Written by: George Pacheco on March 4th, 2015
Theatrical Release Dates: Spain, 1973
Director: Eugenio Martin
Writers: Eugenio Martin, Antonio Fos
Cast: Esperanza Roy, Aurora Bautista, Judy Geeson, Lone Fleming
DVD Release Date: February 24th, 2015
Approximate Running Time: 87 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby English Mono English
DVD Release: Scorpion Releasing
Region Encoding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
This late seventies Spanish horror gem has gone under a number of titles over the years, with many American audiences knowing the film under its title of It Happened at Nightmare Inn. This new transfer from Scorpion Releasing represents the first time A Candle for the Devil has hit home video in an uncut format, however, complete with a new master in high definition.
The film itself is a tense and gripping tale of sexual repression and murder as a young British woman-played by the winsome and likeable Judy Geeson (Goodbye Gemini)-who arrives at a small Spanish inn to meet her sister, only to find those in charge to be uncooperative and secretive as to her whereabouts, particularly the elder sister Veronica. The innkeeper holds very specific ideas of what is and isn’t “proper” sexual and ethical behavior, and is prone to violent outbursts at any who defy those twisted and judgmental ideals.
Tempers flare and boil over as a bus full of young, attractive tourists enter the town, one of which-played by the stunning Lone Fleming, known for her work in Amando de Ossorio’s Blind Dead series-particularly challenges Veronica’s self control. Meanwhile, Veronica’s sister Marta is having an affair with a much younger assistant at the inn, placing herself squarely in the sights of her possessed sister, while Geeson’s character grows increasingly suspicious of the murderous goings on behind the inn’s quaint, local facade…
A Candle for the Devil is a fantastic slice of Spanish horror cinema, thanks primarily to the strengths of its cast, not one of which hampers or drags down this film for a moment. Instead, the performances are universally good, even from such ancillary characters as Fleming’s, in particular Esperanza Roy as the vicious yet oddly sympathetic Veronica. The dynamic of the two innkeeper sisters is a joy to watch, and holds up well to repeated viewings, while all of Martin’s screenplay subplots are thoughtful and executed to near perfection.
Themes of religion, self-loathing, repression and ageism are all brought to the forefront in that screenplay, elevated to classic 70s cinema status on the backs of this film’s rock solid direction and bulletproof performances. Quite simply, A Candle for the Devil is a must for anyone remotely interested in classic Spanish horror and wants to see it delivered in a brooding, measured and atmospheric manner.
Scorpion Releasing’s DVD of A Candle for the Devil is a revelatory example of the results boutique labels can achieve with the proper dedication and hard work. The transfer here is present in a crisp and sharp anamorphic widescreen print, with saturated colors and deep, dark blacks. Scorpion is also gearing up to release this film on Blu-Ray, which promises to improve upon this already perfect picture. The film’s English dub is also up to snuff, with only one instance where there was no audio set to the actor’s mouth movements, although this was likely due to the original dub track, rather than any fault of Scorpion’s.
Extras include a great interview with star Judy Geeson, detailing her career before, during and after A Candle for the Devil while also discussing the actress’ relationship with her fans, as well as plenty of behind the scenes info for the Candle shoot. The film’s original trailer is also included, while the DVD itself can be viewed in “Katarina’s Nightmare Theater” mode, where hostess Katarina Leigh Waters introduces the film with anecdotes and background info.
Overall, Scorpion Releasing gets prime marks for this bootleg-smashing release of A Candle for the Devil.
Note: This film is also being released by Scorpion Releasing on Blu-Ray.