Public Domain Movie: Nightmare Castle (1965)

Nightmare Castle: Review

Nightmare Castle is an Italian Horror film from 1965. It was filmed in black and white, which might be a blessing for viewers that are squeamish about the sight of blood. Don’t get me wrong, Nightmare Castle isn’t a gore fest, it is just a little gruesome in places. In the main though, the film relies more on a creepy atmosphere to unnerve the viewer and I found Nightmare Castle a refreshing change from the modern day techno-trickery gore fests.

The main story centres on a mad scientist, Dr Stephen Arrowsmith. Stephen’s wife Muriel is a Countess and so he gets to live with her in her castle, where he even has his own laboratory. At the beginning of the film Stephen is about to set off for a scientific conference and one of the castle’s servants, David, brings the horse and carriage around for the doctor. As soon as her husband is gone the countess decides that out of sight is out of mind and goes for a quick tinkle on her piano. It quickly becomes apparent that this is a signal to David that she is in the mood for love. The countess leaves her piano and goes and changes into her nightclothes, while David drops everything he’s doing and makes his way to her room. Their lips have hardly had time to meet before the couple decide to vacate the bedroom in favour of a little action in the greenhouse. So either Muriel was loath to fornicate in her marital bed or things really must grow better under glass.

The unfortunate couple have no sooner got down to a serious bit of potting though,when Stephen returns and sneaks in to catch them in the act. Stephen lashes out with his cane and knocks David unconscious. He then gives his errant wife a taste of the same medicine and chains them both to the walls of castle’s dungeon (handy things dungeons). Obviously the doctor is non too happy about his wife’s secret passion for late-night gardening, but he also needs her out of the way so that he can get his hands on her fortune, and plans to kill her and her lover. There is a problem. Muriel tells him that she has changed her will and left everything to her institutionalized step-sister, Jenny.

Stephen has an accomplice at the castle—an old lady called Solange. She has been spying on Muriel and reporting back to him on what has been going on behind his back. When she hears that Muriel has changed her will, Solange is distraught: how can they kill her now? Always the optimist, Stephen kills his wife and her lover anyway and—weird and sentimental kind of guy that he is—removes their hearts and places them, together, inside a tank of preservative. He also drains his wife’s blood and transfuses some of it into Solange who become a changed woman: her hair turns from grey to black, her wrinkles disappear and, were he not dead, I am sure that David would have been more than happy to give her a guided tour of the greenhouse as well.

Muriel’s step-sister Jenny is not as ill as Stephen had believed. She also looks very like his dead wife and so he marries her and soon has her back at the castle with him, where he and Solange attempt to drive the poor girl out of her mind so that they can finally get their hands on the estate. Their evil plan is probably sound enough, but Muriel must not have heard the ‘Until death us do part’ section of her wedding vows and she really is proving to be a wife from hell. I for one had no sympathy for the monstrous doctor, because if his wife hadn’t the heart to say goodbye, he had no one to blame but himself.

Additional Information

Director:  Mario Caiano

Cast

Barbara Steele … Muriel Arrowsmith / Jenny Arrowsmith
Paul Muller … Dr. Stephen Arrowsmith
Helga Line … Solange
Laurence Clift … Dr. Dereck Joyce
Giuseppe Addobbati … Jonathan
Rik Battaglia … David

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