In a few days Emily De Blancheville (Ombretta Colli) will be twenty-one. She has finished school and is returning home to the family castle. Her brother Roderic (Gerard Tichy) has been taking care of the family estate since the death of their father the Count. Emily is bringing with her from school her fiancé John Taylor (Vanni Materassi) and John’s sister Alice (Iran Eory).
Things have changed since she left for school. None of the old servants are still at the castle. Instead there is the new butler, Alistair (Paco Moran), and the new housekeeper, Miss Eleonore (Helga Line). Both are somber and cold. The entire castle now seems cold and foreboding. At dinner they meet Roderic’s friend and physician. Doctor LaRouche (Leo Anchoriz) is also new to Emily.
One night Alice is awakened by the sound of someone screaming. She walks through the castle and up to one of the castle’s towers. Inside the tower room she finds Eleonore giving an injection to a man that is disfigured. At first Roderic tries to pass it off as a dream. Eventually he tells Alice, John and Emily that the disfigured man is really Emily’s father Count De Blancheville.
Roderic explains that the Count was injured when the old abbey burned down. He also says the Count is insane and believes that the De Blancheville family has a curse on it. He says the Count believes the curse can only be lifted if Emily dies before her twenty-first birthday. He then tells them that the Count has escaped from the tower room and is roaming the countryside somewhere.
Emily now knows her life is in danger. But is there more to this than just the legend of a family curse? There are still the knowing looks between the new servants. And the new doctor seems to be around all the time. Does he have secrets too? Alice seems to be the only level headed person in the castle. Both Roderic and Dr. LaRouche appear to have their eye on her. But are they both interested in her for the same reason?
“The Blancheville Monster” AKA “Horror” was released in 1963 and was directed by Alberto de Martino. It is an Italian horror film. It is supposed to be based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe but it is more likely to be in the Poe style rather than a reference to a specific piece of work. Many have likened it to a Roger Corman style period horror story. Sort of de Martino’s version of a Corman version of Poe.
It is typical of many Italian horror films where everyone stands around somber faced staring at each other before speaking. It reminds me of soap operas where someone says something pointed and everyone stares at each other waiting for the cut to commercial. The film takes place in 1884 and is full of creepy atmosphere. The cold stone castle heated by wood fireplaces, candelabras dripping with wax, dark dank hallways with dusty tapestries on the walls and of course the required raging thunderstorm outside just barely covering the inhuman screams of what sounds like a banshee.
The film may not be the best in Italian horror but it certainly has all the flavor and atmosphere of a great horror story. The sets are rich with ancient stone walls and thick oaken doors. The burned out abbey is the perfection of a ruined and bleak ghost infested building. The characters are sober and emotionally restrained. Even in black and white the movie is reminiscent of Hammer’s colorful Gothic horror films.
The movie was shot at the Monastery of Santa Maria La Real de Valdeiglesias in Spain and at Cinecittà in Rome. The mask used in the film was sculpted by director de Martino’s father.