Sunday, May 31, 2015

Rosalba Neri News # 17 - THE DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT on Blu

    Originally titled IL PLENILUNIO DELLE VERGIN (FULL MOON OF THE VIRGINS) this was one of the last Gothics from what's considered the golden age of Italian horror and along with LADY FRANKENSTEIN is one of Rosalba's (here again under her "Sara Bay" pseudonym in this American re-titling) only true horror roles. Released in 1973, this highly entertaining hodge podge of Richard Wagner Norse mythology (Der Ring des Nibelunge), historical personages (the "blood countess" Elizabeth Bathroy), candlelit castles and Gothic trappings along with copious amounts of blood and bare skin (not to mention virgin sacrifices and giant bats) has recently been given a long overdue blu-ray release courtesy of Code Red.

    Long a staple of budget DVD horror labels (all of which featured that same print which looked to have been dragged through a gravel parking lot) Code Red's new release features a 1.78:1 transfer of a (for the most part) beautiful 35mm Eastmancolor CRI. Proudly bearing the Dimension Pictures logo, this being the U.S. theatrical version it's missing about 2 seconds of Rosalba's bloody arm stump footage but considering the scarcity of this title (along with being sourced from what is likely the last surviving material in decent shape as far as a U.S. release is concerned) this release is something to get very excited about - and not to mention the blu-ray cover features that beautiful U.S. one sheet art.

    There's a bit of print damage in the center of the image for a short time which unfortunately shows up exactly at the point of Esmeralda Barros and Rosalba's erotic encounter and continues through a nude Rosalba's justifiably famous bloody resurrection (one can just picture a bored Movieola operator going back and forth through these sequences countless times at some point in the past), but again this should not be considered a determent when its balanced out with what we've had available before. For the most part it looks beautiful and image & color/-wise is an upgrade over the uncut Italian DVD of a few years back. This is available through Bill Olsen over at Code Red
    Along with last years release of SLAUGHTER HOTEL, we now have two Rosalba titles on blu and just maybe someday we'll get this blogs dream of a fully restored LADY FRANKENSTEIN and a pristine copy of the U.S. cut of THE SEDUCERS.

All the above screen captures are from the Code Red Blu Ray release 

Thursday, May 28, 2015


    This 1973 release was the sixth release in Paul Naschy's Waldemar Daninsky films and is a bit of the departure from other films in the series in that its a period piece and as a result fits more outside the realm of the other movies in the series (though they are all held together by a rather tenuous linkage). The narration and flow of CURSE OF THE DEVIL (which was the title given in its America release) is also a bit more straight forward and the direction of Carlos Aured (HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB) is also somewhat more darker & subdued (although still with the expected amounts of bare skin & bright red blood splashed about) then the other Daninsky films with the results being one the better movies in the series and an excellent place for the uninitiated Naschy neophyte to start.

    Beginning in medieval Spain "the great inquisitor & witch hunter" Ireneus Daninsky (Naschy) kills the Count Bathory while dueling in their full suits of armor. Chopping off his head and displaying it proudly, he then hunts down the Countess Bathroy (Maria Silva from THE AWFUL DR, ORLOF & TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD - and who bears a striking resemblance to actress Helga Liné here) along with her female minions ("Bitches, I'll see you all in chains ..!!") and quickly dispenses some good ol' medieval witch finder justice on them. Hanging the female followers from his drawbridge he burns the Countess on a pyre (which nicely gives her time to invoke a curse upon Daninsky's ancestors).
    Flash forward several hundred years to what seems to be the late 1800's and the brooding (nobody can brood like Naschy) Waldemar Daninsky is living in the ancestral castle and one day while hunting he shoots what seems to be a wolf, but upon death turns out to be one of the local gypsies  (why a werewolf is out in daylight and dying by a standard bullet is never explained). The gypsies have some sort of link to the past executed Countess Bathroy  and vowing revenge upon Daninsky they initiate a satanic-type ceremony and send a gypsy girl Ilona (Inés Morales - who's also in the interesting and long over due for a decent release THE WITCHES MOUNTAIN from 1973) over to seduce Waldemar.  After a romp in bed with the as it turns out virginal (!) Daninsky she sneaks out, retrieves the skull of a wolf (which had been used in the previous satanic ceremony) and using it to slash him in the chest, it forms a pentagram thereby cursing Daninsky with lycanthropy. This sequence and Ilona's subsequent fleeing and soon after ultimate fate is one of the high points of Naschy's films as its beautifully shot and has a very creepy & darkly perverse atmosphere about it.

    Concurrently an engineer moves into the area with his two daughters - Maria (Maritza Olivares) being the sweet one and Kinga (Fibiola Falcón) being the somewhat "loose" one. Adding to the fun is an escaped mental patient who is killing off local villagers which takes the blame off the by now rampaging werewolf Waldamer. He also begins romance with Maria while fending off the advances of Kinga - with Kinga's attempted nighttime tryst with Waldamer unfortunately occurring on a night of the full moon which leads to the expected ending.
    Although as usual Nacshy's character is not adverse to romance (even if he knows the consequences), buts its interesting to see him here a bit more hesitant around the ladies (even initially spurring the advances of Kinga). As mentioned before the film has a much darker tone then the other films in the series with the villagers mistaken capture and lynching of Waldamer's servant for the crimes being a grisly highlight.

    The Argentina born León Klimovsky gets the lions share of credit as Naschy's best director, but Aured's four efforts are among the best with HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (1973), THE MUMMY'S REVENGE (1973 - and probably one of Naschy's goriest in its uncut form), the excellent Spanish flavored giallo BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL (1974) along with CURSE OF THE DEVIL. The cinematography by Francisco Sánchez (who also shot Naschy's VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES, BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL, DEVILS POSSESSED & THE MUMMY'S REVENGE along with NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS & THE DRACULA SAGA is among the best of the series. Because of the period setting the film literally drips Gothic ambiance and is suitably dark & gloomy.
   With two killers on the loose in the forms of both the wolfman and the escaped lunatic and not a lot of excess plot baggage the plot moves at a much quicker pace than the usual Naschy film. Although Naschy himself seems a bit more subdued here, his wolfman is even more athletic then usual, even doing a flying somersault off a second floor stair railing to attack.
    Along with an earlier Anchor Bay release, BCI released this on DVD in their Spanish horror collection. (on a dbl feature with WEREWOLF SHADOW) although initial copies had an audio defect that required an exchange. The print appears to have some lesser quality American titles & a credit sequence grafted on to a very beautiful uncut print with the CURSE OF THE DEVIL re-titling done most likely to tie into the post ROSEMARY"S BABY obsession with the devil in 70's horror cinema.