Sunday, June 25, 2017

Steele Crazy After All These Years: "Nightmare Castle" (1966)



Horror legend Barbara Steele takes a dual role in this cornball, "gory" Gothic story that is screaming for a remake.

Unfeeling cynic Stephen (Paul Muller) is one of those movie scientists who spends the entire running time of a motion picture excusing himself to go to his laboratory, working on generic experiments. His shrewish wife Muriel (Barbara Steele) is dallying with stable boy/handyman David (Rik Battaglia), and the two are discovered and murdered by Dr. Stephen. In the background lurks Solange (Helga Line), an elderly woman (sporting terrible old age make-up). Stephen drains Muriel's blood, burns the couple's bodies, and then goes in search of Jenny (also Barbara Steele), Muriel's look-alike sibling.

It seems Muriel changed her will so that Jenny inherits everything, and lucky for our villainous doctor, Jenny is nuts. Quicker than you can check the running time on the film, Stephen has married Jenny and brings her home, where she meets Solange, who is suddenly younger looking. Solange and Stephen decide to poison Jenny, sparking a return of her insanity, but there's a problem- Jenny has a "nightmare," and sees outlandish things, but had not taken any of the solution Stephen prepared. Is she crazy on her own, reacting to a very real haunted castle? Or has Muriel come back from the dead to possess Jenny's body? A visit from Jenny's old hunky doctor Dereck (Marino Mase) should clear up all of these questions.

"Nightmare Castle" is one of those films in the public domain, meaning anyone can grab and show a copy. There are a variety of running times, cast and crew pseudonyms, and picture quality prints out there. When you find a copy of this (I counted at least six different versions on YouTube alone, but screened a cheap DVD version for review) you need to take all of this into account. This isn't a very good film by any means, but Caiano uses his limited resources to the extreme. The set is nicely decorated, the shadowy cinematography works, and Caiano does some nice things with his camera. The small cast and castle setting make this feel stagy at times. The performers' performances are hard to judge since the dubbing on the film is atrocious. Ennio Morricone delivers an odd score.

"Nightmare Castle" is passable time-filler, in all it's versions. Not scary or great, but it could make you reminisce about the long-gone late late shows on independent television stations. The film contains physical violence and gore. (* *) out of five stars. Buy it here!: Nightmare Castle [Blu-ray]

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