Wednesday, September 2, 2015

NIGHTMARE CASTLE (1965) (Severin Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: Severin Films

Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 104 Minutes
Rating: Unrated 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1) 
Director: Mario Caiano
Cast: Barbara Steele, Paul Muller, Helga Line, Rik Battaglia 

Nightmare Castle is a solid black and white Italian creeper dripping with atmosphere and the unearthly charms of horror queen Barbara Steele (Pirahna) who portrays Muriel, the cheating wife of scientist Stephen Arrowsmith (Paul Muller, Vampyros Lesbos), a somewhat deranged doc whom rightfully suspects his wife of the infidelity, catching in the arms of her lover David (Rik Battaglia) in the green house. Arrowsmith incapacitates them before chaining them to a wall in the basement dungeon, where he subjects to a myriad of prolonged tortures through starvation, burning and lashings of the whip. In agony each begs for death, the end comes by way of disfiguring his unfaithful wife with acid, before electrocuting them both, but not before she curses him and reveals that she he is not the heir to her fortune, from which he has benefited from for years, after er death her half-sister Jenny (Barbara Steele, again) will inherit the estate and fortune.

Arrowsmith's aged house maid Solange (Helga Liné) is complicit in the crime and is rewarded for her allegiance with a blood-transfusion of Muriel's blood, which when treated to with electricity, somehow rejuvenating the old crow into a gorgeous young woman. The issue with the inheritance going to Jenny proves not to be so much of a problem for the doc, whom Arrowsmith conveniently marries with a diabolical plan to drive her completely mad, thereby becoming the heir to the fortune. Things seem to be going according to plan with the unstable Jenny hearing her sister's voice and experiencing vivid nightmares,  when Arrowsmith brings in Dr. Derek Joyce (Marino Masé) to treat Jenny he becomes convinced that something supernatural is happening. 

Barbara Steele is quite good in the dual role of the cheating Muriel and her half sister Jenny, one a raven-haired seductress, the other troubled innocent. Steele takes front and center for the duration of the movie, changing from the erotic venom of Muriel to the haunted confusion of the more frail Jenny with ease. Muller as the jealous scientist driven to murder plays the role with a sinister charm, he's a right bastard of a man and easy to root against. 

Director Mario Caiano might not have the cinematic grace of someone like Mario Bava but he made an effective chiller just the same, a movie steeped in Gothic atmosphere with a few vital scenes of note, the dreamy nightmare sequences are very eerie with the early Morricone score working in their favor. The scenes of the bondage and  torture endured by the cheating lovers is pretty intense for period, maybe not quite shocking but a sweet bit of bondage exploitation that went further than I would have imagined. 

Audio/Video: The new HD restoration of the European 'Night of the Doomed' cut from Severin Films looks mighty fine, the black and white cinematography comes through smooth and with a natural layer of film grain, along with it there's some nice depth and fine detail present, with nice contrast and a dynamic gray scale. There are instances of white speckling a print damage from time to time but nothing awful.

The English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono comes through crisp and clean, it's a dubbed track but this does allow for the fans to hear Barbara Steele's actual voice. Ennio Morricone's score may not be among his best remembered but the nightmare sequences are definitely enhanced by it. 

Onto the extras we have quite a few, including the including two more Barbare Steele movie, new 2K HD scans of Antonio Margheriti's Gothic-terror Castle Blood (1964) and Massimo Pupillo's plague-shocker Terror Creatures from the Grave (1965). While the print are in much rougher shape than Nightmare Castle they are very nice widescreen presentations easily the best versions of either film I have seen.

Nightmare Castle gets an audio commentary with Barbara Steele and Horror Historian David Del Valle, the recording is not too specific to her time on the film and is more of a career retrospective, for fans of the horror icon this is quite a treat. There's even more still from Steel with the exclusive 'Barbara Steele In Conversation', a video interview with the starlet, again recounting her storied career. 

There are also an exclusive interview with Nightmare Castle director Mario Caiano, plus brand new featurettes for Blood Castle and Terror Creatures from the Grave, including deleted scenes for Terror Creatures. Trailers for all three films are included. 

Special Features: 

- Audio Commentary With Star Barbara Steele and Horror Historian David Del Valle
- Barbara Steele In Conversation Featurette (30 Mins) SD 
- Black, White and Red - Interview Featurette w. Director Mario Caiano (14 Mins) HD 
- Castle of Blood (1964) New 2k Scan Of Rare US 35mm Release Print (82 Mins) HD with English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono Audio 
- Terror Creatures from the Grave  2k Scan Of Rare US 35mm Release Print (84 Mins) HD with English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono Audio 
- A Dance of Ghosts: Castle of Blood Featurette w.Director Massimo Pupillo, Actor Riccardo Garrone, Film Historian Fabio Melelli (Italian with Optional English Subs) (17 Mins) HD
- Vengeance from Beyond: Featurette for Terror-Creatures from the Grave (26 Mins) HD
- Terror Creatures: Deleted Scenes (In French with Optional English Subs) (14 Mins) HD 
- Terror Creatures from the Grave Original Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) SD 
- Castle of Blood Original Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) SD 
- Nightmare Castle US Trailer (3 Mins) HD
- Nightmare Castle UK Trailer (1 Mins) HD

A fantastic release from Severin Films that should those with enthusiasm for Eurocult, Gothic horror or just fans of the erotically charged Barbara Steele, regardless of which this is a terrific package. A high recommend, if not just for the main feature and the excessive amount of quality extras on the disc keep in mind you're getting three HD Italian Barbara Steele movies for the price of one, that's a bargain. 3/5