16 February, 2021

CASTLE OF THE CREEPING FLESH (Adrian Hoven, 1968) Blu-ray Review

Castle of the Creeping Flesh-Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde | Appointment with Lust |  Directed by Adrian Hoven.  1968-84m Severin Films  

It's hunting season in the Austrian mountains where the rich and bored attend an endless array of wild parties held in various Gothic castles.  A particularly rowdy party is unfolding in the sprawling domain of the decadent Baron Brack (Michel Lemoine), who leaves the castle early with an attractive female guest. At his private villa the drunken Baron rapes the guest, who just happens to be the second victim of a sexual attack which recently occurred in the woods nearby. The first victim was the daughter of the widely feared Earl of Saxon (Howard Vernon), who has released a bear into the woods to hunt down the rapist. When it is revealed that the same person is responsible for the crimes a cycle of brutal revenge takes place which may be the result of a 300 year old curse on the Barony.   For a film which was obviously made as a light entertainment for adventurous moviegoers of the late 1960s, this film has a cruelly complicated plot which constantly reminds us that the wealthy also have their problems. It all builds up to the kind of WTF ending which 1960s tales of the uncanny thrive upon. I first saw this film on video in the early 1990s when I found out that Jess Franco had some kind of involvement. He's listed as an uncredited writer on the IMDB, but back then I had first read about it in OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO, only to be made aware that it wasn't really a Franco film. It was directed by Austrian director, producer, singer Adrian Hoven, who makes ample use of the Austrian locations and the wonderfully atmospheric Castle Kreuzenstein.   

I enjoyed watching the collection of odd trailers, alternate credit sequences and featurettes in the loaded BONUS features folder of the new SEVERIN HD release of this 1968 Satansbraten of cursed castles, decadence, rape, insanity, open heart surgery, murder, wild animal attacks, and Gothic sleaze. OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO mentions in the film's review, "According to Howard Vernon...this film...was based on an original script or idea by Jesus Franco."*  Indeed, it's very much in the demented Franco wheelhouse and features the main cast and composer from his marvelous SUCCUBUS/NECRONOMICON (1967). It's certainly a welcome uncut restoration from the original German negative of a unique oddity which might make a good party film in the 21st Century.  It looks terrific in HD, with rich colors and sharp definition.  German and English language options are available.  Also included are two interviews with the widow and son of Hoven, conducted by Uwe Huber, they discuss this film and his Mark of the Devil films. 

 This was released in North America in a crudely dubbed, cut down edit on VHS, under the title CASTLE OF THE CREEPING FLESH, in the late 1980s.  Howard Vernon, Michel Lemoine and his then-wife Janine Reyaud are featured. They were all in SUCCUBUS, directed by Jess Franco and co-produced by the same company, Hoven's Aquila Films.

My interest was piqued since Franco reportedly came up with the original treatment (written on a bar napkin?) for this German exploitation, directed by producer Hoven himself under his Percy G. Parker beard. On paper it must have seemed a sure bet, one of those Grindhouse-bound surveys of Euro-decadence which were so popular, post LA DOLCE VITA, in the 1960s. The budget conscious Hoven managed to get four feature films out of the same cast, including future director Michel Lemoine (SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN), who were also in the trio of Franco-directed Aquila films (including KISS ME, MONSTER and SADISTEROTICA/TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS). Lemoine here plays the wild-eyed rapist who gets the aforementioned rough justice at the hands of the Earl of Saxon. He's almost a figure out of a Sade novel. I think Franco may have given the idea for this to Hoven as a thank you for bankrolling and letting him direct NECROMONICON just the way he wanted.

Actor-producer-singer Adrian Hoven, would go on appear in several Rainer Werner Fassbinder films (WORLD ON A WIRE, FOX AND HIS FRIENDS) in the 1970s and produced with the infamous MARK OF THE DEVIL films, appearing in and directing the second installment, WITCHES (1972). He died in 1981, at the age of 58.

IM SCHLOSS DER BLUTIGEN BEGIERDE is fun, but nowhere near as layered or unique as a Jess Franco film. It's kind of a Gothic-Eurotrash fantasia which unfolds in the late 1960s and the 17th Century, far from the madding crowd. Howard Vernon holds the show together, and it's always good to have Janine Reynaud on hand as a party girl. In any case, enjoy this witches brew. 

(C) Robert Monell, 2021