Castle of Blood (Margheriti, 1964)

Castle of the Blood teeters a very fine line between greatness and mediocrity. There are moments of terror and atmosphere, but overall the film seems to fall short of genuine horrific moments. Since they do so much right, it’s difficult to really pin down why overall the film fails. I think it really comes down to the script, which works with an interesting premise but organized and presented in an uninteresting way. There is not enough development, and once an explanation for the events emerges, it seems half-baked and out of touch with what preceded. The character’s motivations is underdeveloped, and though broadly painted characters often work in horror, here it lends nothing to the supposed mystery of the characters who inhibit the haunted castle. There is no mystery, no enigma… they are not fascinating beyond the fact they are dead. Only Barbara Steele’s character emerges as a beacon of shining light, but this is on her presence alone. We never quite understand her motivation or actions, the more I think about it, the less sense it makes at all. As one of the few actors who possesses “it”, she’s able to make you forget, but the others, none of which are incompetent actors, cannot. The lack of interesting deaths only contributes to the film feeling underwhelming.

Still, overall I’d recommend it. Steele is always a wonder to watch and her role here is quite meaty. The sets are quite beautiful, they remind me of dreams. I think for a film to tell a successful haunted house story, the house needs to take on a life of it’s own, exist beyond the nature of the world we understood. I don’t know about you, but in my dreams, I often find myself in houses that seem to grow, expand and evolve. Doors move, lock, hallways appear. A locked door becomes an opened one and vice-versa. There is also a lot of very strong imagery, and some interesting theories, however absurd they may be. There are also some boobs, not many, but they’re there.

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