Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ceremonia sangrienta (1973)

... aka: Blood Castle
... aka: Blood Ceremony
... aka: Bloody Countess, The
... aka: Female Butcher, The
... aka: Legend of Blood Castle, The
... aka: Vergini cavalcano la morte, Le

Directed by:
Jorge Grau

While by no means a classic, this slow-moving but atmospheric Spanish / Italian co-production from director Jorge Grau (best known for his popular, environmentally conscious zombie flick LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE) is at least a well-made and mature attempt at Gothic horror. Originally titled Ceremonia sangrienta (Blood Ceremony), this was released numerous times in the U.S. under various titles; The Female Butcher was the (cut) original theatrical release title, while The Bloody Countess and The Legend of Blood Castle were just a couple of the VHS release titles. There could very well be others. Lucia Bosé, who gives a very good performance (considering the uneven English-language dubbing) stars as the legendary "Blood Countess" Erszebet Bathory, who killed "610 Nubile Virgins!" and bathed in their blood to maintain her youth... and to impress handsome nobleman Karl Zimmer (Espartaco Santoni), who seems more interested in bedding the innkeeper's pretty daughter Marina (Ewa Aulin) than anything else. Zimmer eventually helps out the countess by seducing women, slitting their throats and letting the blood leak out through a hole to fill a bathtub downstairs. Of course, the townspeople finally catch on, and the bad Countess finds herself in a very Edgar Allan Poe-ish situation at the conclusion.

I'd be lying if I said the film didn't lose me from time to time (American pre-release cutting seems to be the culprit), but it's still fairly interesting, has an authentic period setting (good sets, costumes, great-looking castles, lots of fog, etc) and is a bit more restrained (the most graphic gore is a scene when falcons eat another bird) than I expected. It also approaches the subject matter in a completely different fashion than the Hammer film COUNTESS DRACULA (1971), which made the 'eternal youth' angle real whereas it's left more ambiguous here.

The cast includes Ana Farra as a housekeeper, Silvano Tranquilli as a doctor, Lola Gaos, Enrique Vivó as the mayor, María Vico, Ángel Menéndez and Franca Grey.


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