26 November, 2014


Thanks to a post on the El Franconomicon FACEBOOK page, I have recently discovered that this 1968 Adrian Hoven Gothic sex-horror romp is actually being prepared for a Blu-ray + DVD Combo release by Subkultur Entertainment.. Apparently this will be the complete version, including scenes deleted before the original theatrical release. I've only been able to see the vintage INTERNATIONAL VIDEO PRESENTATIONS US VHS release and a version on the VEEHD.com website, both of which run approximately 77m. OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO lists a longer runtime of 85m.*

The IVP US VHS cover. The runtime is listed as 85m, but it actually runs at approx. 77m, including end music.**

The shorter English language version is badly dubbed, choppy and much in need in the kind of surreal dispatch and personal verve a Jess Franco could have infused it with. In fact, according to the note in OBSESSION..., frequent Jess Franco actor Howard Vernon, who plays a key role here, claimed that the film was based on an idea, possibly a treatment, by Franco. Made by Hoven, using the beard Percy G. Parker, with much of the same cast and crew of NECRONOMICON (1967), this appears to have been the last of the four films shot with this cast and crew, and doesn't appear to have been shot on ny of the Spanish locations of the other three. It seems to have been lensed mostly on German locations.

Hoven, of course, was a popular West German singer/actor/director/producer who formed Aquila Films-Berlin, and in collaboration with the Italian money man Pier A. Caminecci bankrolled NECRONOMICON aka SUCCUBUS, BESAME, MONSTRUO aka KISS ME, MONSTER and EL CASO DE LAS DOS BELLEZAS (all 1967), all of which feature Janine Reynaud as the lead actress and have major roles for her then husband, actor-director (SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN) Michel Lemoine. Hoven also appears in NECRONOMICON, TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS and KISS ME, MONSTER. Caminecci makes appearances in NECRONOMICON and in this rather pretentious, poorly paced outing.

CASTLE... opens during a wild party in a Black Forest castle. It is present day, but Reynaud, Lemoine and others repair to the nearby castle of the Earl of Saxon (Howard Vernon), who is working feverishly to surgically revive his raped and murdered daughter via blood transfusions. Cue graphic surgical stock footage of bloody open heart surgery which goes on and on, inserted every time the live action subsides. In the meantime the Baron Braque (Lemoine) has raped one of the party goers, who has fled to the Earl's castle. The Baron is finally revealed to also be the rapist of the Earl's daughter, and shows up for punishment after having been badly mauled by a huge, ferocious bear, a pet of the Earl , who released the creature into the woods to seek out the guilty party. Every gets exactly what they deserve as a black clad figure in a death mask rides a white horse out of the front gate of the castle and disappears into the night. An attempt at a stylish Gothic tale, it all sounds a lot more interesting on the page than onscreen, mainly due to Hoven's meager talents in film direction. He stages everything in the same bland fashion, it lacks the kind of style which would make it compelling and is at best incoherent Eurotrash. There are also flashbacks to a medieval tale which also includes the cast of characters in a rape and murder scenario involving the Earl's ancestor (also played by Vernon). This is all shot using heavily filtered lenses. A few angles shot through the rococo furniture or tilted views of stone demons aside, this is a rather boring looking film, although shot by the same DP as Jess Franco's ultra stylish NECROMICON, once again the director makes all the difference. Even the period costumes look like Halloween get ups straight out of a bargain basement wardrobe room. The flashes of nudity don't add any erotic flavor to the tasteless proceedings and one can only imagine what is cut from the extant abbreviated prints. Vernon and Lemoine really try to put some emphasis into their roles as the twisted nobles. Nonetheless, it's all still somewhat amusing in a Le Bad Cinema category and appropriate beverages/substances may improve the viewing experience.

Adrian Hoven, of course went on to produce the very lurid, internationally successful MARK OF THE DEVIL films, HEXEN BIS AUFS BLUT GEQUALT and  GESCHANDET UND ZU TODE GEQUALT, in the early 1970s.

The upcoming Blu ray + DVD presentation of the complete version may or may not improve my opinion, but it's always good to see Vernon, Lemoine and Janine Reynaud all in the same film, even one as bad as this.

*Peter Blumenstock notes on P.60, "According to Howard Vernon... [IM SCHLOSS...] was based on an original script or idea by Jesus Franco."  OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO, 1993.

** Thanks to Eric Cotenas and Christoph Draxta for additional information.

(C) 2014 Robert Monell

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