Monday, April 7, 2014


Jean Brismée, 1971
Starring: Erika Blanc, Jean Servais, Jacques Monseau, Ivana Novak, Lorenzo Terzon

On a stormy night in the midst of a battle during WWII, a Baroness gives birth to a baby girl, but dies during labor. Her husband, a high ranking Nazi, is heartbroken by her death. For some reason he sends the nurse away when he learns the baby is a girl, and kills the infant with a sword. Many years later, a busload of seven tourists are stranded when their bus breaks down and must take shelter in a nearby castle. It turns out to be the Baron’s mostly isolated castle, though he lives there with a few servants.

Years before SEVEN mined similar territory, the tourists represent the Seven Deadly Sins: a glutinous bus driver who won’t stop eating, a prideful priest, a woman who exercises her sloth by spending the whole film in bed, a lusty husband, a greedy wife obsessed with money, a very angry old man, and a woman who experiences a lot of envy. During the night a beautiful red-headed woman appears, asking for shelter. The Baron reluctantly admits her, but she’s not all that she seems and begins bumping off the guests one by one…

Yet another European movie where a stranded group must take shelter in a haunted castle, there are elements of the medieval morality play, some exploitation, a touch of erotica, and some dumb, yet hilarious dialogue. The Devil’s Nightmare is ostensibly not a film that takes itself very seriously, but is a lot of fun regardless. There are some slow moments during the second act, so this primarily comes recommended for fans of Eurohorror. Anyone into “old dark house” movies – or “old dark castle” in this case – will also find a lot to enjoy.

There’s more Gothic atmosphere and ladies in diaphanous nightgowns than gore and there effects are pretty silly. Though the direction isn’t particularly inspired, there’s plenty of lovely atmosphere, even at times when characters are inexplicably carrying candles around the well-lit castle. There are dark and stormy nights, a laboratory, torture chamber, and plenty of shadowy corners and labyrinthine chambers.

Also known as The Devil’s Longest Night, The Devil Walks at Midnight, Succubus, Vampire Playgirls, and Castle of Death, this Belgian-Italian film is full of some thoroughly unlikable characters. Even if it is impossible to relate to or sympathize with any of them, there’s a lot of entertainment in their gradual death scenes, many of which match up with the particular vice the characters are responsible for.

Actually shot in a castle in Belgium, there are some fun, imaginative death scenes, including a defenestration, a woman falling into an iron maiden, another woman sinking in a pile of gold coins as if it were quicksand, a decapitation, death by snake, and more. The film does rely more on sex and exploitation than violence. In addition to several scantily clad female characters, there’s a lesbian affair and a scene where two married characters sneak off to have sex.

Erika Blanc (The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave), a memorable, if minor figure of ‘70s European horror, is used to great effect as the eighth visitor and the succubus. To get a small, but fairly obvious spoiler out of the way, she turns up because of the Baron von Rhoneberg’s family curse. It decrees that each descendant’s eldest daughter will become a succubus in Satan’s employ, so even though he killed his infant daughter, she returned anyway as a satanic temptress. Blanc is excellent in this role and alternates between glamorous and ghoulish with a minimal, but careful application of makeup that turns her into the succubus’s demonic aspect. She tries to seduce a priest in the memorable conclusion, which also reveals a somewhat annoying twist. And for anyone else who’s seen the film, what the hell is with the fencing match at the end of the film?

Dialogue-heavy with lots of exposition, The Devil’s Nightmare is a flawed, but fun example of Eurohorror. Aside from Blanc and Belgian actor Jean Serais (Rififi), there aren’t a lot of good performances from a roster of fairly obscure genre actors, including Daniel Emilfork (Kill!), Lorenzo Terzon (Lady Frankenstein), Shirley Corrigan (Dr. Jekyll and the Werewolf), and more. There are, however, a lot of unintentional laughs. Redemption released this on DVD. If you can ignore the horrible cover (Redemption used to have the worst covers in all of horror/exploitation distribution) and stupid intro, it’s worth picking up. Otherwise, just watch it streaming online. 

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