This is a movie too good to be overlooked. Well, by good I mean terrible, and I love it. The following is an actual conversation that happened while watching this movie:
Chris: What’s happening?
Me: They’re acting… in slow motion.
Chris: What? Do they not know that slow motion is done with cameras?
Me: Of course they know that. They wanted the style, it’s just too expensive.
Okay, so the effects, sets, and costumes are less than convincing at best…
But really, this film has so much potential.
It hits on all those juicy Gothic elements that make Horror movies glamorous and intriguing.
The lovely Barbara Steele plays a dual role as Muriel and her sister, Jenny. Muriel is wed to a classic Victorian mad scientist, Dr. Stephen Arrowsmith as played by Paul Muller. Rich and bored, she has an affair with the gardener, and her husband tortures her and her lover to death in his experiments to make himself and his lover, the housekeeper, Solange, immortal. He keeps the lovers’ hearts in a flowerpot as a gruesome souvenir, and those hearts continue to beat at night (Telltale Heart, anyone?). Unfortunately, Muriel had already willed her castle and all her property to her “hysterical” sister, Jenny. This means that our horror doctor needs to marry Jenny to keep his classic Gothic castle, but he is conflicted as to whether to hang on to his “mentally fragile” wife, or just use her up in his experiments too. Meanwhile, dead or no, Muriel and her lover will not leave the Doctor, or Jenny, alone.
All in all, this is a Giallo delight, but not for casual viewers. Unless you really like bad horror movies, you may not be able to suspend disbelief enough to wallow in the low-budget effects and the classic blonde wig/black wig trick (what, they’re sisters, come on). Nevertheless, this movie speaks to me, somehow. By playing off the classic creepiness of Doppelgangers, haunted castles and hearts that beat out a warning to the living, this film has just enough style and substance to hang together… tenuously. It’s that tension, between decent film and total turkey, that makes it so charming – like a really good velvet Elvis painting.