My first encounter with The Blood Spattered Bride (1972) was in the form of the Gorgon Video VHS release sometime during my nearly 20-year career in the video rental business. I can't tell you how many times I picked up the cover box to look at it, yet never actually watched the movie. My, my… how underdeveloped my tastes were back then! I saw it for the first time in 2012 when I wrote a feature about the film adaptations of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's novella, "Carmilla." To my surprise and delight, I liked it so much that I immediately pre-ordered Mondo Macabro's Blu-ray as soon as it was announced.
It has arrived and it looks beautiful, better than I ever expected, considering my early non-experience with it. I realize there is appeal in the rough, grindhouse look of a bad video transfer; some claim these movies were never meant to be seen in high definition. The Blood Spattered Bride is different, though. As low-rent as the title sounds, audio commentarians Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan would have us believe it's not only one of the best Spanish horror movies, but also one of the most important. And we can see it now for the first time on Blu-ray, restored to its original length.
Ellinger is Editor-in-Chief of "Diabolique" magazine, where Deighan is an Associate Editor. Together, they co-host the Daughters of Darkness podcast. They spend a lot of time in their commentary providing context about Spain between 1939 and 1975, to demonstrate how "transgressive and daring" the movie was for its time and place. It's a fascinating history lesson, even more so when they explain how, through many scenes in the movie, director Vicente Aranda addresses how women were treated through the patriarchy and how they suffered at the hands of their male oppressors.
In a bonus feature on the Blu-ray, film historian and author Jonathan Rigby ("English Gothic," "American Gothic," "Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema") agrees that Aranda was manipulating gothic conventions for his own purpose of making a political statement. No one suspects a bloody thriller of actually having something to say. While the censors might be concerned with gore or nudity, it's all supposedly subterfuge for a hidden message. The gist of Ellinger, Deighan and Rigby's comments is that only when you fully understand from when and where the film came can you appreciate it for what it truly represents.
That's all fascinating; however, if you just want to watch a creepy, effective, surreal, sometimes sexy film with a lot of the red stuff, The Blood Spattered Bride fits the bill. The story modernizes "Carmilla" and separates events that happened simultaneously in the novella. This isn't to say it's a faithful adaptation, but it does a better job than other movies purported to be based on the source material: Vampyr (1932), Blood & Roses (1960), Crypt of the Vampire (1964), and Hammer's Karnstein trilogy. (As titillating as The Vampire Lovers may be, Ellinger and Deighan lament the fact that it's never been taken more seriously.)
When a descendant (Simon Andreu) of Mircalla Karnstein arrives at his childhood home with his new bride Susan (Maribel Martin), Susan begins having nightmares and is haunted by the image of a beautiful woman. The husband discovers a naked woman named Carmilla buried in the sand who, you guessed it, is really Mircalla, as well as the woman of the wife’s dreams. The two women engage in an intense affair during which Susan becomes a vicious murderer. The Blood Spattered Bride deals more with a mysterious dagger than a vampire’s fangs, making it more thriller than horror, although both women are found in a coffin by the end.
What strikes me after my latest viewing is the brutality of the murder scenes, particularly one in which Mircalla (Alexandra Bastedo) encourages Susan to repeatedly stab her husband. She's relentless, freeing all her female oppression as blood sprays her with each downswing of her arms. In a 32-minute bonus feature interview with cinematographer Fernando Arribas, he talks about this scene. It was so over the top that he claims if you look closely, the two women are laughing during it. With all the blood, the interviewer asks if it was filmed in only one take. Surprisingly, Arribas said there were two.
Overall, Mondo Macabro's package is a complete one. If you stop with the commentary, you might think it relies too much on the subtext; however, the other bonus features support that aspect of The Blood Spattered Bride with fun "making of" information. Although before watching it all I didn't know much Spanish history, I was surprised by the omission of any talk about Paul Naschy. The movie part of this history includes a lot about Jess Franco and Pedro Almodovar, but only one mention in passing of Naschy. I imagine most people won't care as much about the background as the movie itself. Luckily, that's reason enough to order your copy right now.
Disc Content Includes:
Region free worldwide Blu-ray premiere
Brand new 4K restoration from the original negative
English and Spanish language tracks with optional English subtitles
Audio commentary by Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan from the Daughters of Darkness podcast
Two-part interview with actor Simon Andreu
Interview with cinematographer Fernando Arribas
Interview with Jonathan Rigby, author of the book Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema
Three never-before-seen alternate scenes, and an alternate ending
Multiple trailers and radio spots