A Very Creepy Horror Film
Robert E. Rodden II | Peoria, IL. United States | 10/20/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was great! I'd never seen this film until this newly released, uncensored international version put out by Synapse. It shows how perfectly a black-and-white film can be used to produce growing, sustained horror with atmosphere. With the lights out, I watched this little gem, and occasionally paused the film to listen to the house when I thought I'd heard an unusual "bump" in the night; after all the horror films I've seen, that doesn't happen that often any more.Castle of Blood (in Italy, "Danse Macabre") was directed by Itallion icon Antonio Margheriti, who made a name for himself with Sword and Sandle and Sci-fi films. In this movie, he created perhaps one of the best evil dead stories of all time. The premise, an eager, young reporter for the London Times meets Edgar Allen Poe and a companion of his, Blackwood, at a tavern called the Four Devils. From the start, we feel as though we've stepped right into a Poe story, where everything is dream-like, and turning slowly towards some approaching horror. Our hero is offered a wager that he can not survive the night in Blackwood's family castle, emerging at dawn unscathed. The castle is supposed to be haunted by something not just frightening, but deadly. In order to assure an interview with Poe for his paper, the young man takes the bet, not at all believing in the supernatural. What follows is a night fraught with evil manifestations, as ghost after ghost must relive the last insanely violent moments before their deaths in the house once a year. Our hero, aided by a beautiful exotic ghost played by Barbara Steel (fresh from her success in "Black Sunday") discovers his very soul is in jepardy unless he can escape the claustraphobic, shadow-filled interior of the house.We're treated to murder and mayhem, and a plot that quickens in pace until it reaches an urgent pitch at the climax of the film that leaves us sitting on the edge of our seats.This movie may not be for everyone, especially young, jaded movie-goers used to glossy red slasher films and cgi monster effects. This is old-style ghost-story telling, where black-and-white filmography is used for the full effect of atmosphere and character empathy. This is also not a film for children, as there is nudity and a brief scene of lesbianism. Four film sources were used to reproduce this original, longest version of the film (it was released in America with the afore-mentioned scenes cut), so at times the sound track switches to Itallion with english subtitles. These scenes are usually brief and do not detract at all from the movies appeal. Understand too, this film is over forty years old, and some of the film elements used to put it back together were hard to find and slightly damaged by time; they are still of such a fine quality, you hardly notice it. The movie is presented in widescreen with a mono soundtrack. Though the voices of the Italion actors is dubbed in english, they did a fine job, so don't worry about a silly, bad acted dubbing that many associate with foreign films from that period.So, if you like fog-shrouded castles, evil ghosts seeking human blood, and fearful flights through dusty, cob-webbed hallways, this is your movie."
Robert E. Rodden II | 04/07/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The film opens in London, where visiting writer Edgar Allan Poe is relating his story "Morella" to a group of English gentlemen. Alan Foster, a reporter, disputes Poe's occult theories and states his belief that there is no life after death. Another man present, Count Blackwood, claims that he owns a haunted castle and challenges Foster to spend the night there.The reporter accepts the challenge. Poe and Blackwood convey him to the castle via carriage, leave him at the front gate, and promise to return for him in the morning.Inside the castle, which Foster had supposed was deserted, he encounters the lovely but eerie Elisabeth, played by Barbara Steele. They rapidly form a romantic attraction and soon find themselves in bed together. But as their intimacy increases, Foster discovers that his new paramour has no heartbeat. . . .Things quickly go downhill from there. The reporter learns that there are several occupants in the castle-all of them having died there by violent means in years past. They need to drink blood to sustain their phantasmal after-life-and of course they have Foster sized up as their next donor. He spends a fair amount of time running through the castle, trying to escape the vampiric entities. With the aid of Elisabeth, he finally emerges from the castle and flees to the front gate, where he thinks he will be safe. . . .Long a staple of late-night television under the title Castle of Terror, Castle of Blood has now been released to DVD for the first time, in an enhanced and re-mastered version, by Synapse. Some scenes from the original European version that were deleted from the American and British releases have been restored, but with French dialog and English subtitles, since the scenes were never dubbed into English. The new footage includes:·The European title sequence under the title Danse Macabre. (The English-language title sequence is included in the bonus materials.)·Some extra dialog by Edgar Allan Poe at the Four Devils Inn.·Poe's discussion of his theory of tragedy during the carriage ride from the inn to Lord Blackwood's castle.·Additional entreaties by Elisabeth to Foster in their bedroom scene.·In one of the flashback scenes, a longer and slightly more erotic encounter between Elisabeth and Julia, a woman fated to become another revenant at the castle-just before Elisabeth kills her.None of the new footage dramatically changes or enhances the plot, but it's nice to see the film in its intended full-length version. The print quality is good, although the black-and-white contrasts were not as crisp and sharp as I expected. But this may be a limitation of the original source material, not a fault of Synapse's restoration of the film for DVD.Castle of Blood is not particularly subtle in its narrative approach, but it has a creepy Gothic atmosphere and some interesting metaphysical conceptions. And of course, the always-welcome presence of Barbara Steele. This is one of the better Italian horror movies, in my opinion."
5 Stars Are Not Enough
Dr. Freeman | Perry, Iowa United States | 10/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a movie to rival Black Sunday with its candlelit, thick, gothic atmosphere. A writer spends the night in a castle populated with the living dead. Barbara Steele is once again cast as one of the undead and is a beautiful, tragic figure in this black and white masterpiece. Miss Steele is the defintive "living dead girl" in the era of gothic horror. The DVD is very good in both sound and picture quality. A must have for any fan of great gothic horror."
Your blood will give us life
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 02/13/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"You could say that "Castle of Blood" is based on the best story Edgar Allan Poe never wrote -- despite what the opening credits say, I cannot find any Poe story called "Danse Macabre."
But despite that, this vintage horror movie is still quite entertaining as a Gothic tragic romance. It suffers from a rather thin plot, but makes up for it by soaking the entire story in atmosphere -- lots of dungeons, coffins, crazed murders, cobwebby corridors, and vampiric ghosts. A danse macabre indeed.
Edgar Allan Poe (Silvano Tranquilli) is on a visit to England, telling a gruesome story to his friend Lord Blackwood. A cocky journalist, Alan Foster (Georges Rivière) is there to interview him, but he ends up taking a wager from Blackwood -- to disprove the supernatural, he'll spend the night of November 2nd (All Souls' Day) in Blackwood's haunted castle.
The castle turns out to be as creepy as expected, but not as abandoned -- Alan meets the beautiful Elizabeth (Barbara Steele), and falls for her despite the fact that she's... well, dead. As the night goes on (with the help of the local wacky scientist), Alan sees the tragedies that led to her death, and those of the other ghosts who drift through the place. But he doesn't realize that the ghosts have plans for him too...
"Castle of Blood" was one of those beautifully decadent-looking Eurohorror movies, full of sumptuous atmosphere and genuinely creepy ghosts. It seems slow by modern standards, especially since there isn't anything jumping out or gratuitous gore'n'guts.
The plot itself is rather thin, with a contrived love story (they fall in eternal love in five minutes!). But who cares? That plot is substantial enough to carry all this atmosphere -- creepy, ghastly atmosphere, peppered with the occasional gruesome murder or flashback to parties. The castle itself seems like a dead rotted thing, covered in cobwebs and dust.
And the story picks up substantially in the second half, when Alan finds out what made all these ghosts in the first place (it involves stabbing, bludgeoning, and lesbian groping). Then director Antonio Margheriti throws a deliciously gruesome plot twist into the story, which elevates it from a ghost story to real, bloodthirsty horror.
Riviera is the one weak link in this movie's cast; his Alan is so smug and stiff that it's hard to care what happens to him. Instead, the good performances are provided by the dead: Steele as the frightened ghostly waif, Margarete Robsahm as her chilly maid, and Arturo Dominici as the most sedate horror scientist ever. Tranquilli also gets a nod for his solid cameo as Poe.
The Westlake version of this movie is not as good as the movie itself, though -- the first few minutes are very grainy and green, and while it improves a lot, it's never really what you'd call crisp. The print has some brief jumps, crackles and lines, and that mediocre English dub. Dedicated fans of this movie will want to get the official rerelease, but this one is good enough for an introduction.
"Castle of Blood" is short on plot, but miles long on atmosphere. And it turns out that it's all this vintage horror movie needs -- nasty ghosts, sumptuous decay and a giant castle."