Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 2nd, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1965
Director: Mario Caiano
Writers: Mario Caiano, Fabio De Agostini
Cast: Barbara Steele, Paul Muller, Helga Liné, Laurence Clift, Giuseppe Addobbati, Rik Battaglia
DVD released: May 19th, 2009
Approximate running time: 104 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Severin Films
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
Nightmare Castle over the years has been release under a variety of different titles like The Faceless Monster and Night of the Doomed. The Italian language title for the film “Gli amanti d’oltretomba”, roughly translate into Lovers from Beyond the Tomb. Nightmare Castle was co-written and directed by Mario Caiano, whose other notable films include Bullets Don’t Argue, The Fighting Fists of Shangai Joe and Calling All Police Cars. The screenplay for Nightmare Castle was co-written by Fabio De Agostini, whose other notable screenwriting credits include In the Folds of the Flesh and The Red Nights of the Gestapo. Enzo Barboni the cinematographer on Nightmare Castle would become a director in his own right with some of his notable films including They Call Me Trinity…, Trinity Is Still My Name and A Man from the East. The score for Nightmare Castle was composed by Italian cinema’s most prolific and celebrated composer Ennio Morricone, whose diverse filmography includes The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Danger: Diabolik, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and The Untouchables.
One criticism that is often cited when discussing Nightmare Castle is that its languid plot quickly bogs things down. While there is some merit to these claims the plot for the most part moves along pretty quickly with nary a scene feeling drawn out or unnecessary. Visually is where Nightmare Castle excels with its baroque sense of style. The cinematography fully exploits the film’s main location. Some of the highlights include a scene where Dr. Stephen Arrowsmith tortures his wife Muriel and her lover and another standout scene is a dream sequences that Muriel’s sister Jenny has her first night at the castle.
The film’s four main characters are superbly portrayed by Barbara Steele, Paul Muller and Helga Liné. Barbara Steele is cast in the dual role of Muriel and Jenny. Performance wise she is cast in familiar shoes and fans of her other Gothic horror films are sure to enjoy her dual performance in this film. Paul Muller is cast in the role of Muriel’s sadistic husband Dr. Stephen Arrowsmith. With a career that has spanned over fifty years Paul Muller is probably most remembered for his numerous collaborations with director Jess Franco. Some of his other notable films include I vampire, Malenka and Tragic Ceremony. The most impressive performance in the film comes from Helga Liné in the role of Solange, Dr. Stephen Arrowsmith’s maid / mistress. When her character Solange is first introduced she is decrepit old woman. After the death of Muriel she is given back her youth when Dr. Stephen Arrowsmith gives her his deceased wife’s blood. Her transformation in the film is further exaggerated since Helga Liné without the old woman make-up looks drop dead gorgeous. Some of her other notable films include Kriminal, So Sweet… So Perverse, Dracula Saga, My Dear Killer, The Vampires’ Night Orgy, Horror Rises from the Tomb and The Loreley’s Grasp. Ultimately Nightmare Castle is an underrated horror film that gets better with each new viewing.
Severin presents Nightmare Castle in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. This transfer has been flagged for progressive playback. Black levels, contrast and details all fare well as this is without a doubt the best this film has looked on home video to date. There are a few minor (yet noticeable) instances of print damage that vary in degree.
This release comes with one audio option a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. Outside of some background hiss that audio fares well with no distortion or problems with audio drop-outs. Overall despite its limitations this audio mix is a more than adequate presentation.
Extras for this release include the U.S. trailer for the film (1 minute 20 seconds) and the UK trailer for the film (3 minutes 18 seconds). Other extras include a fourteen minute interview with director Mario Caiano who discusses how he got involved with the project, working with Barbra Steele, the visual style of the film and working with composer Ennio Morricone. Rounding out the extras is a thirty minute interview with Barbra Steele in which she retraces the various stages of her career. Overall Severin gives Nightmare Castle a fully loaded DVD release, recommended.