About twenty years ago I stumbled on a video company called Sinister Cinema which specialized in public domain films of every exploitation genre imaginable: old movie serials, juvenile delinquent, sword and sandal, poverty row mysteries, bottom of the barrel sci-fi, and of course, horror. I was eager to get my hands on copies of some of the more obscure films I had watched on Scream In when I was a kid, movies like Black Sunday and Terror in the Crypt. Once I started ordering from the catalog, I was hooked and picked up some fun things as well like Roger Corman’s Swamp Women, Ed Wood Jr’s Jail Bait, and a campy hoot called Teenage Devil Dolls. But the real excitement for me was the chance to finally see some of the legendary and, until then, unattainable Barbara Steele flicks such as
and The Terror of Dr. Hichcock. Castle of Blood
Today, my collection of VHS tapes from Sinister Cinema is buried in a box in my basement. Since the advent of DVD, there have been a number of film companies who have gone to great lengths to painstakingly restore some of these gems. Hichcock remains unattainable, but in 2002 Synapse Films remastered and fully restored the wonderful entry in Italian Gothic cinema, 1962’s Danza Macabre, better known as
stateside, restoring bits of risqué dialogue and some brief female nudity. Castle of Blood
Poe himself appears in the prelude at the
of the Four Devils, where he is being interviewed by British journalist Alan
Foster. In the tavern, Poe and Foster meet Lord Thomas Blackwood who offers
Alan Foster one hundred pounds if he can survive the night at the haunted
Blackwood family castle. Foster accepts the wager, Poe and Blackwood drop him
off at the estate and the fun begins.
Visually, like most of the other Italian Gothics from the early 1960s, Castle of Blood takes its cue from Corman – we are treated to plenty of cobwebs and candelabras, mysterious piano music, and drop dead gorgeous babes, most notably Barbara Steele who somehow cornered the market on haunted Gothic heroines in many of these films. Like most boys my age who were mesmerized by her Gothic glamour, I’ve had a lifelong obsession with the actress and her films to the point where the dead heroine of my novel, The Haunting at Blackwood Hall, is not only named after Steele’s character of Elizabeth Blackwood from Castle of Blood, but possesses her physical description as well.
I realized I have been writing this blog for well over a year now and have not yet touched on the Italian branch of Gothic horror films. Expect more in the weeks and months ahead.
Happy Birthday Edgar Allan Poe: January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849.