#9. In the Castle of Bloody Desires (1968)
Nature of Shame:
Shame! and Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde are not exactly bedfellows. I purchased the Blu-ray because Germany’s Subkultur label released the Blu-ray and why would anyone do that? Therefore, I must view it.
Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Anniversary Film (’68)
Imagine if Mario Bava produced a Jesus Franco joint on a Roger Corman budget and you’ve have something resembling Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde aka In the Castle of Bloody Desires aka The Castle of Creeping Flesh aka The Castle of Bloody Lust aka The Castle of Unholy Desires. Buy five names and get a guy in a bear suit for free!
(This will make sense momentarily. Or not. It’s out of my hands.)
In the Castle of Bloody Desires Elevator Pitch
A mad scientist/grieving father conducts unholy experiments in order to bring his dead daughter back to life. [Insert ECU of inanimate statue here.] When he runs out of body parts, he runs out of hope… until a group of drunken assholes stumble across his castle! Part supply problem solved?
In the Castle of Bloody Desires Nobody Can Hear You Lust
Every so often a movie flummoxes me. I mention this now because I am, indeed, flummoxed, but not unable to carry on describing the things I’ve witnessed… Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde!! (It’s more dramatic to say it in German.)
In the Castle of Bloody Desires boasts about 45 minutes of actual narrative film. The rest is padded with extreme close ups of gothic statues and surgical footage. Yes. Surgical footage. Like this garish, latex torso:
Around the art history and the grotesque subplot about rearranging a poor girl’s innards, In the Castle of Bloody Desires displays some of the most profoundly banal innuendo you’ve ever heard. James Bond’s crack about Christmas Jones doesn’t even hold a candle.
My personal favorite takes place while the group of drunken aristocrats joy ride through the forest on horseback. The six beautiful and extraordinarily wealthy humans talk idly and discuss their “romantic” ride. Two of them, the Baron Brack (Michel Lemoine) and Elena (Elvira Berndorff), race ahead, giggle pompously, and utter things like “You ride harder and much more vigorously!” The playful mood then turns rapey as the Baron forces himself upon Elena. (She resists his advances by calling him a “dirty swine” but does very little to actually discourage the event.)
Even though I wrote only that one line down in my notebook, this was the sequence that caused me to make my “whoa” face. In lieu of actual footage of my “whoa” face, I’ll recreate it below with the help of Keanu Reeves, who probably helped inspire the vague lip curl and open-mouthed disbelief.
So. Uh. You Mentioned a Bear?
I said, we’ll get back to the bear momentarily.
It’s no wonder this film was called In the Castle of Bloody Desires because that’s some amazing cinematic pleasure and pain all mixed together. On one hand, you can’t help but enjoy the terrible freeform innuendo, but on the other, even absurd rape-based narratives are hard to stomach when handled incompetently. This unfortunate aspect of the narrative becomes a motif.
Once the rest of the party catches up, they arrive at Camp Exposition. They have s’mores (they don’t) and talk of the crazy Earl of Saxon and the legend of his raped and murdered daughter. Then the talk turns, obviously, to a circus bear that the Earl once released into the woods to hunt and kill the rapist. We’ll call the bear Chekhov and move on. Okay, maybe we won’t movie on because I can’t get over this plot twist. The crazy mad doctor / Earl of Saxon (played by Howard Vernon, regular stock player for Jesus Franco) released his pet bear. To catch his daughter’s killer. There’s no way that could go sideways!
After talking at length of the daughter’s rape and murder, Elena flies into a tizzy and rides off into the night in order to escape her own shame. Still no plan. Everyone follows along behind because Elena’s riding off into the woods, alone, at night. In case you’re not following the highly logical A-B-C’s of this particular story, they all wind up at the crazy Earl’s castle and need to shelter there for the night. (But what about the bears?!?)
But but but wait! There’s more! The Earl notes a strange resemblance between his unexpected guests and some of his own ancestors. This digs up the supernatural tentacles old the family curse, kickstarts some squirmy invasive internal surgery and presents us very detailed views of a great many different statues.
The Bear of Bloody Desire is Actually a Guy in a Bear Costume! #SpoilerAlert
As is the most often the case in this low-budget gothic tales of horror and madness, the shooting locations make terrific eye candy — elevating many other shortcomings like acting and screenwriting. “Shortcomings” seems a little generous. Though I have no frame of reference for director Adrian Hoven (as Percy G. Parker), nothing he does here suggests he’s especially competent behind the camera. Whatever successes found in In the Castle of Bloody Desires come from clumsy shot juxtaposition, tone-deaf scripting and Nino Borghi’s set design and art direction.
There’s at least an attempt to marry the darker, rape-based elements with an elevated, if derivative, sense of humor. In one scene, reminiscent of the sexy-eating scene from Tom Jones (1963), two characters ogle each other while they chomp and slobber through dinner. In the next breath, the director tries to honestly portray the origins of the family curse through the horrors of gang rape through a hazy, distorted lens. At this point all you can do is say, “Here we go again,” and embrace this movie’s version of danse macabre.
In the Castle of Bloody Simple Pleasures
I’ve highlighted the more lascivious elements of the film, but other than a few fleeting moments, In the Castle of Bloody Desires displays an otherwise innocent fascination with topless nudity. The film reflects a simpler time when castles and toplessness represented a genre all of their own. Say what you will about their motivations, but films like In the Castle of Bloody Desires were first and foremost concerned with natural beauty. Beautiful women in exotic and gothic locales. Meticulous set design lit by candelabra. High ceilings and shadowy hallways. Also, a bounty of nipples.
If that’s all In the Castle of Bloody Desires had to offer it would have been a serviceable but forgettable footnote. German filmmakers emulating a popular genre for frugal horror filmmakers. This film, however, gains a heaping measure of infamy because it dares to intercut gonzo footage of actual open heart surgery to represent the mad Earl’s attempts to repair his dead daughter. When the film vacillates between benign gothic sexy-times and rape-revenge and legitimate OMFG IS THAT REAL? surgery it feels incredibly schizophrenic.
Equal part curious and off-putting. The surgical scenes last just long enough for you to question how a film with this kind of budget managed practical effects of that quality–oh, look more sexy times! This is proper grindhouse cinema; anything goes. It lacks competency and logic and proves intermittently very uncomfortable, but In the Castle of Bloody Desires is entirely unforgettable. And I haven’t even gotten to the bear. I won’t spoil the bear’s ultimate reveal, but suffice to say that it’s every bit as horribrilliant as you could imagine.
Final In the Castle of Bloody Desires Thoughts
Listen — I can’t recommend this anyone. Some of you just know. Watch it with friends. Watch it with a bit of extra libation, just don’t tell them about the real open heart surgery. Make them question/discover it for themselves. About the bear? Well, I’ll let you decide how best to tease a man an obvious bear suit mauling someone on a cliff as the climax of the film.
In the Castle of Bloody Desires Rating:
Unavailable since its VHS release, In the Castle of Bloody Desires has received a proper Blu-ray release from Subkultur Films, a German distribution company. They’re doing magical things for movies that have no business being treated with such care, but that’s the beauty of it all.
The disc has sold out on the website of U.S. distributor Mondo Macabro and Diabolik DVD. If I locate a someone selling the disk, I’ll update my post if I happen to locate a way for you to watch this film. The effort for an indeterminate number of you would be worth it.
#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)
#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
#4. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
#5. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
#6. Maniac Cop (1988)
#7. Nightbreed (1990)
#8. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
#9. In the Castle of Bloody Desires (1968)
James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add this nonsense to the list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.