Sunday, July 15, 2012

I fratti rossi (1988)

... aka: Red Monks, The
... aka: Sexorgien der roten Mönche

Directed by:
Gianni Martucci

Richard Garlini ("Ronald" / Gaetano Russo) has just inherited an ancient castle he plans on turning into either a hotel or a boarding school. Upon entering, he's immediately drawn to a ruby-encrusted sword adorning the wall. He's even more drawn to a nude woman he sees next walking down the hallway. After following her downstairs and through some corridors, he gets his last glance at the mysterious beauty before she suddenly spins around and decapitates him. The film then cuts to "50 Anni Prima" (50 Years Earlier) as wealthy Robert Garlini (Gerardo Amato) hears his dog going crazy in the backyard. He follows the barking and discovers a young woman hiding up a tree. She - Ramona (Lara Wendel) - is a painter who didn't know she was on private property until the dog treed her. Either way, Robert is instantly smitten and vice versa and the two quickly get hitched. Robert's icy maid Priscilla (Malisa Longo) doesn't seem too happy about the union. On the eve of the wedding, Robert is called off to some meeting, which turns out to be a congregation of monks clad in hooded red robes. The monk leader tells him "A task is yours... and you must fulfill it." He demands the blood of a virgin, and specifies it has to be Robert's new wife.

Ramona is a bit perplexed when her husband returns and won't go through with consummating their relationship and sets her up in her own bedroom. Tensions soon rise between the new couple. She's getting fed up being stuck in the house all the time, sick of dealing with the nosy and bitchy Priscilla, sick of Robert never giving her any attention, affection or sex and sick of him always snapping at her over insignificant things. Robert hires a new French maid named Lucille to cater to her and she takes Ramona down into the huge, labyrinth-like cellar to show her some odd things, including a torture chamber complete with guillotine. One part of the cellar is blocked off with a locked steel gate, which Robert claims no one has even been past. Ramona wanders down there late one night and finds a skeleton, whose eyes glow, and is then surrounded by the sword-armed monks. She passes out and wakes in her bed, with her husband and Priscilla hovering over her and claiming she's just had a nightmare and never even left her bed. Lucille however claims that she did indeed go to the cellar the night before. I'm sure Ramona's really regretting the marriage by this point, especially after catching her hubby sticking it to Priscilla when he won't give her the time of day.

Lucille is lured into the woods and killed with a scythe. Later, her head is found in a picnic basket, but the authorities never even show up to investigate. While Ramona's out painting, a handsome, mysterious man (Claudio Pacifico) shows up to rape her, which may pose a problem for Robert and his cult. Ramona and the mystery guy - who certainly qualifies as an upgrade regardless of the assault - then go to a historian who relates the history of the Garlini castle to them. A flashback to 1418 shows that powerful, wealthy Grand Duke Lodoriccio ("Richard Brown" / Chuck Valenti) - founder of the red monks; a Templar sect who dabbled in Satanism - had raped and then married a young gypsy girl before the religious authorities ordered his assassination. The assassin, a descendant of Robert's, then seized control of the monk's castle and the curse that comes along with it. To thicken the plot, Robert goes to a notary and is told that the only person in the area with the same name as his new bride died almost forty years earlier.

Though part of the "Lucio Fulci Presenta" series, Fulci's name was nowhere to be found in the actual credits of this movie; at least in the version I watched. Some sources claim he produced or did the special effects, which Fulci himself denied (he unsuccessfully tried to get his name removed from all advertising materials). Like most of the other LCP films, whether legit or not, this was never officially released in America. The photography, score and Gothic art direction are all sufficient (though unexceptional), but the writing and pacing are both way off the mark. The first hour is slow, dull, poorly scripted and unoriginal. The final twenty minutes tries to make up for that by introducing a half-assed ghost angle and cramming in a bunch of convoluted backstory. There's almost no blood or gore (and the crappy dummy head used for two of the deaths is a laugh) and just a little nudity (though not nearly enough to justify the German title, which translates to "Sex Orgy of the Red Monks!")

Most DVDs try to sell this as a sex and violence gorefest and have Fulci's name all over the box. Don't be fooled. Some versions are cut by as much as five minutes , though I have no clue what those five minutes would consist of since this probably doesn't even have five minutes worth of "objectionable" material in it. Director Martucci also made Trhauma (1980), a very rare slasher / HALLOWEEN copy.


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