Thursday, 5 February 2015

Nightmare Castle (1965)

I'll get this out of the way first: the qualification on my qualified recommendation is "if you're into gothic fiction (and don't care over much about plot)".  This is a stylish film with evocative black and white visuals, and it works in all the tropes of the gothic genre - wickedness, forbidden loves, strange dreams, ghosts, murder, and so on - pretty liberally.  It's just not big on making sense.

Dr Stephen Arrowsmith is the kind of scientist that we tend to find in gothic works: that is, the kind that meddles in things best left untouched.  He's also a proud and covetous man who married his wife for her money and is violently enraged when he discovers her frolicking with her lover in the greenhouse.

Tip for would-be adulterers: buildings with transparent walls are a bad choice for secret assignations.

The "good" Doctor is not the sort to merely kill his wife and her lover, though.  He tortures them instead, swearing to kill them with pain alone.  This he eventually does.  Then he drains his wife of her blood and uses it to restore his loyal female servant to youth.  As you do.  Oh, and he keeps the lovers' hearts and seals them in a secret compartment in the house.  Because gothic fiction.

Unfortunately for Arrowsmith, his wife left her fortune to her sister.  Fortunately, said sister is not in the best of mental health.  Oh, and she's apparently pretty easy to woo, since in the very next scene, he's married her off screen.  His plan: to dose her with drugs, make her go completely nuts, and then gain control of the estate as a result of her incapacity.

Because you know, it would be impossible to make money off that whole "restore people to youth" thing.  Sure the process requires doing some icky things, but Arrowsmith clearly isn't the squeamish type.

On the other hand, things are going to go wrong with his plan pretty fast, firstly because the psychiatrist he brings in to declare his wife incompetent would rather cure her, and secondly because his wife may be dead, but that doesn't mean she is gone ...

This film, whether you see it under the title above, or one the several others it sports (Night of the Doomed, The Faceless Monster or - my favorite - Lovers Beyond the Grave), is an entertaining little snippet of gothic-themed nonsense, if such things to your taste.

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