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Cast
| DVD | Reviewing the DVD | Notes | Pictures |Summary - Official | My Summary | My Review

Cast

Character Actor
Dr. Falkenberg Patrick Magee
Baron Friedrich Zorn Robert Hardy
Emil Zorn Shane Briant
Elizabeth Zorn Gillian Hills
Hilda Yvonne Mitchell
Carl Paul Jones
Klaus Kenneth Warren
Priest Michael Hordern
Fischinger Robert Brown
Inge Virginia Wetherell
Magda Deirdre Costello
Ernst Barry Stanton
Zorn's Wife Sidonie Bond
Coachman Thomas Heathcote
1st Villager John Atkinson
2nd Villager George Cormack
Matronly Woman Mary Hignett 
Old Crone Sheila Raynor
1st Girl Jan Adair
2nd Girl Jane Cardew

Directed by Peter Sykes 
Written by Christopher Wicking

DVD

Chapter Index

1. Program Start/Main Titles
2. Young Love
3. Home, Sweet Home
4. Emil
5. Blood and Roses
6. The Treatment
7. Demons of the Mind
8. Wild Ride
9. Disposing of the Body
10. Madness and Suicide
11. Ritual
12. Forbidden Passion
13. "The Baron bids you welcome"
14. The Specialist
15. Purity of the Blood
16. Dark Desire
17. The Girl in the Blue Dress
18. Deadly Masquerade
19. Sins of the Father
20. Brotherly Love
21. Baron Blood
22. Cross of Fire
23. Wrath of the Mob
24. End Credits.

Reviewing the DVD

    As expected for a film this old, which didn't do much business, there aren't many extras. There is the trailer and the DVD commentary which is worth getting the disc alone. Since there is a host it is more an interview style than a straight running commentary which might not appeal to everyone. I find it hit or miss. The three main stars aren't involved and Magee has passed away so they settle for Wetherell which isn't bad since she was in ACO and does speak about it for the first time. When the talk stays on subject it is good, but because the host is a Hammer expert he gets off the subject a few times for long stretches where key scenes in the film are just glossed over. He starts talking Hammer history and asks about Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee which is annoying since they aren't in the film. Save those questions for films they appeared in. The widescreen transfer is flawless and looks perfect which is another big plus for the DVD. Other than that there isn't much to say. A must have for Hammer fans. For all others it is an offbeat film and an acquired taste not fit for most DVD collections.

Sound 9.5
Picture 9.5
Extras 4
Overall Rating 7.5

Notes

Pictures

DVD Cover - front
DVD Cover - back

Summary - Official

In the 19th century, a depraved baron confronts a hereditary curse by imprisoning his two adult children (Gillian Hills of "Blowup" and Shane Briant of "Straight on till Morning") in the family castle. But when a nearby village is plagued by a series of sex murders, the killings trigger a mass hysteria of profane rituals and sadistic desires. Can these 'demons' be destroyed by a poser beyond madness or will a final onslaught of evil demand that blood have blood? Patrick Magee (A Clockwork Orange) and Paul Jones (lead singer of '60s British band Manfred Mann) co-star in this extreme psychological shocker directed by Peter Sykes (To the Devil...a Daughter) that Hammer fans consider to be one of the studio's most offbeat and unique horror thrillers ever.

My Summary

    The story opens 150 years ago with a man driving a horse and carriage. Inside is an older woman, Hilda, and a young woman, Elizabeth. They are heading back to their house through the woods as Elizabeth is trying to reach through the window. Hilda quickly gives her a drugged drink to calm her down. Nothing is said and the young woman fades in and out of consciousness eventually daydreaming of what led her to this point. She ran away from home and a young man named Carl who lives by himself outside of town found her. He took her in and cares for her. He is perceived as smart because he has glasses, lots of books and other equipment. They fall in love and she begins to forget her troubles. Then one day after they have sex she goes out to gather eggs in the yard when Klaus, the huge family servant, finds her and takes her back home. They race through town and back to her father's castle.
    When she arrives home her brother Emil sees her from his room. Her father the Baron is praying at his wifes' grave and he rushes over to great her. Hilda gets out of the coach with a big silver box and follows her in. Emil rushes out of his room to great her on the stairs. The father isn't happy about this and quickly intervenes and takes Emil back to his room and puts him to back to bed as he looks pale and sickly anyway.
    Hilda goes upstairs to ring the bell to alert a villager that she needs him. One man looks up from his work, says goodbye to his girlfriend and they both go their separate ways. The girl runs home through the woods, but is attacked and killed by an unknown man. He sprinkles rose petals on her corpse and drags her away.
    The next day there is a heavy rain storm and the Baron spots a priest wandering toward the house and isn't happy about it as he is sure he knows the man. He points him out to Ernst who thinks it is just a commoner. We then hear the priest talking to himself in a crazy manner that makes him seem like he is mad.
    Hilda is now in Elizabeth's room and she opens up the silver box which contains a device that drains blood. She  attaches it to Elizabeths' side and a half dozen razors cut her and she then puts a glass on the wound to collect the blood.
    It is now night time and Dr. Falkenerg is on his way to the house by carriage and is reading a book. He is hoping to find a cure for the Baron's children. He is sharing the carriage with Carl who has come to see Elizabeth again. The Baron is waiting for the doctor and is reading a book when Hilda startles him. He begins to have bad visions of blood and she tries to comfort him.
    Meanwhile the doctor's carriage is speeding along when the priest steps out in front of it on the road and starts spewing his nonsense. The driver can't get out of the way, swerves to miss him and winds up hitting a fallen branch causing the coach to overturn. The coach separates from the horses and they keep going. Carl and the doctor emerge unscathed, but the driver is in bad shape. Carl sets off toward the town where they were headed to get help.
    Ernst is in town and he spies the town whore in a room with a John when the doctors horses come rushing by him. This causes a commotion in the village so Ernst hides in the stable. Soon after Carl comes up and tells the whore, Inge, what happened. They are surprised to see him because they never get any visitors since the road only goes to the Baron's castle and no one ever goes there. Carl takes hold of the horses and goes to help the driver. Inge walks to the stable and Klaus grabs her. He is jealous as he came to see her tonight and she was busy. He thinks they have something special together. Meanwhile Emil can't sleep and Hilda locks him in his room.
    When Carl and the men return to the crash the doctor is gone. Nearby in the woods the killer has taken another lady victim.
    The next day Klaus arrives with the doctor. The doctor is shocked when the Baron comes out to greet him covered in blood. He tells the doctor he should've been there sooner, but doesn't tell him why. The Baron takes Klaus with him and they go get the dead girl and wrap her up, load her up and dump her in the nearby lake.
    When the Baron returns the doctor tries a revolutionary new hypnosis technique. This consists of lighting a candle on a pedestal that spins around. At the base of the pedestal is water and many little tiny colored glasses and tube that come out to make a gaseous effect. The Baron wants to be cured of his blood curse. The doctor attempts to oblige and the Baron reveals that their family is cured to hunt and kill. He has the children locked up and weakened so they wouldn't be like him. He thought he chose a pure virgin woman so his line wouldn't continue with the evil blood. Under hypnosis he reveals the curse was still passed on and he became impotent. The wife went crazy and cut her wrists and throat in front of them in a grisly suicidal rage. The doctor thinks he can cure him.
    The village is performing an ancient ritual called "Carrying out Death" when the priest arrives. Boys play a beat on drums while another carries around a bizarre scarecrow. Carl is there with Inge and Carl inquires to one of the locals about it. The man admits the ritual doesn't really have any meaning except maybe to rejoice that they are still alive. Inge is freaked out by it and tries to run away, but the boys surround her. Carl then comes to her rescue. The boys take the scarecrow man away and burn it. The priest then comes across an old crone who is crying because her daughter didn't return home last night. The priest tries to comfort her, but is pushed away. One of the locals lets Carl borrow a horse and he is finally on his way to the castle again.
    At the house Emil want to see his sister. Since they are in adjoining rooms he comes up with a plan. He moves aside a large dresser to find there is a door linking the rooms. He knocks on it to get her attention and she hears him. She is able to come over and talk to him since Hilda is in the room watching her, but has fallen asleep. He tells her to get the keys and she goes over and takes the keys from Hilda. She opens the door and they embrace then try to escape.
    They haven't gotten far when Hilda awakes. She sees Elizabeth has gone and yells for the Baron and Klaus. Brother and sister run down the hallway, but Klaus is on one side and the Baron comes running up the stairs toward them on the other side. They are quickly captured and returned to their rooms just as Carl arrives.
    Klaus lets him in and the Baron comes halfway down down to meet him. Hilda warns him and the doctor hides from them. Meanwhile the villagers are looking for the lost girl. The Baron shows Carl that Elizabeth is sleeping in her bed. He tries to convince her that she is too sick and must stay there. It is best if he just forgets all about her. Carl notices the blood letting equipment and isn't happy about it, but the Baron says there is no other way. The Baron goes over to the window and Carl leans in to kiss her head and give her a rose. She is aware he is there, but is still too weak and all she can says is "help me." He whispers that he will and he leaves.
    On the way out he finally runs into the doctor. He confronts him about what he is going to do with Elizabeth. The Baron thinks that because Carl knows the doctor he should trust him. Carl can't believe he thinks he can cure her because there is nothing to cure. It is the castle, she is fine and everything around her is sick. He tells her he will rescue her and leaves.
    The Baron wants the doctor out and he tells the Baron he is the only chance his children have. People don't believe in him because he is unorthodox.
    Elizabeth calls Emil over to the door and she sticks the rose through the keyhole and he catches the petals and smells them. Carl rides off on his horse and passes the searching villagers. 
    The Baron and Hilda are at a table talking and the children are across the room in chairs hypnotized. The doctor comes in to help them, but we learn that Emil is faking it. The doctor says they have to let him help. Hilda breaks down crying. The doctor reminds the Baron that he sent her to him in Vienna when she ran away. She finally found the love he never gave her. He doesn't accept it and thinks they will hurt people like he did. The doctor isn't worried about others, he is worried about the children.
    Klaus goes into the village to see Inge who is doing the laundry. Carl passes the priest and he flags him down. He is working on chopping down a tree for his work. He is worried about demons and Carl doesn't understand. The villagers come up to them and the priest tries to enlist their help. Carl says he thought he heard a scream from nearby when their coach crashed the night before. The villagers know that where he heard it was the Baron's castle. There is only one demon to them now - the Baron. They go off and leave the priest.
    Emil gets out and peeks in a window where Hilda is with Inge. She has picked out a blue dress that is Emil's favorite and wants her to get into it. They hope that by dressing her up that Emil will will think she is Elizabeth and that she can trick him into doing what they want. Inge undresses and puts on the outfit under the supervision of the doctor as this is his plan. Emil sneaks back into his room and pretends he is asleep.
    They bring her down into the foyer all made up and have Emil come down to her. He looks at her and thinks she is Elizabeth. She gets scared and runs away out the door. He chases after her and she keeps going into the woods. The Baron begins to get crazy and the doctor realizes this is what he wanted to happen.
    She yells to Emil that she isn't Elizabeth and he finally snaps out of it. Now he is frantic and can't understand why she is mad at him. If she isn't her then she must be killed. He lunges for her and knocks her down. He gets on top of her and chokes her until she dies. At the same time Elizabeth wakes up and feels the choking. He realizes what he has done and grabs nearby rose petals and sprinkles them on her and runs off into the woods.
    Klaus goes out and collects the body, but can't find Emil. The Baron is now past the point of no return and the doctor can't get through to him.
    Carl and the villagers are nearby when they spot the Baron rowing out into the middle of the lake and dumping Inge's body. Emil wakes up in the forest at night and runs back to the house to see Elizabeth.
    Hilda is in the room with her and she wakes up when he comes in the front door. Hilda goes out, and locks the door and confronts Emil. She stops him from going in and asks about the blood on his hands. He is sweaty and freaking out that she won't let him pass. He attacks her, beating and stabbing her with the keys. After he kills her he looks at the bloody keys and throws them off the balcony. This was not a good idea as the door to Elizabeth's room is locked and he has to throw himself against it to get it open. He gets her out and she holds him just as Carl is making her way up to him.
    Carl runs to her, but is ambushed by Emil. He chokes him and leaves him for dead. The Baron comes in and doesn't see any of this. He is out for the doctor's blood. He runs into his office to yell at him that he has failed. Klaus comes over to tell him that Hilda is dead and then he loses it. He starts throwing and breaking things and hitting the doctor. He goes into a drawer and pulls out a rifle. The doctor fights him for control of it and loses. The Baron shoots the doctor point blank in the chest and he flies out the door landing in a dead heap. Klaus runs to check on him and Carl comes running down the stairs as well. The Baron storms out and Klaus tells him to let him go and kill the children because it is all his fault anyway.
    Emil and Elizabeth make it to their rose garden spot and continue. The villagers pull the bodies out of the lake and now have no doubt who the real demon is. The Baron finally gets close enough to fire a shot, but misses. It is now dark and the priest has constructed a giant cross and sets it on fire. The villagers grab torches and light them from the cross and go after the Baron.
    The Baron closes in and finds the locket Elizabeth was wearing. Carl is also close behind. The Baron closes in again and fires, this time hitting Emil. He is badly wounded, but is not dead yet. He falls and Elizabeth tries to move him, but cannot. This gives the Baron a chance to finish her, but Carl jumps on him and is able to stop him momentarily. The Baron butts him and he goes down, he lines up again to shoot Elizabeth, but cannot do it. Before he gets a second chance the angry mob catches up with him. They take the gun away and throw him to the ground. Carl is all right and runs over to Elizabeth.
    The villagers hold the Baron down and cut off his left hand. The priest then drives a burning cross through his heart like a stake. Elizabeth sees this and freaks out, clawing Carl in the face.  The priest holds the cross down and the Baron bleeds to death. The priest says "gods' will be done" and Elizabeth screams as he dies. The End.

My Review

    I didn't know anything about the film since it was never released in the US. I got a stack of the latest Anchor Bay DVD releases in 2002 and this was one of them. When I picked it up I immediately saw the names Patrick Magee and Gillian Hills on the box. Both were in A Clockwork Orange and ever since I saw it Magee has become one of my favorite actors. Gillian played the blond in the record store/orgy sequence and I was interested in seeing her in a speaking role. Much to my surprise the commentary listed star Virginia Wetherell! She played the topless woman who comes out to tempt Alex on stage in the Ludovico center. Now we are up to three ACO actors. Little did I know by the time the credits rolled there would be no less than five ACO actors in it. Jan Adair played one of Alex's handmaiden's in the bible fantasy and Shelia Raynor who played Alex's mom both had minor roles in this film. The film started shooting right after ACO so it was a class reunion of sorts for the actors. This ties it with "Barry Lyndon" for the film with the most ACO actors in it. 
    When people think of Hammer Films they think Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Dracula and Frankenstein. This film has none of them as it was made at the end of the Hammer reign by people who were not really in the Hammer family. This is why the film is so different in every way from the "classic" Hammer films and this is not a bad thing. The style, plot and characters are very different than usual and even though it was low budget it has the look and feel of a bigger budget film.
    This was Shane Briant's debut and he was groomed to be the next Hammer star. He wasn't really given much to do here except to look sick and kill his keeper. I didn't feel his performance was anything to get excited about or that I was looking at an up and coming star. He went right on to another different style Hammer film "Straight on Till Morning" where he had a major role and was given more of a chance to prove himself.
    Robert Hardy is a very famous actor who has been acting in Britain for over 50 years, but remains almost unknown in the US. He played the role of the Baron sometimes pretty straight and sometimes totally crazy. It seems like more of a balance was needed.
    I was disappointed to see that Gillian Hills wasn't given much to do either. She spends most of the film in a sort of drugged out stupor because they are draining her blood and is too weak to do much. She looks nearly identical to the way she did in ACO - long blond hair, thin and sexy. Also like in ACO she does a semi-nude scene.
    Virginia's scene in ACO basically consisted of her standing there topless and bowing before she exits. This role gave her much more of a chance to show she can act. It is a risqué roll as she plays the town whore and has a full frontal nude scene which was daring at the time. She does well, but looks a bit strange as she wears a long thick wig throughout the film that was made because she was supposed to look like Marianne Faithful who wasn't allowed to be in the film because of insurance fears. There is also a interesting goof they left it. When Emil originally killed her character he accomplishes it by filling her mouth with mud until she chokes to death. This was deemed too extreme and was cut out in favor of a strangulation scene. If you look close though when they cut back to the shot of her dead body laying there you can see her mouth full of mud and her chest cut.
    Patrick Magee plays the respected old doctor, but not a mad doctor. Though his character seems like he is old, McGee was only 47 at the time. He is just a talented actor who could pull it off as many of the roles he played were doctors or military leaders while he was young age. His character is more like a misunderstood genius. Because the setting is 150 years ago his techniques are revolutionary, but untested. His scene with the hypnotizing candle is one of the most beautifully shot scenes I have ever seen. The fact that it was an actual hypnotizing contraption only adds to the cool bizarreness of it all. I would love to have heard how it worked, but it was totally ignored during the commentary. At times he plays the character with the coolness of the chevalier in Barry Lyndon and the intensity of Mr. Alexander gone over the edge in ACO.
    For fans of Hammer I don't even need to recommend this film. I can't lie and say it will appeal to everyone or even most people, but if you want to see a film that goes far off the mainstream then this is it. The acting, directing and settings are solid and well done even though it may not be the best or most clear story, it is definitely worth checking out. One of the main problems is they can't remember if it is day or night. Scenes switch back and forth from day to night throughout especially near the end. Kids running through woods - day, pulling bodies out of lake - night. Depends who the camera is on - very Ed Woodish. The DVD is worth it alone for the commentary especially because Virginia talks about working on ACO which I had never heard her do before.

Rating 6/10 

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