Saturday, May 30, 2009

Gli amanti d'oltretomba (1965)

... aka: Faceless Monster, The
... aka: Lovers Beyond the Tomb
... aka: Lovers from Beyond the Tomb
... aka: Nightmare Castle
... aka: Night of the Doomed
... aka: Orgasmo

Directed by:
Mario Caiano

In this interesting, dark and very atmospheric black and white Gothic chiller, Euro horror goddess Barbara Steele again displays her versatility by playing a dual role similar to what she played in Black Sunday (1960). Her first role is that of a manipulative, wealthy and unfaithful woman named Muriel Arrowsmith. Muriel's frequent taunts directed at her scientist husband Stephen (played by Paul Muller) don't go unnoticed. And neither does her affair with the hunky castle stable boy David (Rik Battaglia). When Stephen finds out what's afoot, he chains Muriel and David up, whips them, electrocutes them to death, removes their hearts and seals their corpses in a downstairs crypt. Too bad for him Muriel left all her funds and her large estate to her fragile, mentally unbalanced and very naive sister Jenny (Steele's second role, in a blonde wig). Stephen decides to court and marry Jenny and then plots to drive her crazy for the inheritance with help from a bizarre female accomplice played by Helga Liné, who gives a good performance in an interesting role as an elderly maid whose youth and beauty are restored by blood transfusions administered by Stephen. And did I mention the vengeful ghosts who eventually show up? Well, it's probably better I don't even get into that.

Simply put: If you like Gothic horror, you'll most likely enjoy this movie. The plot is typical of the genre but entertaining nonetheless, the sets are nicely detailed, the score by Ennio Morricone is gorgeous and the whole cast is certainly up to task. Muller is excellent and oozes evil as the murderous husband, Marino Masé (billed as "Laurence Clift") is likable as a compassionate doctor who takes a liking to Jenny. Liné, whose sleek nose and regal demeanor perfectly contrast the more uncommon look of the other female star, proves herself again to be one of the top female talents in Euro-horror. And Steele, well, she basically owns this entire movie with her unusual looks, mannerisms and acting versatility. She's convincing as the terrorized heroine, but I much prefer her cackling with glee, shooting out devilish facial expressions while she plays the piano awaiting her lover to arrive and emerging from the grave looking for revenge; pale, dead-eyed and with hair covering half her burnt face.

The movie opens well and has a great last ten minutes or so, but does sag a bit with a melodramatic, uneven mid-section. My favorite scene, by far, is an outstanding, wonderfully photographed out-of-body nightmare sequence with a painting being flooded with white light, a spinning camera going around an eyeball and a ceiling light and Jenny being led from a coffin into a greenhouse by David, where a figure in an expressionless white mask (hence the alt. title The Faceless Monster) shows up. It's a very cool sequence and reminiscent of silent era German expressionism.


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