November 1, 2011
Released in 1967, this gothic horror has gone by many names. Two of them can be found right on Netflix where I found it in the first place. It is listed as Castle of the Walking Dead while the title on the movie itself is The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism. It has also been called Blood of the Virgins, Pendulum, The Snake Pit and all manner of other things, many not in English.
The production feels like a mash up of different country aesthetics. There are touches of Hammer gothic from The UK and bad dubbing notable of Italian horror, these are the most obvious. The film is actually of West German descent.
It starts off with Christopher Lee as Count Regula being convicted of murdering twelve young virgins in a sacrificial fashion. There is no doubt of his guilt. He has a mask hammered over his face, not unlike the one used on Barbara Steele in Black Sunday. He is then led on a long walk through the catacombs and streets while the credits play. We end in the village square where Regula is tied to four horses heading in four different directions and is promptly quartered. The star witness, the escaped thirteenth victim is thanked by the judge, but mentions that this is only the beginning.
The story jumps forward thirty-five years. We are introduced to a man who does not know his parents or where he came from, Roger Mont Elise (Lex Barker), and a young woman, Lilian von Brabant (Karin Dor) who also has some questions about her past. It turns out the two have been invited to the Castle Andeline, in true House on Haunted Hill Fashion, by Count Regula. But I thought he was dead? Well, I guess if he was, we wouldn't have much of a movie.
The bulk of the middle part of the film is comprised of their journey to the castle. It should be said that this is not a very well paced film, but it does come with plenty of atmosphere. The main duo are joined by her chambermaid and a priest who knows the way to the castle, along with the coach driver. This journey to the castle is filled with surrealistic landscapes, burnt orange sunsets, dark blue nights, and trees adorned with a variety of body parts. The further they go, the weirder it gets, bodies hanging from trees, human speed bumps, and more threaten the drivers sanity and the passengers persistence.
Part way through the trip, the travelers are accosted.... well, I don't want to give you to much. Suffice to say Regula is not dead and is seeking revenge and the final step to attaining immortality through the blood of virgins.
This is not a movie that everyone is going to like. It is a slow, and I mean slow, movie. We spend a lot of time in that carriage with discussions of who they are and where they are going. On the plus side, the performances are decent, Lee is deliciously evil, Karin Dor (who was in the Bond film You Only Live Twice the same year), is easy on the eyes, and Lex Barker, well, he has some entertaining moments.
Overall, this is a good B-movie with great style and atmosphere. I only wish the copy that Netflix had on instant was of better quality. Still, it is certainly worth checking out for fans of Lee and gothic horror.
Posted by Christopher Beaumont at 11/01/2011 08:32:00 PM
Chris has been an avid movie watcher for decades, getting into the writing game in 2004. Since that time he has contributed to a number online publications as well as running CriticalOutcast.com. In addition to movies, Chris is a big fan of music, particularly metal, and will never give up hope on his beloved Mets.