Nightmare Castle with Castle of Blood and Terror-Creatures from the Grave [Blu-ray]
(Mario Caiano, 1965 / Sergio Corbucci, 1964 / Massimo Pupillo, 1965)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Cinematografica EmmeCi / Vulsinia Films / G.I.A. Cinematografica
Video: Severin Films
Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Release Date:August 18th, 2015
• Nightmare Castle audio commentary with Barbara Steele and
Horror historian David Del Valle
• Castle Of Blood Trailer (1:40)
Castle of Blood
Terror-Creatures From the Grave
Description: At the height of her career as the dark goddess of Italian horror, the legendary Barbara Steele (BLACK SUNDAY) delivered two of her most memorable performances in this tale of obsession, madness and depravity. Steele stars as a cheating wife who is chained, whipped and tortured to death by her sadistic scientist husband, and as her unstable blonde stepsister whose fate may be even more ghastly. Paul Muller (VAMPYROS LESBOS), Helga Liné (HORROR EXPRESS) and Rik Battaglia (SISTER EMANUELLE) co-star in this twisted shocker directed by Mario Caiano, featuring stunning black & white cinematography by Enzo Barboni and the very first horror score by Ennio Morricone.
Known in U.S. distribution as Nightmare Castle, this eerie Gothic thriller offers two Barbara Steeles for the price of one. Steele first portrays the wife of a deranged scientist (Paul Muller) whose latest experiments involve electro-stimulation of human blood. When the mad doctor discovers his wife is having an affair, he tortures, disfigures and kills her alongside her lover, then removes and preserves the hearts of the victims, using their blood to restore youth and beauty to his own lover. When the madman discovers that his late wife left all her wealth to her mentally unstable sister (Steele again, a blonde this time), he quickly sets about courting and marrying the poor girl, then proceeds to drive her completely mad in order to inherit her fortune. It may be an easier task than he predicted -- too easy for comfort, in fact -- since the honeymoon is attended by the spectral presence of the murdered lovers who have risen from their own ashes to avenge their deaths. This film's pervasive feeling of impending doom is aided by shadowy, low-contrast cinematography and a robust score from Ennio Morricone, and features a riveting performance from Steele, whose large eyes pierce the screen with dangerous beauty.
In this eerie and effective early horror film from prolific genre director Antonio Margheriti, Alan Foster (Georges Riviere), an American tourist visiting England, takes a bet from a Lord Blackwood and his guest, Edgar Allan Poe, to spend the night in a haunted mansion. The rationalist Foster, who does not believe in the supernatural, is soon drawn into a world of ghosts and phantoms, doomed to eternally replay the horrifying murders that climaxed a long-ago love triangle. Foster also finds himself in love with one of the protagonists, the beautiful Elizabeth (Barbara Steele), and it is a love which ensures that he never leaves the haunted castle alive. It's a marvelously atmospheric gothic thriller, one of the best Italian horror films of the decade, and quite properly made the enchantingly spooky Steele -- fresh from Mario Bava's La Maschera del Demonio -- even more of a horror icon. Riccardo Pallotini's evocative camerawork enhances the mood tremendously, and the shock scenes, though perhaps too tame for modern audiences, are nonetheless strikingly effective. Margheriti remade the film in widescreen color eight years later (as Nella Stretta Morsa del Ragno), but this version remains one of the handful of definitive Italian gothics. Silvano Tranquilli co-stars with Margaret Robsahm, Henry Kruger, and Umberto Raho.
Originally released as Five Graves for a Medium, this 1965 Italian horror from director Massimo Pupillo (who also shot Bloody Pit of Horror the same year) is one bizarre murder mystery/zombie hybrid.
An attorney (Brandi) journeys to a small village to finalize the will of an eccentric scientist named Hauff.
But once there, he discovers the man has been dead already...for nearly a year!
Meanwhile, a handful of witnesses to Hauff's 'accidental' death begin to die one by one.
How cool is this? A Barbara Steele Triple Feature on Blu-ray... and region FREE! I really enjoyed these flics - notably Castle of Blood. They are all 1080P but the sources are imperfect. Nightmare Castle - the headliner for the Blu-ray looks the best. A modest bitrate but depth is present in the 1.66:1 frame - and aside from a few marks (see sample) shows itself reasonably well with some layered contrast and texture. It's a solid presentation. Castle of Blood is the shorter US cut and suffers from its weaker source. It's softer, still quite watchable and there are some medium vertical scratches (see sample.) It is in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Terror-Creatures From the Grave (also the shorter US cut) is of similar quality, also 1.78:1, with a few more flagrant damage sections (only a few frames.) It has some inconsistency looking, occasionally, impressive and, like Castle of Blood, is certainly watchable - but at the mercy of the provided source.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
For Nightmare Castle, Severin use a linear PCM at 1536 kbps in English (DUB only). It's flat but sounds decent enough. The highlight would be the impressive score by Ennio Morricone (A Bullet for the General, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, U Turn, Stay As You Are etc. etc.) and adds a positive notch to the production. Both the bonus features only get a lossy Dolby track (with English audio DUBs). The Castle of Blood score is by Riz Ortolani (Requiescant, Il Sorpasso, Woman Times Seven, Cannibal Holocaust, The Voyeur, Mondo Cane) and it can be a bit inconsistent not supporting the high-end with distinction - though is fairly accurate to the less-perfect source. On Terror-Creatures From the Grave - we also get weak but passable audio. The score in this one is by Aldo Piga (A... For Assassin) and actually supports the film reasonably well but has no demonstrative depth. There are no subtitle options and my Oppo tells me that this is a region-FREE BD playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.
Nightmare Castle offers a new audio commentary with Barbara Steele and horror historian David Del Valle and it's good to hear the pair - who are well-acquainted - discuss not only this film but her career, Fellini and other facets of her stardom. We also get Barbara Steele in conversation - a 1/2 hour featurette which I believe is from a previous SD release. Black, White And Red is a video piece conversing with director Mario Caiano for almost 15-minutes. He discusses Poe and it's a decent listen. There are US & UK trailers for Nightmare Castle. Vengeance From Beyond is a 27-minute piece in Italian with optional English subs and originally found on the Italian DVD of 5 tombe per un medium. It has Riccardo Garrone, Massimo Pupillo and journalist Fabio Melelli. There are 1/4 hour's worth of deleted scenes from Terror-Creatures From The Grave in French with optional English subs showing some of the different scenes from alternative Euro versions. A Dance Of Ghosts is a new 17-minute featurette on Castle Of Blood with Antonio Margheriti hosted by Melelli, again, where the production is discussed, the cuts etc. There are trailers for both Castle Of Blood and Terror-Creatures From The Grave.
November 12th, 2015
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be
it, but film will always be my first love and I list my
favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible
Sony BDP-S300 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player
Gary W. Tooze