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DVD Review: Castle of Blood

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Tap Dancing to Hell and a Pot o'Gold — Part One

"More hot chocolate please," I said to Chef Machiavelli.

He put down the large and very sharp looking knife he was using to fillet the eel for his incredible eel livornese, and refilled my cup. His hot chocolate is exquisite; filled with little lumps of white vanilla, a little anisette, and lots of dark, sweet chocolate, it's the perfect warmer-upper. I was sitting in the kitchen, waiting for the plumber to find the problem with our recalcitrant boiler. He was sure taking his time.

"I'll take a cup, too," Zombos said, joining us to bask in the warmth coming from the brick oven. "I wonder what's taking the plumber so long?"

"You did give him the map?" I asked.

"Yes, of course. I don't want to lose another plumber down there. They're skittish as it is. Lucky for us this fellow is new." He sipped his hot chocolate.

It was so hard trying to get plumbers to come out to the mansion; even harder keeping them once they saw our basement. The labyrinthine passages below us would give even Erik, the poor suffering phantom of the Paris Opera, a run for his money.

While we waited, I looked at the long, gleaming knife that Chef Machiavelli was using. I found it fascinating that a sharp implement can slice through atoms and molecules, severing their tenuous connections — and the whole concept of self-sharpening knives was beyond me.

"How's the time doing?" Zombos asked. We looked at our watches.

"Merda!" cursed Chef Machiavelli. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his eel-skin wallet. He handed Zombos five dollars.

"I'm still good," I said, as Zombos tucked the fiver into his shirt pocket with a grin.

"We'll see about that," he said with that awful grin. 

We had placed bets on when the plumber would be done, and Chef Machiavelli's chosen time had passed. I was still on target, though. I crossed my fingers.

"This wagering reminds me of that film, Castle of Blood, where the journalist bets he can stay in a haunted castle for the night," I said.

"I remember that film," Zombos said, sipping his hot chocolate. "The beautiful Barbara Steele is in it."

"Yes; and there's that gamboling fog-bound opening, as the journalist enters the Poor Devil Inn — how apropos," I said. "When he comes upon the table where Poe and the owner of the haunted castle are discussing the reality of the supernatural, he can't help but listen and take the wager of staying overnight in that place where no one has survived the night. Soon they're off to the castle, and the journalist's misadventure with the undead will soon begin."

Italian supernatural horror films are always atmospheric and filled with dread, from the music to the melodramatic storyline, and Antonio Margheritti directs Castle of Blood with classic Gothic imagery that becomes stronger when shown in black and white.

In this excellent Synapse DVD release cut scenes have been restored, leading to a slight issue with the English dubbing. Since these restored scenes were not dubbed, English subtitles are provided instead. It's a little disconcerting at first to suddenly switch from dubbed English to English subtitles, but the added scenes add much to the pacing and storyline, and are worth the small discontinuity they cause.

These scenes include more discussion between the journalist and Poe on matters of the unnatural, a subtle lesbian scene between two dead, but still frisky inhabitants of the castle, and a brief but purely gratuitous nudie-cutie scene. Aside from the well-written liner notes, not many extras are included on the DVD, but included are a still gallery, trailer, and alternate opening credits.

Arriving at the castle, our stalwart journalist, a man of reason and science, is about to have his wits reshuffled. Bad enough that he has to spend a night in a decaying castle on All Soul's Eve, but after pushing his way through the tall wrought iron gate, he has to walk through a wind-blown and fog-filled overgrown cemetery to make his way to the castle entrance.

And what the hell is that black cat doing jumping in between the tombstones? Playful black cats in cemeteries in the dead of night are always unsettling to me. The film hasn't kicked into gear yet and already my pants would be flying through the air and out the gate — with me in them. The journalist continues onward, however, and he pokes around in the empty horse stable for a few minutes.

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