Monday, December 19, 2011

Faceless Monster, The - (1965)

The Faceless Monster
Gli Amanti d'oltretomba
Directed By Mario Caiano
Released: 1965
Starring: Barbara Steele, Paul Muller, Helga Liné, and Laurence Clift
Running Time: 100 minutes
DVD Studio: Retromedia

Muriel (played by Barbara Steele) and her lover are tortured and then murdered by her jealous husband Dr. Stephen Arrowsmith (Paul Miller). Stephen discovers that his wife left her fortune to her sister, Jenny (Barbara Steele again), so he gets her released from a mental hospital in order to marry her. His plan is to drive Jenny insane with the assistance of his maid and mistress, Solange (Helga Liné). Jenny begins to experience horrific visions and acts as though she were possessed by Muriel. When the meddling Dr. Joyce (Laurence Clift) shows up to check on Jenny's condition and discovers the hearts of Muriel and her lover, he unwittingly sets the two spirits free to exact their revenge on Stephen.

This incredibly convoluted plot belongs to a fantastic exercise in gothic atmosphere and overwrought horror movie clichés. The Faceless Monster is directed by the genre-hopping Mario Caiano (Eye In The Labyrinth, The Maniac Responsible) and features a grand musical score by Ennio Morricone. The cinematography is sharp and the direction is tight, although the editing leaves something to be desired. This black and white classic may be a little dry but its buildup is excellent and the finale is definitely worth the wait.

The Swiss born Muller (Lady Frankenstein, Vampyros Lesbos) is perfectly cast as the evil Dr. Arrowsmith as is genre staple Helga Liné (When the Screaming Stops, Horror Rises from the Tomb) as his selfish assistant Solange. Of course, the real draw for horror fans is the presence of the unparalleled Barbara Steele (The Long Hair of Death, The Pit and the Pendulum). For my money, her presence alone is worth watching just about any film but her performance (yet another dual role) in The Faceless Monster is awesome. In fact, the only person who struggles in the film is leading man (if we can call him that) Laurence Clift as the snore-inducing Dr. Derrick Joyce.

Without a doubt, The Faceless Monster delivers. This film has got a mad scientist, a bleeding plant, a youth serum, weird sounds, acid torture, secret passages, a trippy dream sequence, immolation, ghosts, electrocutions, you name it! The only things missing are a black cat and a haunted suit of armor. Barbara Steele fans will be giddy with The Faceless Monster and 60s horror fans will dig the heavy atmosphere and the bizarre plot. Before you die, you see the Steele.

DVD Stuff

For some reason, this film is available under a number of names: (most commonly) Nightmare Castle, Night Of The Doomed, Lovers From Beyond The Tomb, etc. Unfortunately, it is also available in a number of cut versions. The DVD from Retromedia, while not the greatest in visual quality, is uncut and very affordable (if you can still find it). The print is in 1.66:1 widescreen and although it is not anamorphic, it is definitely watchable.

No comments: