Night Of The Damned/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Opening with a satisfyingly 70’s psychedelic credit sequence which superimposes the flickering flames of hell over colourful portraits of its cast of queer characters ‘Night Of The Damned’ is a typically melodramatic Italian gothic horror of the era packed with creepy crypts, naked witches and mutilated boobs.
Jean Duprey is a suave pipe-puffing journalist publicly renowned for assisting the police in their investigations, kinda like an Italian playboy version of Sherlock Holmes. He receives a strangely lyrical letter from an eccentric old acquaintance which makes cryptic reference to Charles Baudelaire’s collection of morbid poetry ‘Fleurs Du Mal’. Worried that his friend may be sick or in trouble Jean and his wife Danielle set off to visit Guillaume St Lambert in his crumbling, and of course supposedly haunted, castle. On arrival they are surprised to be met by Guillaume’s wife Rita as Jean was unaware of their marriage and he decides to keep the bizarre nature of his friend’s letter secret.
Guillaume St Lambert is a violin-abusing hypochondriac of the Roderick Usher variety; morbid, morose and prone to spazzing out in foppish fits of swooning and groaning. Confessing to Jean that he is the victim of a hereditary illness which causes the brain to ‘explode with madness’ he begs his friend to solve the mystery of his family’s curse before promptly dying. Rita holds an appropriately macabre funeral ceremony with hooded pallbearers in the candle-lit castle crypt.
Danielle is creeped out by the castle and that night dreams of being flame-grilled on a bonfire like a persecuted witch. She assumes that with their host dead her and her husband will be leaving soon but Jean is called into service by the local constabulary when a young girl is found murdered nearby, her body drained of blood and with long claw marks scratched across her breasts. No, the wounds weren’t caused by Freddy Krueger reaching 2nd base; the girl was sacrificed by Rita in a black magic ritual. Secreted beneath the castle Rita has a witch-tastic crypt filled with dry ice, a frothing cauldron, a dragon-headed gold throne and a bevy of naked lady slaves (where can I get me an apartment like that?)
While Jean is fumbling around in Guillaume’s musty old library looking for clues to the mystery Rita is using her supernatural charms to seduce Danielle. Oblivious to the Sapphic shenanigans going on upstairs Jean uncovers documents which reveal that in 1650, on the site of the castle, a woman accused of witchcraft was sentenced to death by a member of the St Lambert family. According to official records the women had a ‘grotesquely deformed nose’ and her name just happens to be an anagram of Rita’s maiden name. Our hero is going to have to act fast if he hopes to save his Mrs from permanent Satanic damage at the hands of the breast-obsessed wicked witch.
Ah, the good old days; back when you could be burnt alive simply for having a ‘grotesquely deformed nose’. I guess plastic surgery is a slightly less painful solution.
‘Night Of The Damned’ is rather slow-paced but does feature many of the elements one has come to enjoy about continental European horror movies from the early 1970’s: derelict castles, black magic rituals, terrible family secrets and . . . err . . . lesbians. The creepy castle in particular hosts a suitably oppressive atmosphere of morbidity, its haunted halls filled with red velvet drapes, wax dripping candles and solemn suits of armour. On the titillation front: nudity is largely courtesy of Rita’s sexy slaves and bloodshed is minimal although the nasty boob-related injuries might cause some ladies in the audience a wince or two.
The cast give perfunctory performances with none particularly capturing the attention although Rita is a foxy and aloof villain, all arched eyebrows and icy stares, and her neurotic husband is amusing as a poor man’s Poe protagonist. Director Ratti was later responsible for the equally loopy eye-ball gouging giallo ‘Crazy Desires Of A Murderer’.
Completely unoriginal and by no means in the same class as the classic Italian gothic thrillers made in the 1960’s (Kill Baby Kill, Castle of Blood, ‘Long Hair Of Death’ for example) ‘Night Of The Damned’ is none the less likely to prove a worthwhile time-waster for those already familiar with the themes and imagery of this particular genre for the very reason that it supplies exactly what fans expect to see.