Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Virgin of Nuremberg (1963)

Thinking outside of the box can be a tricky task, but it is necessary if one hopes to come up with a story that hasn’t already been thought of or isn’t something that could just as easily be dreamt up by anybody. The natural habit of falling into a comfort zone can easily hamper one’s ability to innovate. In the context of genre film, it is easy to stay inside the comfort zone while exploring around a little outside of the box, not too far, though, to discover something pretty new and cool that keeps the genre alive for that much longer. With Antonio Margheriti’s THE VIRGIN OF NUREMBERG we have all of the ‘60s Gothic horror themes we know and love that keep us happy and comfortable but melds and fuses them with fascinating new approaches that keeps one from getting bored of the same ol’, same ol’. 

A young nobleman moves into his ancestral castle with his wife. After the wife notices her husband missing one night, she strolls out of bed and seemingly witnesses the aftermath of a servant being tortured and murdered in the castle’s museum of medieval torture devices. The person responsible is a ghostly killer whose identity is hinted at by a servant that refers to him as “The Punisher,” claiming that he’s come back “to plant the seed of terror in shameless women’s hearts.” Is the killer her husband, one of the strange servants, or something else that has culminated from past evils?

A cool little charm to Margheriti’s film is that despite a few reminders of the modern (1960s Germany) setting, the majority of time spent in and around an ancient castle frequently fooled me into thinking that this was an era piece. I liked that there were plenty of candles with antique holders on hand for when the mandatory thunderstorms would cause the power to go out, giving us a nice reason to view our gorgeous heroine, Mary (Rossana Podestà of SEVEN GOLDEN MEN), wander the dark castle halls with lit candles in hand.

Monday, June 4, 2012

She Killed in Ecstasy (1970)

What decides when to move forward with experimentation that may be considered unethical or taboo but could better humanity? Debates on the ethics and consequences of the research are usually conducted. But what of the consequences of the idea being turned down? One possible answer to this is provided in Jess Franco’s SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY, where a physician, who believes his experiments hold the key to making humanity far more resistant to disease, is condemned, on moral grounds, by his colleagues, insulted and has to endure his precious documents being ripped and thrown aside.
With Jess Franco, I don’t necessarily think it's a simple matter of taste but more a matter of acquired taste. I mentioned a while back in my write-up for A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD that I wasn’t too impressed with Franco at first. In fact, I started watching his movies just to see if they are as bad as some people say they are. But the impulse to continue to explore his works stayed with me, and I’m glad I didn’t lose interest, otherwise, I really would’ve missed out on some gems, like this one.

A married couple lives a blissfully happy existence together, until the husband’s controversial research on human embryos results in him being expelled from his occupation by the medical association. He is driven to suicide, and his wife swears revenge on those she believes to be responsible.

This story contains no real surprises, and it ends up being easy to see where everything is going, and so, it instead becomes more important that we at least enjoy our time in the world that the film creates for us and the company of its lead character. The pleasant company in SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY is Soledad Miranda, who I’d like to describe as being like a fragile doll with enticingly dark features and doughy eyes that stare seductively. In a room full of people, she stands out like a beautiful black rose in a garden of weeds.