Friday, October 23, 2009

Halloween Horrors 22 - 23 Crimson Executioners From the Grave!

Pacemaker sure knew how to package a double feature...what wall is complete without THAT artwork making it a brighter, funkier and more terrifying surface than one could dare dream of? So, I was inspired to recreate this double bill after the urge to revisit the realm of The Crimson Executioner struck. Bloody Pit of Horror is one of my favorite berserk 60s cinematic gems and I had never seen Terror Creatures From The Grave. Watching the films back to back was an amazing experience! Individually they are both a great time, but once you match them together, they are not only fun and crazy-but Eurotrash fans will enjoy looking at two films made by one man that share what appears to be very little between them.
So...on with the show.

Terror Creatures From The Grave, a lurid retitling of Five Graves For A Medium, is a solid Gothic style shocker that has a lot of small parts that make the whole a recommended experience. Some surprisingly violent episodes match up nicely with a unique twist on the typical haunted group of potential sleaze bags stories that usually take place in a spooky castle!

Albert (Walter Brandi) is a lawyer that finds himself at a spooky estate where the owner has left behind a beautiful widow (Barbara Steele) as well as other bizarre servants such as Kurt (Luciano Pigozzi looking young and scary) and hangers on as well. The one year anniversary of his death is approaching and everyone is looking for a piece of the money. That is all well and good, but there is this little matter of a bunch of severed hands hanging out in a glass case in the hall. That is NEVER a good sign when you are wandering around a black and white film in a castle.
Well, I'd pass on sleeping anywhere that keeps these specific hands, because they belong(ed?) to a group of "plague givers" that were intentionally killing off the locals back in the day. If there are ghosts afoot, I'd prefer they don't have the insta-death touch. And they do!

It all comes to a crashing finale when we realize that the deceased Baron Hauff is not kidding when his recorded voice intones "I've summoned them from their graves and now I am one of them" over and over. And I must admit, that particular sequence I found very exciting even though it does not lead directly to any gory action. It sets a great tone for the viewer not to be sure exactly what is happening until Massimo Pupillo decides to rip the roof off and just start killing everyone with an uprising of plague bearing ghosts!! Ah...Barbara Steele, nothing is as effective as marring her beauty to get a reaction!

Terror Creatures From Beyond The Grave is a great bit of Black and White Eurohorror that revels in spooky atmosphere, strange characters, strange behavior, a great score and some familiar faces to keep the audience on the edge of their seat. I was really impressed by not only the style, but the story-something that is lost on me in some gothic styled films. The history of the house and the events are intriguing and the solution to "is he really dead" is handled incredibly well. Not just well, but WEIRD.... Plus, Barbara Steele in the tub? Yeah, you want that. I sure do... A spooky Halloween treat for EuroHorror heads. The US DVD is apparently cut by a little bit and rather ugly looking, but I'll take it the best I can get it for now-certainly worth a rewatch if ever a nice definitive version is released.
So, Massimo Pupillo, director of gothic horrors...a subtle guy. Not afraid to splash a little blood around, but still...subtle and textured and a teller of layered tales. 1965 was fairly late in the game so he was probably ready wait wait. He directed one of my all time favorite horrors that has NO subtlety at all. THE SAME YEAR??? Welcome to my head clonking moment of the year and a wonderful time to rewatch a great TALE OF TORTURE...yes...THE BLOODY PIT OF HORROR.
But...the same director?

"Mankind is made up of inferior creatures, spiritually and physically deformed, who would have corrupted the harmony of my perfect body!"-Travis Anderson, all around loon and Crimson Executioner on weekends.

If I need to give you a synopsis of The Bloody Pit of Horror you just need to go watch it right now. This is prime gonzola out of controlla fun. Briefly, a bunch of models and their photographer are looking for bizarre places to shoot their sexy pictures. This is good, because we have sexy women in various states of disrobe and costume prancing about. Too bad for them that the prologue sequence showed us the demise of THE CRIMSON EXECUTIONER and we know his body is around them somewhere. They cross paths with the Striped Shirt Henchmen having Travis Anderson, who is played with all the delicacy of a meat cleaver striking a water balloon by Mickey Hargitay. In a clever twist, Anderson played in "muscle movies" and has a fantastic body...hmm... the only problem is, he is a little odd. Or a lot, because he doesn't like the impurity the women bring and decides to strap on his de Sade underoos and become The Crimson Executioner '65 edition. And those torture traps all work....

A lot of stuff happens and there is a little bit of plot involving Anderson's Ex-Wife the model finding her way here accidentally, but you won't worry about that. Everything is insane in this film, from the mysterious Batman like villainy of The Crimson Executioner (why does he have henchmen living in the castle), the ranting of Hargitay done to perfection, the beautiful women, the weird torture devices and a manic pace that I adore. The set piece with the ridiculous mechanical spider threatening Moa Tahi (who I saw recently in a few EuroSpy films!) is incredible. Webs on the walls, a trap on the floor and a beautiful woman hanging around terrorized just too much and reminds me why I love this kind of film. Even the decor is crimson, look for red chairs, red candles, red bannisters...The house of The Crimson Executioner drips the fluids of life...and don't get me started on The Lover of Death! Brilliant.

Bloody Pit Of Horror is a must see. Absurdly fetishistic, obnoxiously loud and utterly charming, I can't push you towards it enough. And to those who know how great it is, watch it again this Halloween!!

But what of the strange case of Massimo Pupillo in 1965? I still need to see a third film to really understand it and I can't find anything on La vendetta di Lady Morgan to check it out sadly. But looking at the plot and the cast which is a stunner and includes Erika Blanc, Gordon Mitchell and Paul Muller it sure is intriguing! Judging from these two films, Pupillo was a versatile guy that had a lot of warped ideas and could put across his vision, no matter how disparate they may seem on the surface, with a lot of style. Terror Creatures...feels like it was made 20 years earlier, while Bloody Pit could have been made at the very end of the 60s if not the early 70s and summed up not only the colorful horrors of Italy to come, but even the Batman television show, where Hargitay and his Crimson Executioner would have given The Joker a run for his hoo hoo hah hah!
I was amazed to see that someone could make a film inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and succeed, and then follow with a film inspired by Marquis de Sade and succeed as well. I don't know if even Jess Franco could have achieved that miracle.

Follow the poster at the top of this post...Double these up and be thankful for the gifts that a director that I could not have named a month ago has given us for all the ages... Your beautiful body...and mind...will never be the same!!

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