Sunday, October 17, 2010
Bloody Pit of Horror aka Il Boia Scarlatto 1965 ***1/2
Dir: Massimo Pupillo aka Max Hunter Stars: Mickey Hargitay, Walter Brandt, Louise Barrett, various henchmen in striped shirts
I believe this Italian-made film is a cult classic that is gathering steam, as every few years I google it for one reason or another and the number of hits has increased exponentially. It is simultaneously highly campy and rather brilliant, and features a plot structure that would be often repeated in later years, in a general sense, as a group of travelers has to stop at a creepy-looking domicile which at first seems benevolent until they are picked off one by one. In this film, each murder is uniquely creative, and they are exacted by Hungarian muscleman Mickey Hargitay. Hargitay, as many will know, was the husband of Jayne Mansfield and would later be portrayed, in a made for TV movie, by Arnold, with Loni Anderson as Jayne. Their marriage produced the lovely Mariska Hargitay, a bit of a horror veteran herself, having appeared in the first Ghoulies, and now appearing in Law & Order: SVU.
From the promise that this movie was filmed in "Psychovision" we know we are in for a good B-time. After a triumphantly cardboard opening in which we are told about the execution of the original Crimson Executioner, for abhorrent and sadistic crimes, the narrative shifts to modern times (aka the sixties) as a group of sexy models with big hair have been brought to an obscure castle, which they and their male companions have just happened upon while looking for unique places to shoot photos. At first the castle seems deserted, but they soon are waylaid by grim guards wearing striped shirts, the henchman of Hargitay's eccentric recluse. After some stirring melodrama the models and photogs are reluctantly given permission to spend the night at the castle with the promise that they don't go to the dungeon to shoot their photos. Naturally all and sundry make a beeline to the dungeon, since rules are made to be broken. What they haven't anticipated is that their host feels the same way about people, as he is beginning to identify more and more with the sadistic Crimson Executioner who was executed in this very castle.
Hargitay dons a Crimson Executioner outfit and begins to caper about, criticizing mankind for its "lechery" and "sordidness" and its constant attempts to corrupt his perfect body. We've all felt the same way at one time or another, but while most settle for ranting to strangers on the bus, Crim takes it all a little too far as he begins to pick off the guests in unique and sadistic ways, finally getting them all chained up in the dungeon and really having some fun, especially with the scantily clad female models. All for the sake of punishing them for their lack of moral purity, of course.
At least since the time of Vico, the Italians have been ahead of the curve on Western Civilization's descent into depravity and barbarism. This movie is a nice tribute to all the forces of the eventual decline, and has a lot of fun with it. As Super Nintendo Chalmers once said, it's one hell of a toboggan ride. The film itself is ahead of the curve for a lot of seventies stuff like Scooby-Doo, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and various stories in Warren comic magazines. Also noteworthy is the score, which has some great eerie music with Star Trek-style soaring vocals.