does look quite nice viewed on a plasma television. There are several moments when what we see are several shades of black, with only a small portion of the screen lit. Even if gothic horror isn't a favorite genre, for those of us who love black and white movies, this is a treat. One of my favorite images is of the interior of a chapel, with the light pouring in, and the dust motes giving the shot an extra bit of texture, the camera panning from the window to the mourning courtiers.

The film takes place near the end of the 15th century, with a feudal lord burning a woman alive at the stake as a witch. Revenge comes in the form of the woman's two daughters who come into the lives of both the lord and his son. The younger daughter has grown from being a ward of the lord, to wife of the lord's son. There is a bit of mystery regarding the relationship between the men and women that is revealed near the end. A more serious analysis might position The Long Hair of Death as something of a critique of male entitlement and privilege, as well as a portrait of karma, with the film ending similarly to how it begins.

I usually don't do this, but I did see The Long Hair of Death twice, once in English, and once in Italian with English subtitles. Keep in mind that all of the actors were dubbed in both versions, a common practice in Italian movies at the time, but I was hoping that I would hear Barbara Steele's real voice in the English version. The voice for Steele was definitely not British. As it stands, the voices of the Italian actors are stronger dramatically, and reading the subtitles helped clarify who some of the characters were, and their relationship to each other.

Among the supplements is an interview with Margheriti's son, and horror screenplay writer Antonio Tentori, providing a couple of overviews of Margheriti's career.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 16, 2014 06:49 AM