Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Barbara Steele is Rising from the Grave Again

Good news in today's mail box from David Gregory of Severin Films:


Gothic horror fans will be delighted to know that Severin Films will be giving the first official DVD release to the 1965 Barbara Steele chiller NIGHTMARE CASTLE/THE FACELESS MONSTER (original title: Amanti d’oltretomba, or "Lovers Beyond The Tomb"). The original negative has recently been discovered in a Rome storage vault and apparently in good condition. We will be doing a new HD transfer in its original aspect ratio, so all those super cheap bootleg DVDs taken from 10th generation TV prints can now be discarded forever. The film was directed by Mario Caiano, a veteran of all the great Italian exploitation genres including Spaghetti Westerns (MMY NAME IS SHANGHAI JOE/BULLETS DON'T ARGUE), Pepla (ULYSSES AGAINST HERCULES/GOLIATH AND THE REBEL SLAVE) and Poliziatesci (Napoli Spara/Milano Violenta). Caiano is still very much with us, and we recently shot a great interview with the 75 year old master at his home just outside of Rome. NIGHTMARE CASTLEe also showcases the very first horror score by the legendary Ennio Morricone, and the beautiful black & white cinematography comes courtesy of Enzo Barboni, who would later strike gold as the director of the 'Trinity' westerns starring Terence Hill and Bud Spencer. We’re very excited to be releasing this uncut, uncensored and unsung hit of Italian horror history, which after years of bootleg abominations will now find its rightful place alongside the other Barbara Steele classics like Bava’s BLACK SUNDAY and Margheriti’s CASTLE OF BLOOD. This is NIGHTMARE CASTLE as it truly has never been seen before.

I'm quite excited about this pending release, which for the record also stars fan favorites Helga Liné and Paul Müller, but its presentation begs some comment. First of all, that MONSTERS AT PLAY quote -- it's not only an unwarranted shot at the Maestro, it's ungrammatical.

More importantly, I think Severin is doing this important release an inadvertent disservice by referring to any restored and uncut version with runamuck titles like NIGHTMARE CASTLE and THE FACELESS MONSTER. NIGHTMARE CASTLE was the abortive US cut of Caiano's film, which was bluntly shortened by a couple of reels; it was the worst, most incoherent importation of any Italian horror film EVER -- so bad, in fact, it ought to be preserved alongside the original cut for posterity's sake. As for THE FACELESS MONSTER, it was the title given to a more complete but still censored version issued in the UK. Retromedia Entertainment attached it to their release of the uncut version, which would have been nice if they hadn't tampered with the audio track, adding new sound effects. So any way you look at them, NIGHTMARE CASTLE and THE FACELESS MONSTER are bad memories.
The uncut export edition of this movie is known as NIGHT OF THE DOOMED, and as a fan who not only remembers but loves this stuff (the audience Severin is courting), my gut reaction is to view any copy bearing the title NIGHTMARE CASTLE with a measure of suspicion. I'm sure it's not warranted in this case, but the people handling these releases need to be sensitive about such things. Nevertheless, I wish Severin Films all the best with what promises to be an exciting new release.
A photo from the film which Barbara inscribed to our late friend Alan Upchurch.
The uncut version, whether you call it Amanti d'oltretomba or NIGHT OF THE DOOMED, is an important title from the Italian Golden Age pantheon, and one of Barbara Steele's best star vehicles. Not a notch on BLACK SUNDAY, of course, but it is significant as the only horror film for which Steele dubbed her own performance (one of her dual roles) -- and the news about the discovery of the original negative element is wonderful. Just to know that people over there are looking for such things is wonderful.


1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:36 AM

    much thanks to severin, for this gem.Barbara as always is incredible.Please find her other great films and cont...The Legacy.


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