Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 18th, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, December 30th, 1964
Director: Antonio Margheriti
Writers: Ernesto Gastaldi, Antonio Margheriti, Tonino Valerii
Cast: Barbara Steele, George Ardisson, Halina Zalewska, Umberto Raho, Laura Nucci, Giuliano Raffaelli, Nello Pazzafini, Jeffrey Darcey
BluRay Released: December 16th, 2014
Approximate running time: 96 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Italian, DTS-HD Mono English
BluRay Release: Raro Video USA
Region Encoding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.98
Synopsis: A woman is wrongfully accused of being a witch and burned at the stake. So her eldest daughter proclaims a curse on the prominent family that is behind her mothers’ death. Unfortunately for her not everyone want to the truth to be known and her outspokenness leads to the eldest daughter’s own untimely death. Flash forward a few years later, when a mysterious woman (who looks oddly familiar) arrives while the town is besieged by a plague.
The Long Hair of Death was co-written and directed by Antonio Margheriti, who other Gothic Horror films include, The Virgin of Nuremberg and Castle of Blood. Key collaborators on The Long Hair of Death include screenwriters Ernesto Gastaldi (The Horrible Dr. Hichcock, The Whip and the Body) and Tonino Valerii (My Dear Killer) and composer Carlo Rustichelli (Blood and Black Lace, Kill Baby, Kill).
Though this film has all of the ingredients that would one would want or expect form a Gothic Horror film. These genre staples are ultimately not the reasons why this film has maintained its ability to seduce audiences after all of these years. With this film’s undeniable allure is rooted in its psychological approach to the story at hand.
Structurally The Long Hair of Death’s narrative mirrors a symphony with its grand opening that announces itself only to slightly scale back into a slow moving section that gives the characters time to establish who they are and what their motivations are? From there the third movement in this four movement symphony of terror is the one that sets the diabolical plan in motion, with the four movement / final act setting up coda to the all the events which have just transpired.
As mentioned before this film does retain many of the qualities that one would except when watching a Gothic Horror film. Most notable its stark imagery and meticulously framed compositions which give this film a tremendous amount of atmosphere. Another area where this film often excels are its special effects, most specifically Helen’s resurrection sequence.
Of course when discussing acting and any film involving Barbara Steele (Black Sunday, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Ghost, Nightmare Castle) one would be hard pressed to find another performance that stands out more than hers. In this film Steele is given the chance to portray two character, albeit mirror images of each other. Needless to say, she is by far and away the most captivating presence in this film and whenever she elevates the film to another level every time she appears onscreen. In regards to the rest of the casts’ performances they are all very good in their respective roles.
The Long Hair of Death comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Though the bulk of the transfer looks very good, there are moments where things do look softer then they should or black levels are not as strong as they should be. Also there are no issues with compression and DNR while present it is never too intrusive. It should be noted that there are few instances of print damage that are noticeable and according to those who have seen multiple versions of this film that damage has been on very version that they have seen.
This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD Mono mix in Italian and a DTS-HD Mono mix in English. Both audio mixes sound very good as dialog always comes through clear enough to follow and everything sounds balanced. Considering the age of the film and its mono limitations, range wise things tend to sound rather limited. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles.
Extras for this release include an English language trailer (3 minutes 37 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), an Italian language trailer with English subtitles (3 minutes 34 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), an introduction to the film with Chris Alexander (3 minutes 51 seconds – 1.33:1 aspect ratio 1080 Progressive) who gives an insightful analytical breakdown of the film, two interviews, the first one with Edoardo Margheriti (10 minutes 31 seconds – 1.33:1 aspect ratio 1080 Progressive, in Italian with English subtitles) and the second interview with Antonio Tentori (6 minutes 17 seconds – 1.33:1 aspect ratio 1080 Progressive, in Italian with English subtitles).
Content wise, the two interviews give a well-rounded overview of Antonio Margheriti career. A few topics discussed include how Margherti most enjoyed working in the Sci-Fi genre, Barbara Steele and his work within the Gothic horror genre, his disdain for graphic horror cinema and how his versatility lead to MGM hiring him to directing in 1963 the movie Golden Arrow.
Rounding out the extras is a slip cover with alternate cover art and a eight page booklet with an essay about the film written by Chris Alexander. Overall Raro Video gives The Long Hair of Death its strongest home video release to date.
Note: This film is also being released by Raro Video USA on DVD.