Cinema, Month of Madness

Back to Madness

It’s been three long years since I’ve been able to indulge in one of my most singular pleasures: watching a horror movie a day all during October. Grad school, man. And in those three years, I’ve enjoyed flexing my writing muscles in short form and micro form blogging, but nothing can do justice to my Month of Madness horror marathon like this blog format. So, I’m back! Maybe I’ll even stay long than October because I have a lot to say these days.

So, Week One of the Madness just ended. Let’s see how I did.

Devil’s Nightmare (La plus longue nuit du diable) (1970)
In Search of Dracula (1975)
The Devil’s Wedding Night (1973)
Daughters of Satan (1972)
Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968)
The Wasp Woman (1959)

I’ve got a few favorites in here – In Search of Dracula is just one of my favorite things in the world, really. It’s a documentary, narrated  by Christopher Lee, yes he of the perfect scary voice and arguably one of the best screen Draculas. Speaking of, Dracula Has Risen From the Grave, was a very, very serviceable late-era Hammer Studios Dracula film. I somehow hadn’t seen it before (what?) but really enjoyed. I mean, Hammer. I always love Hammer. TCM has a great write up on this one.

But my favorite favorite here is Devil’s Nightmare (1970). It’s a strange Belgian film, cheesy and not really very good. But, it’s fun and really crazy looking. The basic plot: a busload of seven (significant!) tourists gets stranded near the local Creepy Castle™, the Castle von Rhoneberg and must stay there for the evening. The proprietor, Baron von Rhoneberg, is friendly enough, but is haunted by a secret he has carried since the sepia-toned scene before the opening credits. Into this whimsical B&B comes Lisa, played by the eternally smooth-featured Erika Blanc, a woman of many temptations who carries a big secret herself. Soon enough the tourists are murdered one by one, all when they are in a state of mortal sin. Questions abound. Who is doing it? Why? How many sausages does the bus driver (gluttony, woot!) have in his suitcase? Why does the blonde chick sleep in every scene?

I first saw it decades ago on television, and watching it again as adult delivers some shocks. First, some of the shots have really interesting set-ups – something I really would not have noticed before grad school. For example, in the sepia opening, there’s a nice shot of the Baron (foreground) and his adjutant (I learned a new word), Hans.

Nicely composed, don't you think?
Nicely composed, don’t you think?

Another scene I like is from one of the (spoiler) murder sequences, when stranded tourists Lusty Corrine and the Semi-Handsome Married Guy run up to the spooky attic for some clandestine lovin’. It’s not a brilliant shot, but something about it is kind of taking, with the Iron Maiden there and the big wheel thing and the scary face in front of it, with Lusty hiding behind.

No one can see me here.
No one can see me here.

Speaking of Corrine, she figures into another of those things I never knew about this film as a kid – largely because it was cut out of the Commander USA version I saw in the mid-80s. Seems the character of Corinne is quite the Sex Lady (technical term), and puts the moves, not only on Semi-Handsome Married Guy. but also on her passive, hot, blonde roommate. Whoa. And they are some serious moves, man. It’s a fairly graphic scene, even if all we see are boobs. Who knew?

Curtains match the wallpaper.
Curtains match the wallpaper.

The previously cut scenes also give us the wife of  Semi-Handsome Married Guy in her bra, which is less of a revelation, somehow, and more footage of the bus driver (gluttony, yo) eating sausages in his room. Surprisingly, the restored version does not have more of Erika Blanc, the castle’s eighth visitor. She is, in my opinion, the best part of this film. She makes the most out of a fairly one-note character, and elevates a sexy mystery woman into something a bit more nuanced, more sympathetic. And when she needs to be, she works some black lipstick and becomes very, very creepy.

Erika Blanc is Goddess!
Erika Blanc is Goddess!

It’s a fun film, yes, full of horror movie cliches and expected tropes. And, okay, the English dub is really terrible..but there is something about it that I keep returning to. Decent production values for a film of its type give the overall look of the film a bit of visual interest, the castle is a good solid setting, and the music is effective. The whole thing, boobs and all, is on youtube these days, so if you’re feeling like a Eurosleazy, mortally sinning, murder spree, grab a sausage and enjoy.