Not all blind buys result in the revelation of unknown cinema treasures, but I’ve had a run of good luck during recent years. That is, until I recently cracked open the Blu-ray for Castle of the Creeping Flesh (1968) that I had to pre-order from Severin when it was first released. The presentation is beautiful, the packaging is spectacular, but the movie… well…
I tend to allow plenty of leeway when watching a Euro-horror film. For me, it’s the confusing plots, bad dubbing, and over-the-top gore that are part of the subgenre. I won’t criticize a movie based only on those characteristics. With Castle of the Creeping Flesh, though, it’s almost like these elements weren’t bad enough to make it good, if that makes any sense at all.
It starts out with great promise at a wild party that has people literally dancing on the tables. And it dangles a compelling plot in front of us when creepy Baron Brack (Michel Lemoine) invites sultry Vera Lagrange (Janine Reynaud) home with him. Once the two of them are joined by other unanticipated guests, though, and they actually arrive at a castle, it’s disappointing.
Brack probably doesn’t expect Vera to invite her sister, Elena (Elvira Berndorff), and her fiancée and his friend, plus Marion Kassell (Claudia Butenuth) with them. It’s here you need a flowchart to keep track of the relationships. I didn’t take notes, so I can’t promise the accuracy. Let’s just say there are various combinations of love and lovemaking among all the characters.
After a pit stop at Brack’s cottage, the group somehow ends up in the castle of Graf Saxon (Howard Vernon) and are forced to wear vintage clothing so they represent ancestors from their host’s tragic past. But it’s the recent passing of his daughter that has him occupied in the basement trying to revive her. And Marion inexplicably looks exactly like her.
Castle of the Creeping Flesh apparently uses actual footage of open-heart surgery and it’s shown in excruciating (not in a good way) detail here. The last third of the movie revolves around it with little explanation of why it’s happening or what Saxon intends to accomplish. All of this would be just fine if only the film didn’t grind to a halt.
Some scenes are truly unsettling. Rape is never fun and two key plot points, such as they are, involve graphic scenes of sexual assault. These scenes put a damper on the normally “fun” array of bouncing boobies in other scenes, of which there are plenty. It just doesn’t seem right for Vera’s doppelganger from the past to get off watching a young woman gang raped.
Unfortunately, that could be a matter of taste… one of which I’m not ashamed. Remove that factor, though, and there’s just not much entertaining about Castle of the Creeping Flesh. It would be a different story (and film) if it had maintained its initial bat-shit-craziness throughout instead of slowing down to give us time to think about what was happening… or not happening.
Written by Adrian Hoven, Eric Martin Schnitzler
Directed by Adrian Hoven
Starring Janine Reynaud, Howard Vernon, Elvira Berndorff, Claudia Butenuth, Jan Hendriks, Michel Lemoine, Vladimir Medar
RT 84 min.
Released July 26, 1968 (W. Germany)
Home Video Severin Films (Blu-ray)