... aka: Crimson Executioner, The
... aka: El verdugo escarlatto (The Scarlet Executioner)
... aka: Il castello di Artena (The Castle of Artena)
... aka: Io... il marchese de sade (I... the Marquis de Sade)
... aka: Red Hangman, The
... aka: Scarletto - Schloß des Blutes (Scarletto - Castle of Blood)
... aka: Tale of Torture, A
... aka: Torturbødlen (Torture Executioner)
... aka: Virgins for the Hangman
... aka: Vierges pour le bourreau (Virgin to the Executioner)
"Max Hunter" (Massimo Pupillo)
'Bout time I got a review for this one up, eh? *hangs head in shame* Filmed as Il boia scarlatto ("The Crimson Executioner") and known by a whole host of different titles depending on the country, this boasts of being filmed in "Psychovision" and mixes up Gothic horror, fetishistic torture and scantily-clad girls (and a guy) in a way that was considered extremely trashy in 1965. While the opening credits claim it was "Based on the writings of the Marquis de Sade" it's really not aside from having some Sadean themes that were already common and somewhat generic in this genre without the de Sade name-dropping. Things open with a brief prologue set in 1649. The musclebound, hooded "Crimson Executioner," who gets his jollies kidnapping, torturing and killing innocent people, is sentenced to death by means of one of his favorite torture devices; a iron maiden with long, sharp knife blades inside its doors. Before dying, the Executioner vows "I shall have my revenge!" A seal is then melted over the lock to entomb both his body and his evil soul. His mountaintop castle, a shrine to his barbarism and cruelty, is then locked up and forgotten for many years.
Centuries later, pulp horror publisher Max Parks ("Alfred Rice" / Alfredo Rizzo), who's scouting around Italy looking for a suitable castle to shoot book jacket art at, stumbles upon the Crimson Executioner's former pad and realizes it's perfect for his needs. After no one answers the front door, he, his crew and a handful of cover girl (and guy) models decide to sneak in. They soon meet the castle's unfriendly current owner, Travis Anderson (Mickey Hargitay), who promptly tells them to shove off. That is, until he sees one of the ladies - costume girl Edith ("Louise Barrett" / Luisa Baratto) - and realizes she looks a lot like a girl he was once engaged to... because she is the girl he was once engaged to. Caught up in a moment of weakness for his former flame, Travis agrees to let the crew spend the night and shoot pictures in a few of the chambers but informs them that his dungeon is strictly off limits. Of course, a couple of the male models - Perry ("Nick Angel" / Nando Angelini) and Raoul (Albert Gordon) - are down there just minutes later and accidentally knock over an axe that manages to slice the seal off of the Executioner's coffin.
The crew, also including frustrated reporter-turned-novelist Rick (Walter "Brandt" / Brandi), photographer Dermott (Ralph Zucker, also one of the producers) and a quartet of models; dumb blonde Nancy (Rita Klein), snobby Annie (Femi "Martin" / Benussi), Perry's girlfriend Kinojo (Moa Tahi) and Suzy (Barbara "Nelly" / Nelli), who can't seem to keep Raoul off her tail, begin a late night of photo shoots that's interrupted only briefly when Perry is "accidentally" killed after one of the props falls on and impales him. Parks offers the ladies three times their normal salary to stick around and finish, so that takes care of that. Not long after, Raoul and Suzy sneak down into the dungeon again and encounter the Executioner, who promptly snaps Raoul's back with a bear hug and then has Suzy take his place inside the iron maiden. Many more will die, thankfully in much more imaginative and entertaining ways.
There are lots of shots of the girls in bras and panties and loose-fitting tops showing off their bare backs and shoulders as they change, but the only full chest shot you'll be getting here is of Hargitay, in a hilariously camp role as a former muscleman actor turned deranged egotist who now lives by the Executioner's nihilistic philosophy. The very tan former Mr. America / Mr. Jayne Mansfield gets to strut around shirtless and in red tights or wearing a purple and pink silk floral robe (!) while gritting his teeth, laughing maniacally and spouting various nonsense. During one scene he proclaims "Mankind is made up of inferior creatures... who would have corrupted the harmony of my perfect body!" and then drops his robe and starts rubbing oil all over his chest. Hilarious! Hargitay would later lend his "talents" to other Italian sleaze-horror flicks like Lady Frankenstein (1971), Delirium (1972) and The Reincarnation of Isabel (1972) but surely this here is the over-the-top role he'll forever be best-known for.
The various torture devices and death traps the psycho puts the characters in have a decidedly kinky slant to them that I can only describe as being "bondage-y." Bondage-y? Yes, bondage-y... because sometimes I cannot corrupt my perfect harmony long enough to stop writing and consult a thesaurus. There's a ridiculous booby trap where one of the ladies is tied up to a web, with a giant mechanical spider headed toward her and dozens of wires attached to bows that will shoot off arrows whenever they're triggered. Travis ties two women to a spinning contraption that slices up their breasts with a blade and then ties Rick to a dead body on a bed with a canopy of nails slowly lowering down on him. There's also torture with ice cold water and hot tar, a stretching out on the rack, a hanging, a guy put in a steel cage and burned alive, a chain whipping, a strangulation, an arrow through the chest, a poison doll called "The Lover of Death" and much more.
While this is far from a good movie (the acting, English dubbing and dialogue are awful and it can't even seem to decide whether the killer is possessed, insane or a combination of both), there's enough action, torture and unintentional laughs to make the whole thing extremely entertaining. The final 20 minutes are especially fun and lively. Therefore this mash-up of the good and the terrible ends up being one of those rare films that almost defies a rating on my star scale. There's ample reason to give it both a low and a high score, so I'm going right down the middle with a side of SBIG.
Pupillo also made TERROR-CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE starring Barbara Steele, Brandi and Rizzo and the very rare THE VENDETTA OF LADY MORGAN starring Nelli, Paul Muller, Erika Blanc and Gordon Mitchell. All three are Gothic horrors made the same year for the same production company. Pit and Terror-Creatures played on a double bill here in the U.S. with the tagline "2 bone-chilling shockers of unbelievable horror!" Both also joined 1968's The Vampire-Beast Craves Blood (a lousy British monster movie starring Peter Cushing best known as THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR) and Curse of the Blood Ghouls (an Italian vampire movie best known now as Slaughter of the Vampires) for a quadruple feature. They got even more mileage out of Pit later on when it was put on the bottom half of yet another double feature with Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (1968) headlining.
Now in the public domain, this is extremely easy to find, either cheaply on DVD or for free on the internet. However, most of the public domain prints are in terrible shape and completely washed out. Your best bet is to go for the Something Weird / Image "special edition" DVD, which is a nice widescreen print boasting very vibrant Eastmancolor photography completely lost in most of the other versions. The release also comes with some additional bonus footage from the longer A Tale of Torture version.