Castles, Krimis, Murderers and Madmen - A Euro Gothic Journey

Mexican Wrestlers, Italian Vampires, Filipino Mad Scientists and more.
Bob Meyer
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Joined: January 12th, 2011, 3:25 am

July 3rd, 2018, 3:10 am #361

Nope - you're correct, Rick.  IMDB says EL TOPO is a Mexican film.  I'll probably sneak it in if I get that far in this journey (which is doubtful)...but don't tell anyone!
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Bob Meyer
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July 7th, 2018, 2:48 am #362

1963 - JUDEX

Judex.jpg
France-Italy.  Directed by Georges Franju.  Written by Jacques Champreux and Francis Lacassin, based on characters created by Louis Feuillade and Arthur Bernède.

The Story:  An unscrupulous wealthy industrialist is called to task for his crimes by the black-caped, mysterious figure who calls himself “Judex”.  When the old man’s daughter wins Judex’s sympathy and admiration, the masked avenger finds he must protect her from an equally mysterious criminal who is after the family’s fortune.


After the magnificent EYES WITHOUT A FACE and the (in my mind, terrific) SPOTLIGHT ON A MURDERER, Georges Franju resurrected the crusading anti-hero character Judex, created by Louis Feuillade for a serialized series of adventures for a war-weary French audience back in 1916.   We’re told early-on in the film that the name Judex means “judge or avenger” and the tall, handsome American (and famous professional stage magician) Channing Pollock does a fine job mixing suave manners with hints of dangerous capabilities, with his broad-brimmed black hat, fine black suit, and black cape.  Franju enlists the talents of Edith Scob once again as the endangered heroine, and she seems to have matured and gained even more self-confidence as an actress since last seen in EYES WITHOUT A FACE and THE BURNING COURT.

I should note that, more than most of the borderline-genre films on my list so far, this turned out to not qualify much at all as horror, krimi, or Gothic.  And I admit I was disappointed with it.  I had assumed it would capture the spirit of those early cinematic serials…or at least what I imagine them to be, since I haven’t actually seen any of Louis Feuillade’s highly-regarded film serials from the nineteen-teens (FANTÔMAS or JUDEX) apart from a couple of episodes of the crime adventure LES VAMPIRES years ago on Turner Classic Movies.  However (and I’m sure this was Franju’s deliberate intention) rather than zipping along as an exciting adventure with a “Franju touch”, it instead moves along pretty slowly and deliberately.  Not a whole lot of action, or atmosphere, or tension.  For some reason, I also thought it would be in color (although the black-and-white cinematography is very good, if - probably deliberately - mostly flat).  It seems to be set in 1914, presumably just before the outbreak of The Great War, but with some very anachronistic gadgets and machines.

In all, it’s a well-made movie, but I’m not sure what Franju was going for and I was only moderately entertained.  But I will address some highlights…

French actress Francine Bergé steals the whole show as the villainess, and is bewitching whether in suffragette fashions or skin-tight black leotard.  But Wait…There’s More!...Sylva Koscina shows up toward the end as a circus acrobat in a skin-tight white leotard, and her short confrontation with Bergé is pretty great.  Jacques Jouanneau is fun and immediately likable as a somewhat put-upon detective who would rather be reading adventure stories to the neighborhood children.  The music by Maurice Jarre is weird and (I think) often meant to evoke a live in-house accompaniment typical of the silent film era.  

Well, I’ve almost talked myself into thinking I liked the movie better than I did.  Maybe this merits a re-visit down the line.  It’s actually pretty good.  But it’s also not what I was expecting or hoping for (admittedly my fault rather than Franju’s fault) and it’s also very…low-energy.

Watched via Criterion’s DVD, which is a very good print in French with optional English subtitles.  For another opinion on the film, after the couple of photos that I’ve posted below (which admittedly raised my expectations for JUDEX perhaps higher than they should have been set) is CineSavant/DVD Savant Glenn Erickson’s review.

Judex photo 1.jpg Judex photo 2.jpg
https://www.dvdtalk.com/dvdsavant/s4516jude.html
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Jameselliot
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Joined: June 23rd, 2012, 11:09 pm

July 7th, 2018, 10:10 pm #363

What I found most enjoyable: Jarre's music and Pollock's bird mask set-piece.
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Bob Meyer
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Joined: January 12th, 2011, 3:25 am

July 12th, 2018, 1:18 am #364

Backing up a year to 1962 to cover HYPNOSIS, and then hopefully carrying on a more steady pace to finish 1963.  Daliah Lavi in the pre-Exorcist EL DEMONIO coming soon.
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Bob Meyer
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July 12th, 2018, 1:19 am #365

1962 - IPNOSI  (HYPNOSIS)

Hipnosis.jpg
Italy-Spain-West Germany.  Literal Title: “Hypnosis”.  Released in Spain as HIPNOSIS, in West Germany as NUR TOTE ZEUGEN SCHWEIGEN (“Only Dead Witnesses Remain Silent”), in the U.S. as HYPNOSIS, and in the UK as DUMMY OF DEATH.

Directed by Eugenio Martín.  Written by Martin and Giuseppe Mangione.

The Story:  Jealousy results in the murder of a ventriloquist by his long-time business partner, who frames an innocent man for the deed.  The only witness to the crime is Grog, the dead man’s dummy.  


Not really a horror film or a krimi, although it tries to be both, IPNOSI is an international production shot in Spain with a Spanish director and a Spanish, French, Italian, but mostly German cast.  Director Eugenio Martin would later direct the classic HORROR EXPRESS.  It’s interesting in that it really is an ensemble cast in terms of character importance and screen time.  Heinz Drache, by now well-known to krimi fans, is the lead detective on the case but is really a secondary player.  While he pursues the supposed murderer, played by German actor Götz George, Drache spends an equal amount of time trying to make time with George’s sister - and I don’t blame him…she’s played by Spanish actress Mara Cruz, who could pass for Susan Oliver’s twin sister.  

The two characters with the most screen time are the unique-looking Italian beauty Eleonora Rossi Drago as the dead ventriloquist’s stage partner and fiancée, and the brooding but handsome French actor Jean Sorel as the true murderer.  We saw Drago in 1962’s CARPET OF HORROR, and we’ll encounter Sorel again later in the decade in a handful of gialli.  The dummy, named Grog, doesn’t get as much screen time as you’d think.

The pre-credits opening of the film promises all sorts of nifty genre weirdness, and it is pretty weird - an x-ray machine and heart-rate monitor, two doctors insisting the “experiment” must end, a hypnotized (and terrified) woman, and the mesmerizing eyes of the evil-looking dummy Grog.  Turns out it’s all a stage show and we quickly find ourselves in typical crime-drama murder territory with the cops pursuing the wrong man for most of the rest of the movie.

About twenty minutes before the end, the filmmakers want us to believe that the dummy Grog is actually alive…or is a tool of the dead man’s avenging spirit…or is a figment of the murderer’s imagination…or…I don’t know what.  They try to have it both ways by the end, and the attempt at hinting toward the supernatural is unconvincing (not to mention refuted by the plot’s resolution).  Still, I found it to be an entertaining movie as these things go.  The acting and direction are good, and it appears to have had a decent budget.  But anyone expecting something along the lines of DEAD OF NIGHT or MAGIC will be disappointed.

Available as a DVD-R from Sinister Cinema, from the West German version NUR TOTE ZEUGEN SCHWEIGEN, cropped and dubbed into English.
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Rick
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Joined: December 22nd, 2004, 2:22 pm

July 12th, 2018, 1:26 am #366

Hmmm. I've had this sitting on my coffee table for months now, but am now newly interested...if only for Mara Cruz. Because I adored Susan Oliver.
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
~ Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
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Bob Meyer
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July 12th, 2018, 1:36 am #367

Rick wrote: Hmmm. I've had this sitting on my coffee table for months now, but am now newly interested...if only for Mara Cruz. Because I adored Susan Oliver.
Let me know if you agree on the resemblance, Rick.  Susan Oliver - a key actress from Star Trek and Route 66.  Swoon...
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Bob Meyer
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July 14th, 2018, 2:53 am #368

1963 - IL DEMONIO

Demonio.jpg
Italy-France.  Literal Title: “The Demon”.  Released in France as LE DÉMON DANS LA CHAIR (“The Demon in the Flesh”).

Directed by Brunello Rondi.  Written by Rondi, Ugo Guerra, and Luciano Martino.

The Story:  After being spurned by her lover, a young woman in a rural Italian town begins to exhibit very strange behavior, leading to the conclusion that she’s been possessed by a demon.


I'm pleased to say that this is a very, very interesting movie, quite engrossing, although definitely not what one initially thinks of as a “demon possession” movie.  It’s really more of an art-house pseudo-documentary on the superstitious and religiously-charged beliefs of contemporary rural Italians.  In fact, the opening narration states that the film is an “ethnological study” of events in a rural Southern Italian mountain village, and Jonathan Rigby’s “Euro Gothic” states that it was supposedly based on a “true” incident of possession in the very town in which the movie was filmed.

In the previous year’s MONDO CANE, one of the more hard-to-watch segments documented a bizarre Christian (or, I suppose, Catholic) ritual of young men running around an Italian mountain village during a religious festival, cutting themselves repeatedly (and rather seriously) with glass-imbedded bricks.  Nothing depicted in IL DEMONIO is that extreme, but we do witness a number of strange rituals involving a wedding (during which the marriage bed is decorated with grapes, salt, and a symbolically protective scythe), a funeral procession that resembles a college fraternity hazing ritual, a weird scene in which the townsfolk gather to shout at the sky in an attempt to change the weather, and a Church-conducted exorcism directed at our protagonist, named Purif and played by Daliah Lavi.

All of this is done in a stark, black & white documentary-like style (and employing what looks to be a lot of ordinary non-actor villagers in various roles), but it’s still obviously a fictional, narrative movie.  If you’re familiar with the post-war Italian neo-realist films of Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio De Sica, and try to imagine what it would be like if one of them shot a 1950s version of THE EXORCIST, you’d probably conjure up this movie in your mind.

And if I had ever had the unlikely opportunity to ask William Peter Blatty or William Friedkin if they saw IL DEMONIO prior to 1973 and they said “Umm…no”, I wouldn’t have believed them.  This movie admittedly has nothing resembling the insanity and terror of THE EXORCIST, but it does have some definite similarities.  However, I don’t want to give the impression that this is in any way analogous to the EXORCIST experience.  IL DEMONIO doesn’t actually have much in the way of a narrative, and it’s not really ever frightening…just weird and occasionally a little creepy (and it takes place almost entirely in broad daylight and primarily out-of-doors).  So, it’s much more reminiscent of MOTHER JOAN OF THE ANGELS than anything you’d see at the drive-in.

OK, so just what is the plot of this non-horror horror film?  Well, a beautiful Girl is spurned by her lover, who soon marries another woman.  The Girl then… Theory A:  Has a mental breakdown, puts a curse on her ex-boyfriend, makes a spectacle of herself in front of the whole town, and gleefully declares that she’s been possessed by a Demon.  - OR -  Theory B:  Is possessed (or was perhaps already possessed) by a real-deal Demon, puts a curse on her ex-boyfriend, makes a spectacle of herself, and resists all attempts to save her soul.  In the end, we the Audience don’t know what to think.  There seems to be real on-screen evidence of the supernatural, and yet it all also seems like superstition and a collective psychosis.  And that, in my mind, is a good thing…I love ambiguity in creepy movies.

The writer-director is Brunello Rondi, who was among the team of co-writers that worked with Federico Fellini on 8 ½, LA DOLCE VITA, and a year or two later JULIET OF THE SPIRITS.  Rondi’s screenplay collaborators on this movie, Ugo Guerra and Luciano Martino, teamed with Mario Bava for the same year’s THE WHIP AND THE BODY (also featuring Daliah Lavi).

And let’s not forget to say a few words about Daliah Lavi, an Israeli actress who had a fair amount of success in 1960’s European and U.S. genre films.  While she doesn’t quite reach the iconic level of, say, Claudia Cardinale, she was a strikingly beautiful woman, and I’d bet a much better actress than she’s generally given credit for, judging by this movie.  We saw her earlier in THE RETURN OF DR. MABUSE and we’ll soon see her again in the already-mentioned WHIP AND THE BODY.  She plays the lead in IL DEMONIO, as a simple girl named Purif, and she’s pretty impressive in the role.  When actresses are described as giving a “fearless performance”, that seems to generally mean a highly emotional performance and/or one in which the actress eschews glamour and dignity…and Lavi deserves accolades for succeeding in both.  She manages to be either alternately or simultaneously sympathetic, manipulative, pathetic, selfish, seductive, grovelling, insane, or genuinely Possessed by Evil.  

A sad note about her co-star here, Frank Wolff, in the role of Antonio, who rejects Purif but is obviously still attracted to her (one has to wonder…did his rejection of Purif cause her “possession” or did her “possession” frighten him away?).  Wolff, an American, started out in a couple of Roger Corman movies like THE BEAST FROM HAUNTED CAVE and Elia Kazan’s AMERICA, AMERICA, but found some success after moving to Italy in genre films, especially westerns.  For some unknown reason, he committed suicide in Rome at age 43 in 1971.  Most of the rest of the cast are probably just folks who lived in the area…and as in Fellini’s movies, there are some great human faces caught on film in this movie.


I enjoyed IL DEMONIO quite a bit, but - as we’ve encountered in many of the movies along this journey - it’s not really what one generally expects of a “horror” film.  Think more along the lines of an art-house, neo-realist Italian thriller with supernatural elements, and your expectations will line up with the movie just fine.  And if you’re a big fan of THE EXORCIST, it’s definitely worthy of investigation.

I recently acquired this through a Sinister Cinema DVD-R - a good widescreen print in Italian with English subtitles.  I had earlier found it (I thought) on YouTube but without subtitles - can’t find it there now, so I may have been mistaken or it may have been removed.  
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Blaster
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Joined: June 14th, 2018, 11:58 pm

July 14th, 2018, 3:47 am #369

This is the one where Daliah Lavi while possessed, contorts herself and does the upside down "spider walk" that was filmed years later for THE EXORCIST but deleted from the original release.  Evidence that Blatty or Friedkin could have seen this film and been influenced by it.  
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Jameselliot
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July 14th, 2018, 4:29 am #370

Bob Meyer wrote: 1963 - IL DEMONIO

Demonio.jpg
Italy-France.  Literal Title: “The Demon”.  Released in France as LE DÉMON DANS LA CHAIR (“The Demon in the Flesh”).

Directed by Brunello Rondi.  Written by Rondi, Ugo Guerra, and Luciano Martino.

The Story:  After being spurned by her lover, a young woman in a rural Italian town begins to exhibit very strange behavior, leading to the conclusion that she’s been possessed by a demon.

Lavi was a very talented singer, extremely popular in Germany and Israel, but not well recognized here. Some performances are on youtube.
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Bob Meyer
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July 15th, 2018, 4:53 am #371

1965 - SFIDA AL DIAVOLO  (1963 - KATARSIS)

Challenge the Devil.jpg
Italy.  Originally released in 1963 as KATARSIS.  Re-edited with additional footage and narration and released in 1965 as SFIDA AL DIAVOLO (Literal title: “Challenge to the Devil”).  KATARSIS version written and directed by Giuseppe Veggezzi (as Joseph Vegh).

The Story:  A monk relates the events of a frightening night he and his friends experienced years ago after breaking into a derelict castle.


Wow.  Hold on… let me re-phrase that.  WOW.  This is one gawdawful movie.

There’s a difference between horror films that dispense with narrative and focus on atmosphere to create a sort of dream logic, and those that are just plain incoherent due to gross incompetence.  This movie is Exhibit A for the latter case.  And I don’t think it can be blamed on the fact that the final product we have here is a bastardization of the original release.  

The original 1963 version - KATARSIS (which isn’t an Italian word, but I’m guessing means “Catharsis”) - apparently had a very limited run before its distributor went bankrupt.  It was then bought by a small company, Eco Films, and drastically cut down and re-edited, with the addition of a new first two reels and an expository narration that runs the length of the film, and released as SFIDA AL DIAVOLO in 1965.  KATARSIS originally ran 87 minutes and SFIDA runs only 78 minutes with the additional footage totaling about 20 minutes.  Doing the math, that means that about 30 minutes were cut out of KATARSIS to create SFIDA, or about 35% of the original film.  And that’s not counting - what I’m assuming is new for SFIDA - the ever-present voice narration.  So, I really don’t think we should be calling this KATARSIS at all, especially since the original release under that title no longer seems to exist.

The movie opens like a crime drama - a man is shot and flees to the refuge of a nearby monastery, seeking help from an old friend who’s now a friar.  Seems that the wounded man needs to get some documents back from an old flame (an exotic dancer) in order to save his life, so the Monk decides to pay her a visit.  We then get to sit through an entire 10-minute stage show: a terrible duo dance routine, a terrible Italian pop song, and a mercifully short performance by the most unattractive 60-year-old dancer you’ve ever seen.  The Monk then proceeds to tell his story…we’re 20 minutes into the movie by now.  (By the way, at least they were able to hire one of the original actors to reprise his role, but now as a Monk with a very fake-looking beard.)

As I said, this is just embarrassingly terrible stuff.  And once we get to the original KATARSIS footage, things get worse.  The Monk in his younger days, you see, was part of a gang of friends that liked to take their girlfriends out for drinking, driving, and generally terrorizing anyone they came across like a co-ed band of Clockwork Orange Droogs.  They come upon an abandoned castle, break in, and proceed to trash the place.  And it soon becomes clear that throughout the movie we’re going to have to endure endless shots that go on about six times longer than any sane director or editor would allow them to run, along with the realization that most of these shots are completely unnecessary anyway.

All the while, an amazingly incoherent and often artistically pretentious narration (by the Monk) describes - not what we’re seeing - but what seem to be events from an entirely different (and better) movie.  I’ll provide an example courtesy of YouTube - below is a scene of the youths engaging in an “orgy”.  The clip doesn’t have subtitles, but the subs on the copy I watched transcribe dialogue along the lines of “We engaged in acts that were beyond description.  She was on fire, uncontrollable, like an animal.  We were perverse creatures driven by alcohol and burning desire.”  That sort of thing.  Now, here’s the clip of the “orgy”:



Well, there's 3-and-a-half minutes of your life you won't get back.  The fat guy in the suspenders, Piero Vida, is also the Monk in the first part of the movie (his experience was so harrowing, he found religion), and he went on to have a fairly prolific career before dying at an early age.  We’ve seen the guy in the black sweater with the medallion, George Ardisson, before in HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD and he also made quite a few movies over the course of the 1960s.  The girl in the extremely tight pants, Bella Cortez, was from Cuba and made about a dozen movies in Italy, mostly pepla.  One of the two credited cinematographers had shot THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA (not sure whether he shot the old or new stuff here, though).  So, there were some actual movie industry people involved in creating this film…one can only imagine what they were thinking about the production during the shoot.

This was the only movie writer-director Giuseppe Veggezzi made.  Go figure.  Sadly, I've read that he committed suicide a couple of years after making KATARSIS.  There's only his credit as director, so who knows who wrote and shot the additional footage and narration (maybe the narration was part of the original, but I doubt it).

Oh…right…I almost forgot…Christopher Lee (or Cristopher Lee, as he’s billed in the credits).  He supposedly worked a whole week of the movie’s three-week shooting schedule.  And he’s got maybe three minutes of screen time.  I don't think they would have cut his scenes from the original print - he's the only "name" actor - we have no way of knowing...but his character sure doesn't make much sense.  He’s an old man in 17th century garb who shows up right after the “orgy” scene and immediately begins babbling about “her hair” and “eternity” and “the muddy earth”.  He then asks the group of drunken idiots for their help in finding the body of his dead wife, which is kept preserved (or in an undead state...it's not clear) somewhere in the castle.  Later, he appears again to become suddenly young and evil for a single shot of him trying to attack the idiots.  At the end, he’s old and benign once again.  And no, it’s not his voice on the audio track.

Terrible movie.  However…it’s so bad and so disjointed, it admittedly was kinda entertaining in a “I can’t believe this actually received a release” kind of way.  Watched via a Sinister Cinema DVD-R, cropped, but a good print in Italian with English subtitles.
Last edited by Bob Meyer on July 15th, 2018, 5:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Dr Kelp
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July 15th, 2018, 5:03 am #372

Yeah have to agree with everything you said. I can't believe Lee worked more than a day on this crapfest
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Rick
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Joined: December 22nd, 2004, 2:22 pm

July 15th, 2018, 5:38 am #373

Yeah, that's KATARSIS, all righty. Or...it's not KATARSIS. You know what I mean. I just wish I did.
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
~ Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
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Bob Meyer
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July 16th, 2018, 1:32 am #374

1963 - DER HENKER VON LONDON  (THE MAD EXECUTIONERS)

Mad Executioners.jpg
West Germany.  Literal Title: “The Hangman of London”.  Released in the U.S. as THE MAD EXECUTIONERS.

Directed by Edwin Zbonek.  Written by Robert A. Stemmle, based on Bryan Edgar Wallace’s novel “The White Carpet”.

The Story:  A series of hangings of un-prosecuted murderers by a self-appointed secret vigilante tribunal has the London police baffled.  After declaring their verdict, they use a rope and noose from Scotland Yard’s own crime museum to hang each of the accused.  Meanwhile, a maniac is killing young women around the city and stealing their heads.

 
A fairly routine but rather unexciting Krimi from the Central Cinema Company (CCC), from a story by Edgar Wallace’s son.  Austrian director Edwin Zbonek only made a couple of Krimis (the other being 1964’s MONSTER OF LONDON CITY) and spent most of his career in West German television.  Screenwriter Stemmle penned THE STRANGE COUNTESS, 1962’s THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE, and would soon team up with Zbonek again for THE MONSTER OF LONDON CITY, before also moving over to mostly television shows.

Hansjörg Felmy, a popular German actor in the late-50s/early-60s (and later on TV) is our hero, a Scotland Yard Inspector chasing the trail of not only “The Hangmen of London” but also a concurrent sex maniac who cuts the heads off of his female victims, which include Felmy’s own sister!  Wolfgang Preiss, having hung up the role of Dr. Mabuse by now, gets to fight on the side of justice for a change as Felmy’s impatient and prickly Chief at Scotland Yard.  Maria Perschy is Felmy’s girlfriend and of course draws the attention of the sex murderer.  Dieter Borsche, a familiar face in these films, plays the maniac.

This Krimi almost veers into sci-fi territory, as we learn from Borsche (definitely a “mad doctor” kind of surgeon who’s cool, calm, collected…and completely bonkers) that he carefully cuts off his victims’ lovely heads so he can try hooking them up to his new invention – a glass torso and heart pump that will (when perfected) keep the head alive!  If you're thinking "For Science!" think again - Borsche has some fascination with the metaphysical division between the mind and the body and thinks if he can separate them, he'll become a new messiah...or something.  Doc needs to stay on his medications, I think.

An odd thing about THE MAD EXECUTIONERS is that halfway through, we ditch the title tribunal for almost the rest of the movie to follow Dr. Sex Maniac.  Before then, while the authorities are trying to uncover the identities of the secret gang, they grudgingly respect the fact that - with the full file of documented evidence the Executioners considerately provide with each of the hanged corpses - any court of law would have handed down the same death sentence.  Which makes one wonder…why don’t they save themselves a lot of effort and just hand these murderous criminals and the evidence they've gathered over the the police?  Of course, the Executioners and Sex Maniac plot lines converge at the end.

The Hangmen of London (or Mad Executioners, or whatever you want to call them) do look good and Gothic when holding their trials and carrying out the sentences: black medieval-style executioner’s hoods, black robes, randomly-placed skulls, and a big desk made of coffins.  The fact that they specifically break into Scotland Yard whenever it’s time for another hanging to steal the famous London Executioner rope and noose (and then return it each time only to steal it again later) is a nice touch.

The movie, like so many Krimis, makes little sense much of the time, but it’s not bad.  The Bryan Edgar Wallace novel it’s taken from is titled “The White Carpet” but there’s no white carpet or anything like one in the movie.  Watched via Amazon Streaming from a Sinister Cinema-supplied print, which is widescreen but dubbed and in fairly rough shape.
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evilskippy
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July 16th, 2018, 4:39 pm #375

I really do enjoy this krimi, as it falls into the upper tier for me. Even though the mad doctor is actually essential to the "rationale" of the movie, it does feel like two movies grafted into one. I don't have a lot of interest in the film when it veers away from the wonderfully Gothic aspect of the Executioners.
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Mike Mariano
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July 16th, 2018, 5:33 pm #376

Regarding KATARSIS, I agree it's a mish-mash that's painful to watch at times.  We're probably lucky that anything at all has survived to view, but I wish we could see the original 87m version.  The added crime filler scenes and narration in the shorter, re-edited version really detract from whatever macabre atmosphere the filmmakers were trying for in the original version.  I take it that the clip you posted (of people dancing/partying) is from the original film, but I think even that is a bit of a chore to sit through.  How long can you watch people goofing around and acting silly?  (I wonder if any of them were a bit intoxicated, too?)  

An old thread on the Latarnia Forums speculates that the longer version included a striptease, which is now cut from the shorter version.  Notice that in your clip Bella Cortez is dancing around in pants and blouse.  If you watch the next scene or two after your clip ends, all the cast is standing at a table, and Ms. Cortez's blouse is unbuttoned and open.  I imagine the striptease happened and then we're seeing the aftermath, showing her in a bit of dishevel as she gets her clothes back on.  I'd be surprised if her striptease had actual nudity; I would think it would have been more along the lines of the striptease scene in PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE.  It seems odd that, for the re-edit/re-release, a risque scene was removed and the filler scenes were added.  Not a smart choice if you want to sell tickets at the box office.  

And speaking of Bella Cortez, I'd love to see an interview with her talking about her memories of this film, GIANT OF METROPOLIS, VULCAN SON OF JUPITER, etc.  There's an old interview here, though she mainly talks about the frustrations of not receiving residuals.
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Bob Meyer
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July 16th, 2018, 8:06 pm #377

Mike... The clip is from the actual KATARSIS, and you’re right about the abrupt cut ending the “orgy” – Miss Cortez has her bra on but isn’t fully dressed, meaning, yep – probably a tame striptease.  The acting (or probably more fairly, the direction of the actors) is awful long before this scene, with the kids constantly drinking and acting like they’re about to fall over all the time.  The narration constantly refers to how drunk they are through most of the movie.

In terms of what was cut out overall, later in the movie the gang is put through all sorts of “horrors” - which are just them acting crazy in reaction to who knows what, but there’s some weird stuff at the end with glass walls and falling into a grimy basement.  Their clothes get instantly much more dirty and torn between simple cuts between shots, so my guess is a lot of what was cut out of KATARSIS was some of this “scary” material.
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Bob Meyer
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Joined: January 12th, 2011, 3:25 am

July 16th, 2018, 8:08 pm #378

evilskippy wrote: I really do enjoy this krimi, as it falls into the upper tier for me. Even though the mad doctor is actually essential to the "rationale" of the movie, it does feel like two movies grafted into one. I don't have a lot of interest in the film when it veers away from the wonderfully Gothic aspect of the Executioners.
SPOILER:  Yep, it's funny that the cops capture Dr. Maniac with all the evidence they need, but the Executioners still kidnap him and put him on trial at the end!
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Bob Meyer
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Joined: January 12th, 2011, 3:25 am

July 17th, 2018, 12:41 am #379

1963 - DAS GEHEIMNIS DER SCHWARZEN WITWE  (THE SECRET OF THE BLACK WIDOW)

Secret of the Black Widow.jpg
West Germany-Spain.  Released in Spain as LA ARAÑA NEGRA (“The Black Spider”).

Directed by Franz Josef Gottlieb.  Written by Alexandra Becker, Rolf Becker, José Luis Guarner (Spanish version), and José María Otero (Spanish version), from Louis Weinert-Wilton’s novel “The Queen of the Night”.

The Story:  A series of poison-dart murders by a killer the London press has dubbed “The Black Widow” is targeting the members of a wealthy trust – all members of an expedition years before that discovered a trove of Aztec gold.  A newspaper reporter bucks the orders of his editor and gets to work on finding the killer.


A well-paced, entertaining Krimi from Procusa-International Germania Film, the small independent film companies that brought us CARPET OF HORROR and supplied German funding for HYPNOSIS.  Like the latter film, this was also a co-production with a Spanish company and intended for both markets, but featuring many German actors familiar from the Rialto and CCC series.  This film was based on a novel by Louis Weinert-Wilton (who died in a concentration camp during the war), a Teutonic contemporary of writer Edgar Wallace, and who apparently had a thing about spiders – we’ve already seen the adaptation of his novel THE WHITE SPIDER, as well as CARPET OF HORROR.

We’re in London town (as usual) but our hero this time around is a newspaper reporter instead of a Scotland Yard Inspector.  German actor O.W. Fischer plays Welby, a usually tipsy and kind of annoying reporter for The London Sensation who, true to cliché, angers his boss by chasing after the big murder story against orders.  Welby is a little unusual as the lead character in a Krimi - not only is he slightly drunk most of the time (and proudly so), but he’s also the movie’s comic relief character, the presence of Krimi Komedy regular Eddi Arent notwithstanding.  Plus, he’s rather arrogant and obnoxious (again, proudly so).  Although I didn’t like him much at first, I came around to enjoy Fischer’s characterization by the end.  He’s very animated and reminded me a little of James Garner.  One thing that doesn’t sit too well in this day and age is his ongoing sexual harassment of heroine Karin Dor (not to mention the fact that he’s genuinely old enough to be her father).  

Matters are further complicated for Welby by his boss (Werner Peters) being a potential victim for the Black Widow Killer.  He was one of a group of explorers who, a decade earlier, discovered a fortune in Aztec gold.  Unfortunately, the expedition’s leader died under mysterious circumstances before they all returned to London to split the loot.  The man was supposedly killed by a black widow spider, and now it seems someone is exacting revenge for his death.  The method of the killings is fun: an air gun that shoots a poison dart festooned with a plastic spider.  What’s more fun is that The Black Widow Killer makes sure to shoot each victim point-blank in the face!  

A couple of stray observations:

It’s interesting to see how many of these Krimis, almost always set in London, often center around the riverfront, with Hamburg and the Elbe river substituting for the London dockworks along the Thames.  Good, stirring boat chase at the end of this one.

This is the first movie I’ve seen that recognizes the disconnect between its London location and the fact that signs, notes, or newspapers are usually in German.  In this case, the note given to our London victims reads “Sprich oder Sterb” ("Confess or Die").  In the English dub, one of them asks why the note is in German, and another says it’s probably meant to throw them off the trail of the killer’s identity.  A small detail, but I appreciated the effort.

It’s always fun to learn about songs featured in movies that were released as hit singles (or, umm…as just singles…the couple of terrible songs Hammer hoped would hit big come to mind).  In this case, it’s the title song sung in the film in a swanky nightclub (instead of the juke joint usually featured in these movies).  It’s sung in German in its entirety in the English dub, and an excuse is added into the dialogue to explain why…somebody on this production believed in attention to detail.

Secret of the Black Widow single.jpg
Director F.J. Gottlieb (THE CURSE OF THE YELLOW SNAKE, THE BLACK ABBOT) shows some imagination in several shots, but is defeated in many by the weird way this print was cropped to full screen - instead of panning & scanning, it just jump-cuts from one part of the frame to the other…very jarring.  Among the familiar faces in the cast - Dor, Peters, and Arent - is Klaus Kinski, and I had to chuckle a little when he’s introduced wearing a Savile Row suit and bowler hat…that’s just so not the Klaus we know and love.

I’ve got this on a Sinister Cinema DVD-R cropped and dubbed, but it looks like the dubbed print is also on YouTube.

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Bob Meyer
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Joined: January 12th, 2011, 3:25 am

Today, 2:03 am #380

1963 - LA VERGINE DI NORIMBERGA  (HORROR CASTLE)

Virgin of Nuremberg.jpg
Italy.  Literal Title: “The Virgin of Nuremberg”.  Released in the UK as THE CASTLE OF TERROR and in the U.S. as HORROR CASTLE.

Directed by Antonio Margheriti (as “Anthony Dawson”).  Written by Margheriti (as “Anthony Dawson”), Ernesto Gastaldi  (as “Gastad Green”), and Edmond T. Gréville, from Frank Bogart’s novel.

The Story:  A new bride accompanies her husband on a visit to his ancestral castle home.  Soon after arriving, she encounters strange goings-on and what may be a murderous fiend dressed as a mediaeval executioner, who the staff believes is the ghost of the castle’s former master.


I should start this review by stating that the movie was greatly let down by the quality of the print I watched.  I had recorded this off of Turner Classic Movies a while back, but couldn’t stay with it because the image had been very heavily altered with what I’m assuming was an attempt at digital “restoration”.  So, I figured the Sinister Cinema DVD-R would be better and got that.  Well, Sinister’s offering is a faded (and cropped) print in pretty bad shape - but at least it looks like an actual film, so I stuck with it.  It’s watchable, but I’m guessing this movie looked really good in scope and full color.  On the plus side, I watched it during a conveniently-timed lightning and thunder storm, so that helped.

Dark and Stormy Night.jpg
The movie definitely kicks off on a dark and stormy night, with Gothic atmosphere to spare - a woman wandering around in a nightdress, a dark castle decorated with swords on the wall, suits of armor, and a chamber devoted entirely to mediaeval tools of torture including a so-called “Nuremberg Virgin” (better known around these parts as an “Iron Maiden” < insert Bill & Ted quote here > ) complete with a woman’s bloody corpse inside.  This is all before the opening credits!

The story that follows is fairly standard fare for what you’d expect from a Gothic horror of this kind, fairly predictable, but still a good time.  The statuesque Rossana Podestà (1956’s HELEN OF TROY) is Mary, our heroine, and - although prone to fainting dead away - she’s a fairly strong character and a smart and sensible gal.  Her husband Max, played by French actor Georges Rivière (who we’ll encounter again in next year’s CASTLE OF BLOOD) is protective but condescending and…acting very strangely.  Christopher Lee is the long-standing castle butler, a Prussian-type scarred both physically and perhaps mentally by the war.

The main centerpiece of the movie’s set design is what I guess we’d have to call the castle’s “torture museum” with nasty devices from the middle ages including, of course, the title sarcophagus-like contraption.  There's also a frightful bit of business with a rat-occupied piece of headgear, a-la Orwell’s “1984”.  The castle boasts a life-size wax figure of its once (and future?) master, dressed in the red and black tunic of a mediaeval executioner…which makes for some nice surprises when an identically-dressed figure starts stalking the corridors.  The basic question is - “who’s the mad killer?”  Could be Rivière, could be Lee, could be the ghost of the Old Master, or maybe hubby is right and our heroine just has an over-active imagination and needs to lie down for a little while.  Of course, it’s all resolved at the end in a fairly traditional way, although the film asks for a bit of sympathy for our bloodthirsty murderer.

Among the notable elements of the movie is the music, which is very jazzy at times and I’m assuming meant to better fit the contemporary (but very Gothic) setting.  And a weird thing - I swear that the main theme sounds a whole lot like “Music To Watch Girls By”, which wasn’t recorded by Bob Crewe until three years later (the similarity was really distracting for some reason, but that’s my problem and not composer Riz Ortolani’s).  A much weirder thing: the movie actually manages to work in documentary footage of Adolph Hitler in a flashback!  That was kind of unexpected.  The film is set in Germany, but there’s an FBI agent prowling the grounds and I don’t think it’s ever explained exactly why he’s there.  We also have a rapidly-flooding dungeon chamber much like those we’ve seen in more than one Krimi.

Not a great movie, but still fun.  One of the early efforts by the prolific director Antonio Margheriti and the even more prolific writer Ernesto Gastaldi.  We've come across movies adapted from the yellow "giallo" paperbacks so popular in Italy, and this movie was adapted from a series of 1960's Italian lurid and salacious pulp Gothic novels published by Edizione KKK.  "La Vergine di Noremberga" was the 23rd novel in the long-running series and written by "Frank Bogart" who, according to Roberto Curti's "Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1957-1969", was a pseudonym for Madalena Gui.

Virgin of Nuremberg - Book.jpg

As mentioned above, I watched a really ragged, washed-out, cropped and dubbed print (under the title HORROR CASTLE).  The same print is on YouTube:

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