Fernando Di Leo, 1971
Starring: Klaus Kinski, Margaret Lee, Rosalba Neri
At an old mansion in the country, mentally disturbed women are being treated for a variety of disorders. Unfortunately a killer is on the loose, using the house’s display of medieval weapons to dispatch the women one at a time. Is he a homicidal maniac? Or does he have other motives? The patients likely to be targeted include a suicidal woman who owns a successful business and is having an affair with one of the doctors, a nymphomaniac, a lesbian nurse, a violent woman recently dropped off by her fed up husband, and much more.
The Beast Kills in Cold Blood aka Slaughter Hotel is a stylish, Gothic-flavored blend of giallo and Eurocult that was – very, very loosely – attempting to cash in on serial killer Richard Speck’s massacre of eight nurses in a California hospital… though you won’t get to this unintentionally hilarious scene till the bitter end of the film. And don’t make the mistake of expecting a straightforward giallo, as Slaughter Hotel is only loosely connected to this arty subgenre.
Between the scantily clad women often begging for sex to the inexplicable array of medieval weapons and torture devices just lying around the castle, this has more in common with a Jess Franco film than it does with Dario Argento’s work – a fact I’m not sad about. There is almost a total absence of plot or character development and director Ferdinando Di Leo focuses on scenes of the half-dressed patients lounging around a Gothic castle with some moments of intrigue and seemingly random shots of a hooded, black-gloved killer sneaking into bedrooms to kill – or think about killing – the women with some of the medieval weapons at his disposal, including an axe, mace, scythe, and even a crossbow.
It takes the staff and residents of the hospital seemingly forever to figure out that there’s a killer in their midst (actually, it’s the death by crossbow) – but I would also be distracted if most of my day involved having sexual liaisons with the staff members, getting massages, playing board games, and taking baths. Those expecting a more traditional giallo will likely be shocked by the sheer amount of softcore erotica on display, including numerous close-up vaginal shots of women masturbating. There are lots of babes in this film – I read somewhere that the actresses were Di Leo’s favorite part of directing Slaughter Hotel – including familiar faces like Margaret Lee (The Bloody Judge, Venus in Furs), Rosalba Neri (Amuck, The French Sex Murders), and Jane Garret in her only role.
Obviously most cult fans will be attracted to this title because of maniacal star Klaus Kinski. He doesn’t play as big of a role as you’d think and implausibly appears as a long-haired romantic lead. Though he’s a doctor at the estate, much of his time is spent wooing a patient and chain-smoking nervously. SPOILER: His reputation is used here as a major red herring. Though he is innocent of the murders, the plot seems constantly on the verge of revealing his guilt. Kinski is unfortunately wooden here, with very little to do, but he’s always a welcome presence.
Available on DVD, Slaughter Hotel comes recommended for fans of Klaus Kinski and Eurotrash. It doesn’t quite work as a giallo – though the death scenes are obviously modeled after this style – but the unintentionally humorous, often over-the-top moments will please anyone who enjoys more obscure horror. The film’s alternate title, Asylum Erotica, pretty much hits the nail on the head in terms of what you should expect from Italian crime film master Ferdinando Di Leo’s sole attempt at a giallo.