A group of four party-goers decide to go for a ride. Elena’s horse then gallops off into Count Saxon’s lands. This is bad news, as he has a sinister reputation and apparently does not like intrusion. However, when the other three approach the castle, they find the Count tending to the injured Elena and that they are welcome guests.
This is despite the fact that the Count’s own daughter was attacked by a man a couple of days ago and dies not one hour ago.
Rather than an extreme case of noblesse oblige, the Count has ulterior motives. He is intent on bringing his daughter back to life through a spot of mad science, with subjects/material always being welcome. He also wants avenge his daughter, with one of the party – the one earlier most insistent on the Count’s bad reputation, unsurprisingly – having been the one who raped her.
Directed by Adrian Hoven under his Percy Parker pseudonym, this 1968 West German horror feels very much like a Jesus Franco film, such that it comes as no surprise to learn the Spaniard – who worked with Hoven on a number of occasions around this time – in fact provided the original story.
Admittedly this might have amounted to little more than a few notes and ideas, but the same could also be said of many of Franco’s own films.
The film benefits from a strong and enthusiastic Euro-cult/trash cast, including familiar Franco faces Janine Reynaud, Michel Lemoine and Howard Vernon (all three appeared in the same year's Succubus).
But while Reynaud removes her clothes at the slightest pretext, Lemoine stares unblinkingly and unnervingly throughout and Vernon just does his thing, it isn’t enough to overcome an awkward narrative and the unpleasant inclusion of considerable amounts of real surgical footage that Hoven clearly acquired somewhere and wanted to make use of.
Obvious latex torso
Vernon and his assistant
And some real gore
The rape-revenge aspect of the plot is never made sufficiently clear, while the Count’s paralleling of his own situation with an ancestor some 300 years ago comes across as padding and introduces a supernatural element that jars somewhat with the otherwise contemporary setting and approach.
This is also reflected in the music, with Jerry Van Rooyen’s big band jazz jarring with the classical cues, or vice-versa.
Is it real or in her mind? Well, it's obviously just in her mind.
Still, it’s probably also fair to say that any film which introduces the detail that a bear is loose on the Count’s grounds as the set-up for an eventual appearance of a man in a bear suit isn’t terribly concerned with credibility and coherence as a whole.
Eroticised chicken eating!
Rather it’s more about the individual images and moments. Unfortunately there are more misfires than hits here, although a food scene comes across, intentionally or accidentally, as a parody of a similar moment in Tom Jones.