Castle of the Creeping Flesh (1968)

DECEMBER 1, 2020


One thing I love about outlets like Severin is that they are seemingly happy to cater to hardcore genre fans who enjoy challenging themselves, as opposed to going after big name titles that will assuredly sell better than the weirdo stuff that comprises the majority of their library (hell, Cathy's Curse is probably one of the more normal movies they've put out in the past few years!). And this year's annual crop of Black Friday selections were no exception, offering such oddities as The Theater Bizarre, Douglas Buck's grim Family Portraits, and Castle of the Creeping Flesh, which is possibly the strangest of the lot.

In fact, it's so odd it barely qualifies as horror, and it's worth noting that the original German title had a translation roughly "In the Castle of Bloody Desire", which is far more fitting. Another title was "Appointment With Lust", which also would have worked though perhaps suggests something more hardcore than what the film offers. That said, there's plenty of sex here (not all of it consensual), certainly more than anything traditionally "horror" - the bulk of that element just stems from its central location: an appropriately gothic and isolated castle that fits the scary movie bill (indeed, it was used in Bava's Baron Blood and the Nic Cage Season of the Witch). There is a mad scientist plot of sorts, but it's presented in a way that suggests it was added in later.

If that was the case, at least it's not as random as such things usually are - if I am understanding the included interview with the family of director Adrian Hoven, the heart surgery footage we see throughout the footage is actually footage of HIS heart surgery (indeed, he passed away from heart issues in 1981), which is a hell of a way to boost your production value, I must say. But the most is so horny that even these scenes are frequently interrupted by Janine Reynaud writhing in her bed or something, as if she was getting off to the idea of a guy performing open heart surgery in a dingy castle.

But at least she's enjoying herself, which isn't always the case as the movie offers a pair of rape scenes. They're not brutal, I Spit on Your Grave kind of scenes, thankfully, but instead just kind of sleazy, as both victims offer looks of momentary pleasure and, in one case, just sort of hangs out with her attacker after instead of telling their shared friends (including her fiance) what he had just done before they arrived. She even makes a joke about it! It's very odd, but that's par for the course for the film, which never seems to decide what kind of movie it is. It has all of the markings of a proper gothic horror, with a group of people arriving at a castle and discovering nefarious goings on, but once they arrive Hoven and his writers seem content to let everyone just keep hanging out and having (consensual!) sex. One guy gets out of the bed he is sharing with his lover, wanders into another room, and immediately begins having sex with the woman in that one. Later they're almost interrupted by another pal who has noticed one of their number has gone missing, but I guess he isn't too concerned because once he sees them going at it he quietly lets himself out. They can find her later, I guess.

It also offers one of the sillier subplots I can recall in one of these things. Seems the Baron's daughter was attacked by some men in the village, so he did what anyone would: set an angry bear loose in the area in hopes that it would kill the culprits (the bear would presumably ask around and make sure it was attacking the right people?). It's just a story we hear early on, long forgotten by the time one of our protagonists goes outside at night and, sure enough, runs into the bear. You'd be forgiven for forgetting the setup by the time it has a payoff, but honestly if the idea was never established at all and the guy simply got attacked by a bear out of nowhere it wouldn't exactly stand out as particularly odd in this movie.

Halfway through I started wondering if the film was an inspiration for Rocky Horror Picture Show, given its "people show up at a strange castle" plot and general randomness (and, again, horniness), a sentiment that was all but confirmed by the climax, where one of the villains takes the corpse of a loved one, climbs up a tower, and then falls to his death, just as Rocky and Frank did there - all that's missing is someone firing a laser gun. The two would make for a fantastic double feature, I suspect; three straight hours of unparalleled "No one involved is concerned with making any sense, here" entertainment. Did I mention the random voiceover that comes out of nowhere and says "KILL!" over and over?

Needless to say, if you want the movie that comes to your head when you hear the title, steer clear of this. But if you are a fan of Euro-sleaze and want something a little more memorable and outré, run don't walk to... well, the Severin site, and pick this up (if you're on a budget, a censored copy is on Prime for 99 cents). The disc doesn't have much for extras beyond the aforementioned interview with Hoven's wife and son (which is more about him than the film, though they do offer one hilarious sentiment about one of its actors: "He died a few years ago. He never got any big roles."), just a few alternate title/credit sequences with its other titles, and "different" ending that, best I can tell, simply holds on the final shot for a full minute instead of going to black. If a movie could ever use a candid historian track...

What say you?


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