Slaughter Hotel/Film Review 2
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Placing an unknown killer inside a spooky mansion was a script conceit popular with movie producers way back since titles like 1927’s The Cat and the Canary entertained audiences with snoopy reporters scampering through drafty old houses who stumble across a series of murders plaguing family members gathered to claim their portion of an inheritance left by a recently deceased rich uncle/aunt/grandfather/mother........Replace the spooky old mansion with an imposing “castle,” an unconventional asylum for the mentally ill, substitute patients rather than family members for potential victims, and you’ve got another retelling of that classic story line christened, La Bestia Uccide a Sangue Freddo (The Beast Kills in Cold Blood, aka Slaughter Hotel).
A particular variation on this simple murder mystery found a home several decades later in Italy, where it germinated into a stylized genre of cinema named giallo, which flourished for several years during the mid to late 70’s. Gialli spun morbid plots using often macabre settings in which a series of devious murders are committed by an unknown assailant. Given its lurid title alone, The Beast Kills in Cold Blood follows a trend established by later gialli like Strip Nude For Your Killer, which quickly whittled down what began as a genre populated by well-constructed mystery thrillers featuring inventive cinematography and clever plots, to their barest essentials of brutal attacks on beautiful, often naked women. Glutting the market with inferior product eventually killed giallo cinema and paved the way for the next generation of murder mysteries now called slasher films.
La Bestia Uccide a Sangue Freddo whets audience appetites with a pre-credits sequence in which a cloaked killer stalks through darkened corridors to the strains of an appropriately creepy soundtrack. Eventually, the mysterious figure arrives at the bedroom of Margaret Lee, shown stretched across her bed naked while fitfully tossing in sleep; however, several nurses making their nightly rounds interrupt the intruder, who scampers off through the darkness.
After the opening credits, La Bestia switches gears to focus on a handful of patients currently seeking treatment at the asylum, all of whom, coincidentally, are gorgeous women with various predilections towards suicide, homicide, agoraphobia and sexual deviancy. Complimented by bubbly lounge music and careful cinematography, these women appear in full makeup and fancy wardrobes, somewhat contrary to their roles as hospital patients seeking cures to serious afflictions. Unorthodox routines and treatments administered to the patients include ample time spent relaxing on the castle grounds, engaging in games of croquet, and lounging indoors with after dinner drinks among sumptuously decorated interiors filled with carved furnishings, oil paintings, Turkish rugs, and quite incomprehensibly, vast arrays of medieval weaponry and armor scattered across the entire first floor.
La Bestia turns up the heat during its introductions to these female patients, representing the cinematic equivalent of a Penthouse magazine’s “Forums” section as the women are shown engaging in (naked) bubble baths, (naked) rubdowns, and (naked) sex with various staff members. Included among the spicy patients is Rosalba Neri, portraying the hopeless nymphomaniac, Anne Palmieri. Neri is perfectly cast in a role that unconsciously lampoons the sexuality that made her infamous as “the actress willing to get naked” for several genre movies including Lady Frankenstein, for which she provided an unforgettable sex scene on a laboratory slab with her sewn-together creation.
Anne hungers for men after early experiments with what appears to be her older brother (although the script remains prudently unclear on this point) leaves pleasant, indelible memories. Anne’s brother, guilt ridden and determined to help her, visits occasionally; although he barely gets out of his car before Anne comes on to him in the asylum’s driveway, causing his hasty retreat. Later that night, Anne roams the grounds of the asylum, accosting the asylum’s grounds keeper in his greenhouse, who helplessly retorts, “Please miss I’m just a gardener(!)” as she slides out of her clothes and glides between the plants like a stealthy jungle cat stalking her prey. After successfully conquering the startled man, Anne gathers her clothes, gets dressed, and storms out into the night where she runs into two male attendants sent to corral her back indoors. A comical scene of mayhem ensues as the two bumbling men grapple with Anne’s moaning, writhing body, as she falls into their arms, gropes them everywhere, and pleadingly asks them for sex while planting desperate kisses across their faces.
Lest we forget, given the preponderance of scenes dedicated to bare-breasted heaving and pouty lips, a killer roams the grounds, making occasional appearances to peruse the asylum’s weapons collection, a convenient repository providing axes, crossbows, daggers, and swords with which the cast members are slowly dispatched. Motivation for the grisly killings is never fully explored by the schizophrenic plot as it see-saws between erotic encounters and late night murder.
Meanwhile, sexual hijinks continue between agoraphobic Mara (Jane Garret) and her overly attentive nurse, Helen (Monica Strebel). Mara spends most of her time alone in her room or out on the lawn, but responds fetchingly to the often intimate solaces of Helen, who administers full-body massages, kind words, and late-night visits to Mara’s room which culminates in nude bathing, slinky transistor-radio fueled dancing, and explicit self gratification revealing to viewers just what exactly these little girls are made of.
A telling interview with director Fernando DiLeo included on the Media Blasters DVD release reveals the fondness that he held in working with the female cast to create this erotic thriller. Fernando especially recalls working with Rosalba Neri, commenting on the way she carried herself in a little black outfit chosen for her during production; a fashionable, black, two-piece ensemble featuring hollow circles running down the sides of her tight pants, a motif also serving as the clasp for the front of her matching halter top. Given Fernando’s endearing recollection of his actresses, it’s not hard understanding how Beast’s largely all-male crew enjoyed themselves while filming the abundant scenes of nudity and simulated sex. As a matter of fact, there are a couple of occasions where particularly steamy scenes are comically out-of-focus, as though the performances unfolding before the camera so engrossed crew members that someone errantly leaned on focus settings!
Running the asylum are head doctors, Osterman (John Karlsen) and quirky Francis Clary (Klaus Kinski). Kinski strolls the asylum’s hallways in a long mane of unruly blond hair that continually falls across his trademark skull-like features, posing in scenes behind wisps of cigarette smoke as the movie’s instantly recognizable red herring. Kinski must possess that “certain something” however, because the suicidal Cheryl Hume (Margaret Lee) takes an instant liking to Dr. Clary and spends most of the movie dressed in an impossibly rich-blue velveteen dress, giving him the eye, and requesting that he allow her some private “consultation” time.
Mara meets a grisly end with an arrow shot through her neck, a murder that finally draws the attention of the hospital staff after several previous killings go unnoticed. The police are summoned to the hospital, surround the asylum, and wait for the killer to strike again using Cheryl as bait. After following Cheryl along darkened hallways, the killer does indeed appear and struggles with Cheryl, who yanks off his hood to reveal the killers identity, leading to no huge revelation given the ridiculousness of who it is.
Chased by the police, the killer ends up trapped on the top floor of the hospital, where he barricades himself in what appears to be a nurse’s dorm room. All the unfortunate nurses end up bludgeoned to death while they cower into a corner attempting to shield themselves from multiple blows of the killer’s flailing morning star. This final confrontation contains a ridiculous amount of violence contrary to the amount of bloodshed previously revealed, which gets even more intense once the police burst into the room and fire a ton of rounds into the killer, whose body twists before blood splattered walls in slow motion. Whew.
The Beast Kills in Cold Blood is a messy concoction consisting of two-thirds soft-core porn mixed with one-third violent attacks that almost seem like an afterthought. While the attacks are not necessarily bloody or memorable, the nudity is abundant and at times surprisingly explicit. Rosalba Neri appears most often sans clothing in several scenes depicting her sexual torment, where she either engages in what resembles modern-dance histrionics inside a huge shower stall or fitfully sleeps naked through fevered dream sequences in which attentive viewers will notice the use of a body-double for more intimate shots of Anne running her hand between spread legs. It’s not a particularly well-made film and appears to have run a bit short for a full-length feature after editing, due to multiple instances where previous scenes are used over again during lengthy sequences where characters are shown dreaming about portions of the movie previously shown in an attempt to pad the short running time. Nonetheless, Beast entertains as a vintage piece of Euro-sleaze dressed up in the trappings of a gothic mystery where all the beautiful women behave in exaggerated states of hyper-libido only dreamed about by males everywhere, all backed by a wonderful soundtrack provided by composer Silvano Spadaccino.
During its release in America, Hallmark Releasing Corp. trimmed the film of most of its below-the-waist explicitness and re-titled their acquisition Slaughter Hotel. Slaughter Hotel was saddled with a tasteful advertising campaign capitalizing on the similarities between Slaughter Hotel’s final conflict with the killer, and fairly recent headlines involving the case of Richard Speck. Speck turned a routine break-in into an evening of horror for several young nurses he trapped inside their home and routinely killed before leaving the following morning. Posters for Slaughter Hotel screamed, “Carved out of Today’s Headlines! See the Slashing Massacres of 8 Innocent Nurses!” placed atop a still from the movie showing a group of female nurses slumped and bloodied in the corner of their room. Yes, tasteful.
Reviewed by Nate Miner