Wednesday, July 16, 2008

NIGHTMARE CASTLE... Under-appreciated Barbara Steele Classic Gets Mad Respect... Both Barbaras Pleased with Result

We just recently covered how Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS, commonly available in ropey public domain prints, was finally getting restored to its original length. Not as prestigious but certainly something that should never be ignored is that one of Barbara Steele's under-appreciated classics is also getting a full restoration upon discovery of that film's original negative.

That film is called GLI AMANTI D'OLTRETOMBA, known to us Anglos ignorant of the Italian tongue as NIGHTMARE CASTLE. In it, the particularly nasty Dr. Arrowsmith (Paul Muller) is cuckolded and in revenge, brutally tortures and murders his wife Muriel (Barbara Steele) and her lover. The not-so-good doctor hopes to inherit his wife's fortune but instead discovers that her twin sister Solange (Steele in a dual role, not to mention a blonde wig) is next in line for the big bucks. Being a complete slimeball, he seduces Solange and it isn't long before the two are married. He hopes to bring her to his gothic castle and administer psychotropic drugs in order to drive her insane. Sure enough, Solange starts having horrible nightmares and hallucinations. One problem - the drug was never administered.

NIGHTMARE CASTLE was released in 1965 and directed by Mario Caiano, who curiously did very few horror films in his prolific career. Caiano dabbled a bit in everything, especially peplums, Spaghetti westerns, euro-spy and euro-crime films. In fact, it seems at times that Caiano jumped head first into every major Italian exploitation movie craze except horror. This is a shame, since he displays a knowledge of how to send chills up the viewer's spine. A very artful film, it is also surprisingly brutal for the time.

The film can be found on several public domain DVDs. The print was not great but one can easily see a great and frightening film. A few years ago, Fred Olen Ray's Retromedia issued what was believed to be the uncut letterboxed version as THE FACELESS MONSTER. It wasn't a perfect transfer by any stretch but was a big improvement over what had come before. The bad news is that disc has been out of print for some time now. The good news is Severin is now releasing an even better version onto DVD.

From Fangoria:

Filmmaker/DVD producer David Gregory gave Fango the scoop that he and Severin Films will give the Barbara Steele-starring Italian chiller NIGHTMARE CASTLE its first official DVD release, following the discovery of the original negative in Rome, and provided the first peek at the cover art. The 1965 film, a.k.a. THE FACELESS MONSTER and LOVERS FROM BEYOND THE TOMB and directed/co-written by Mario Caiano, casts Steele as the unfaithful wife of a doctor, who tortures her and her lover to death, and the victim’s twin sister, whom the doctor later marries and subsequently suffers from frightening visions of murder.

“We will be doing a new HD transfer in its original aspect ratio, so all those super-cheap bootleg DVDs taken from 10th-generation TV prints can now be discarded forever,” Gregory says. “Caiano is still very much with us, and we recently shot a great interview with the 75-year-old master at his home just outside of Rome. NIGHTMARE CASTLE also showcases the very first horror score by the legendary Ennio Morricone, and the beautiful black-and-white cinematography comes courtesy of Enzo Barboni, who would later strike gold as the director of the TRINITY Westerns starring Terence Hill and Bud Spencer. We’re very excited to be releasing this uncut, uncensored and unsung hit of Italian horror history, which after years of bootleg abominations will now find its rightful place alongside the other Barbara Steele classics like Mario Bava’s BLACK SUNDAY and Antonio Margheriti’s CASTLE OF BLOOD. This is NIGHTMARE CASTLE as it truly has never been seen before.”

In addition, Gregory and Severin will also be granting the first official U.S. disc release to DOOR INTO SILENCE, the final film by gore maestro Lucio Fulci, starring John Savage. Look for updates on these and other Gregory/Severin projects as we get ’em!

Screenshots from the out of print Retromedia disc, courtesy of Monsters At Play.

No, I didn't bury the lead. Fulci's DOOR INTO SILENCE, while of interest to completists, is not one of the maestro's better works.

I urge everyone to check out NIGHTMARE CASTLE once it gets the release it deserves. And hey, a hats off to Severin. They started out doing great DVDs primarily of softcore epics and referring to themselves as "the Criterion of smut." To wit, their first release was dual versions of GWENDOLINE, the film from which the website was at least partially inspired. Recently, they have branched out and filled the void left by some other companies. They will also be releasing a three-disc version of Enzo G. Castellari's INGLORIOUS BASTARDS in the coming weeks.

No comments: