DNDF: Spanish Bridal Massacres

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

DNDF: Spanish Bridal Massacres

SPIN THE WHEEL!  Weddings, ok I can work with that.  Spanish?  Hmm, could be interesting.  Horror!  Jackpot!  The Divine Search Engine smiles on me tonight.

Hatchet for the Honeymoon (Italian: Il rosso segno della follia / The Red Mark of Madness); also known as Blood Brides and An Axe for the Honeymoon) is a 1970 Italian giallo film directed by Mario Bava and starring Stephen Forsyth, Dagmar Lassander and Laura Betti.  The film is about a series of murders committed by a sexually-frustrated man who owns a bridal shop.

Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)

  • Original Title: Il rosso segno della follia
  • Genre: Horror – Thriller
  • Directed: Mario Bava
  • Produced: Manuel Caño
  • Written:
    • Santiago Moncada 
    • Mario Bava
  • Starring: Stephen Forsyth, Dagmar Lassander, Laura Betti, Jesús Puente, Femi Benussi, Antonia Mas, Luciano Pigozzi, Gérard Tichy, Verónica Llimera, Pasquale Fortunato, Ignasi Abadal, Silvia Lienas, Montserrat Riva
  • Music: Sante Maria Romitelli
  • Cinematography: Mario Bava
  • Editing: Soledad López
  • Studio:
    • Pan Latina Films 
    • Mercury Films 
    • Películas Ibarra y Cía. 
    • Manuel Caño Sanciriaco
  • Distributed:
    • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Ibérica S.A.  
    • G.G.P. Releasing Company  
    • Alpha Video Distributors  
    • Something Weird Video  
    • Reel Media International  
    • Eagle Pictures    
    • AVCO Embassy Television  
    • Charter Entertainment  
    • Image Entertainment  
    • Media Home Entertainment  
    • Redemption  
    • Timeless Video  
    • VCI Home Video
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date:
    • 2 June 1970 (Italy) 
    • 14 September 1970 (Spain)
    • 9 February 1974 (USA)
  • Running Time: 88 minutes
  • Country:
    • Italy 
    • Spain
  • Language: Italian

John Harrington (Stephen Forsyth) is a successful, handsome, somewhat vain young man who runs a fashion studio.  He's also, unfortunately, quite insane.  Driven by an overpowering Oedipus complex and the recurring image of his dead wife, Harrington has a compulsion to kill women after dressing them in bridal gowns.  With each murder, the root cause of his psychosis is a little closer to being fully revealed, until a long-repressed memory finally comes clear.  As with many movies of the giallo genre, Bava's film is somewhat short on plot and long on style.  The director's questions about a shifting surface of reality come up again and again; Harrington's obsession with fashion and his own primping can be taken as metaphors for that issue.  The narrative is reeled off in a somewhat offhand manner, though, and Harrington, though tragic, is not a character with whom the audience can sympathize.  The film's long suit, however, is style, and Bava's trademarks are present throughout: red- and blue-lit sets, zoom shots, gauzy flashbacks, inventive camera work and compositions.  Bear with the movie's story pretensions and sluggish pace, and you'll find a giallo that, while it doesn't rank with the best of Mario Bava, still has interesting points to recommend it.

A unique blend of giallo and ghost story/tale of madness, Hatchet for the Honeymoon is quite an entertaining trifle. The plotting is careless, what with the police inspector showing up at just the right moment at least three times too many, but Mario Bava's many visual and editing flourishes are so clever they're downright witty.  I particularly like the way the psycho, John Herrington, literally puts his wife at a distance by looking at her through the wrong end of his binoculars while she harangues him.  Also wonderful is a transition where the camera pans across a line of mannequin heads that seem to float against the black background of a darkened room.  The camera stops at the final head, which we realize with a start is Herrington, and we hear a woman's voice speaking.  There's a momentary sense of dizzying disorientation before the camera suddenly continues its pan and we see the woman speaking and realize that we're in a different scene now.  There's also a bit worthy of Hitchcock at his best involving a single drop of blood poised to drop from a dead woman's hand that threatens to expose Herrington while he's being questioned by the police.  The picture and sound quality of the DVD is not in the same league as other movies in the Bava Collection such as Black Sunday or Black Sabbath, but it's safe to assume that Image did the best they could with the best source material they could find.  Overall, perhaps not among Bava's very best films, but still more than worthwhile for those who appreciate imaginative, well-crafted filmmaking.

The Blood Spattered Bride (Spanish: La Novia Ensangrentada translation: "The Bloody Bride") is a 1972 Spanish horror film written and directed by Vicente Aranda, based on the vampire story, "Carmilla" by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.  It stars Simón Andreu, Maribel Martín, and Alexandra Bastedo.  The film attained cult film status for its mix of horror, vampirism, rejection of fascism, and progressive ideas on gender and sexuality.  A well-known U.S. trailer advertising a double feature paired with the 1974 film I Dismember Mama was filmed in the style of a news report covering the "story" of an audience member who had gone insane while watching the films.

The Blood Spattered Bride(1972)

  • Original Title: La novia ensangrentada
  • Genre: Horror 
  • Directed: Vicente Aranda
  • Produced:
    • Jaime Fernández-Cid  
    • José López Moreno
  • Written:
    • Sheridan Le Fanu (Novel "Carmila") 
    • Vicente Aranda 
    • Matthew Lewis
  • Starring: Simón Andreu, Maribel Martín, Alexandra Bastedo, Dean Selmier, Ángel Lombarte, Montserrat Julió, Maria-Rosa Rodriguez
  • Music: Antonio Pérez Olea
  • Cinematography: Fernando Arribas
  • Editing: Pablo G. del Amo
  • Studio: Morgana Films
  • Distributed:
    • Europix International  
    • Anchor Bay Entertainment  
    • Ariel International Releasing  
    • Ben Barry and Associates  
    • Blue Underground  
    • Gorgon Video  
    • MPI Home Video  
    • Maljack Productions  
    • Vestron Video
  • Rated:
  • Release Date:
    • 30 September 1972 (Spain)
    • April 1974 (USA)
  • Running Time: 82 minutes
  • Country: Spain
  • Language: Spanish

Susan, a newly married young woman still wearing her bridal gown, leaves on honeymoon with her new husband and eventually arrives at a hotel.  Another woman seems to be stalking the couple from her position in a nearby car, and when Susan is left alone in the room for just a few moments, she has a violent fantasy of a strange man leaping out of the closet and raping her.  Her husband returns she insists on leaving, and they do.

The couple arrives at a house where the husband apparently grew up.  This is where the rest of the story unfolds. The wife sees the woman from the hotel in the woods on the property but she does not tell her husband.  Susan notices in the house that there are paintings up of male ancestors but none of the wives.  She is told by the servants' daughter that the wives' paintings are in the cellar.  Susan notices that one of the paintings of the wives has the face cut out of it.  Susan's husband tells her that the woman in the painting is named Mircalla Karnstein, one of his ancestors, who two hundred years before murdered her husband on their wedding night because he supposedly made her commit unspeakable acts.  Susan has violent dreams involving the mysterious woman she has been seeing.  She wakes up and finds a dagger under her pillow.  Susan starts to become detached from her husband.  The husband calls on a doctor to figure out why she is having all of these dreams and what is wrong with her.  Soon Mircalla is invading Susan's dreams, persuading her to use a mysterious dagger, which keeps reappearing no matter where it is hidden, to butcher Susan's husband as Mircalla did hers.

One day while strolling out on the beach, the husband discovers a naked woman buried in the sand; only her snorkel provides air.  He digs her out and takes her home, where she reveals herself to be Carmilla.  Susan falls under the spell of Carmilla, a vampire who seduces her and drinks her blood.  The husband finally catches on that Carmilla is really his ancestor Mircalla Karnstein and that his life is in danger.  The repressed Susan's desires are awakened in the intense lesbian love affair, and she embarks on a spree of bloody mayhem.  They kill the doctor, the guardian of the property, and they try to kill the husband, too, but he kills them while the two women are resting in their coffins as vampires.  After this happens, the servant's daughter arrives, and reveals that she was bitten too; she then kneels and allows the husband to shoot her once in the head.  He returns to the coffin with a dagger, and the scene cuts to a newspaper column declaring, "Man cuts out the hearts of three women," suggesting the husband was found and arrested for three murders.



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