High atop Castle Dracula, La Contessa Dolingen de Vries (Rosalba Neri), dressed in black with her veil blowing in the wind behind her, holds her hand in the air, her blood-red ring glowing. From a distance, we see a pinpoint of light where she stands. The full moon burns bright and lightning strikes. In the nearby village, five lovely young virgins rise from their beds and march slowly through the fog toward the castle.
This is the night, once every 50 years, when five virgins are chosen (by whom, no one knows) to visit Castle Dracula and they never return. Tanya (Enza Sbordone), the innkeeper’s daughter, told Franz Schiller (Mark Damon) during his overnight stay on the previous day, that everyone in town is nervous. Not only does he carry a protective amulet, but Franz told her since they’re interested only in virgins, he’s doubly protected.
The night of the virgin moon, and the name of the movie, is The Devil’s Wedding Night (1973), and the scene I described, dripping with atmosphere, is terrific. The rest of the film doesn’t quite live up to it; however, with the exception of one particularly terrible special effect, I liked it quite a bit. In some ways, it’s pretty straightforward for a 1970s Euro-horror, but still includes a center section full of dream-like wackiness.
The effect I mention involves the Countess apparently turning into a bat. Earlier, Franz follows an unsettling cry/screech around the grounds. Later, while he’s having sex with her, the cry/screech returns and he’s staring into the face of a bat. It’s a little silly, but OK. However, later, when Tanya is drawn to the Countess on the roof, she stands poorly superimposed before a giant, real-life bat. It’s brief and the idea is kind of cool; it’s just poorly executed.
Many red-blooded males that watch The Devil’s Wedding Night will probably not care. They’ll probably still be obsessing over the Countess’s erect nipples, as well as the naked bodies of the five virgins that experience the ceremony. I did mention this was Euro-horror, and I couldn’t call it that without at least a little female nudity. Interestingly, the potential victim and hero are men, which puts a slightly different spin on the proceedings.
I say, “are” men because Damon actually plays two roles. Besides Franz, the lusty gambler, he plays Karl, his twin brother, the scholarly adventurer. This is only the most obvious reason that the movie reminds me of Twins of Evil (1971.) It’s also because of the gothic trappings and the rousing score by Vasili Kojucharov. Plot-wise, there aren’t a lot of similarities. Style-wise, Hammer had to be an influence on somebody involved.
The movie was apparently Damon’s (House of Usher, 1960; Black Sabbath, 1963) project. He’s partially credited for the screenplay under the pseudonym, Alan M. Harris. When he couldn’t get financing in the United States, he went to Italy and got involved with prolific director, producer, cinematographer, and screenwriter, Joe D’Amato. (D’Amato is uncredited as co-director of The Devil’s Wedding Night, supposedly re-shooting some scenes.
If you recall my “physical media collector’s dilemma” from last week, I was debating purchasing this Blu-ray based on my experience with not purchasing Devil Times Five. After some feedback on Facebook, I’m happy to say that I did in fact buy The Devil’s Wedding Night. I don’t regret it. (So I don’t leave you hanging, yes, I did decide to pre-order Devil Times Five.) You never know when I’ll be in the mood for erect nipples or giant bats, but I’ll be ready!
Written by Mark Damon, Ralph Zucker
From the original story The Brides of Countess Dracula by Ian Danby, Ralph Zucker
Directed by Juigi Batzella (Joe D’Amato, uncredited)
Starring Mark Damon, Rosalba Neri, Esmeralda Barros, Enza Sbordone, Xiro Paps, Gengher Gatti
RT 83 min.
Released March 14, 1973 (Italy)
Home Video Code Red (Blu-ray)