Plot: What’s it about?
Alan Foster (Georges Riviere) is a journalist with a severe lack of finances, so when the opportunity arises to rake in some cash, he is unable to refuse. But in this case, perhaps he would have been better off without the supplemental income, as after this loot is earned, he might not be alive to spend it. It all started when he recognized the famous writer Edgar Allen Poe (Silvano Tranquili) in a pub, talking about his stories to a companion. The other man with Poe is Sir Thomas Blackwood, who owns an estate that is rumored to be haunted and is home to numerous well known ghost stories. After a request for an interview is granted, Foster asks about Poe’s work and much to his surprise, Poe states that all of his stories were based on real live events. Although he has immense respect for the famed author, Foster expresses his disbelief in Poe’s claim, as well as his doubts about any kind of supernatural happenings. This prompts Blackwood to propose a wager, in which Foster spends the night inside his castle and if he survives, he collects one hundred pounds for his troubles. As he cannot turn down any chance to nab some income, he accepts and since he doesn’t believe in ghosts, he is confident he will collect the winnings. But are the stories about Blackwood’s castle really just stories made up to scare people, or do ghosts really reside within those eerie walls?
As based on Edgar Allen Poe’s Danse Macabre, Castle of Blood is an eerie, atmospheric chiller than succeeds on all fronts. The film relies on the marvelous black & white visuals, genuine atmospheric tension, and the strength of its leads, as opposed to cheap scares or graphic violence. So if you’re only interested in gore, then Castle of Blood won’t suffice, as it is a more refined, unsettling kind of horror picture. The castle itself is ideal for such material, with a constant menace thanks to its interiors, though I’m sure the superb photography enhanced those elements. And of course, Barbara Steele simply controls the screen here and makes it impossible to take your eyes off her performance. Castle of Blood has all the elements in place, with a gorgeous lead, great source material, and a gifted director, plus it packs an ending that satisfies. This is the kind of release that makes horror fans tremble, as Synapse Films has pulled out all the stops and issued the definitive release of a genre classic. Antonio Margheriti’s eerie epic Castle of Blood has never been given a proper release, but Synapse has not only struck an all new digital transfer in anamorphic widescreen, but also restored scenes that were removed for the American theatrical release. In other words, this is a top notch effort in all respects and as such, I commend Synapse and give Castle of Blood a most high recommendation.
One of the most memorable aspects of Castle of Blood is the presence of Barbara Steele, who is as striking as ever here. Steele is the crown jewel of the Italian horror beauties from her era, with stunning black hair, a gorgeous figure, and those eyes, the kind that can pierce right through you, with seductive & destructive will. In addition to her gothic beauty, she just has a haunting presence when on screen, making her the ideal horror movie maiden. She’s so alluring its hard to resist her, even in her darkest of roles, which serves her performances well, since she often has to lure in victims. In the end, I don’t think there’s ever been a more perfect horror movie actress, since Steele seems to have all desirable elements and then some. Other films with Steele include Black Sunday, The Pit and the Pendulum, Nightmare Castle, 8 1/2, and The Horrible Dr. Hitchcock. The cast also includes Georges Riviere (Siren of Atlantis, Passport to Hell), Margarete Robsahm (The Passionate Demons, Eighteen in the Sun), Silvano Tranquili (The Pumaman, The Invisible Woman), and Silvia Sorrente (The Opium Connection).
Video: How does it look?
Castle of Blood is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. As this film has some excellent visuals, the transfer needs to be top drawer and in previous releases, the image was downright miserable. But Synapse has put together the kind of treatment fans have dreamed of, so all the lush visuals come through in gorgeous fashion. The print looks superb and shows minimal age related defects, which allows the image to remain refined throughout. The black levels are stark and look great here, which is the most important issue in this case, since the movie was filmed in black & white, of course. A truly remarkable visual presentation, made possible thanks to Synapse’s hard work and dedication to this genre classic.
Audio: How does it sound?
As this extended version contains footage that was never given an English language treatment, some of the scenes are in French, with optional English subtitles. I know some might complain about this change in language, but come on, this is the restored extended version of Castle of Blood, plus its never even a distraction. A number of sources were mined to create this soundtrack, but there is a solid level of consistent performance, which is good news. There is some wear & tear evident with the soundtrack, but given the age & troubled past of the material, I’m surprised it all sounds as good as it does. The music by Riz Ortolani (Cannibal Holocaust, Mondo Cane) is decent, but has some low points, though it sounds presentable in this treatment. This disc also includes a complete French soundtrack, should you be interested.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes an alternate opening sequence, a selection of still photos, and the film’s theatrical trailer.