The Films (4/5)
It seems that Midnight Choir is out to impress horror fans with their debut releases. This Barbara Steele double feature contains two of her more obscure Italian films An Angel for Satan and the Long Hair of Death. Prior to this release I had only heard of, but had not seen Long Hair of Death, and had never heard of An Angel for Satan. Both films proved to be a revelation.
An Angel for Satan
An Angel for Satan takes place in a 19th century Italian village. It tells the story of Roberto, a sculptor, who has come to the village to restore a lost statue that was recently recovered from the local lake. The statue had been submerged for 300 years, and was considered a cursed object by the locals. The person who hired Roberto for the job is a local count whose niece, Harriet, bears an uncanny to the statue.
Roberto begins to restore the statue, using Harriet as a model to better perfect the work. While this is going on strange occurrences begin happening around the village, and the villages believe it is the curse on the statue that is making these things happen, and Harriet too begins acting strangely. Roberto is apparently the only one who notices the change in her behavior, and starts his own investigation.
As I stated previously, I had never even heard of this film, when it arrived in my mailbox, and it proved to be an absolute revelation. It is definently a horror film, but it feels like a supernatural mix of early 60's Ingmar Bergman films (particularly his Silence of God trilogy), and a 50's melodrama. The film not only looks amazing, but the plot has more than enough twist to keep the viewer riveted throughout, anchored by another excellent Barbara Steele performance.
Long Hair of Death
Antonio Margheriti's Long Hair of Death begins with the burning of a witch falsely accused of murder. Her daughter Helen (Barbara Steele), is pleading with the local Count to stop the execution until she can put the evidence together to defend her Mother, he agrees to do so if she agrees to sleep with him. He has assured her that the burning will not occur without him present, and she agrees. Unfortunately, someone did not get the memo, and her Mother is burnt at the stake in clear view of her other, younger daughter Elizabeth. As she dies she curses the count, his family, and the village. The Count then proceeds to kill Helen by throwing her over a waterfall in an attempt to keep her quiet.
The film then skips ahead a few years, a plague is sweeping the village, and the Count who has lost his mind, believes this to be the curse at work. Elizabeth, has grown up, and Kurt Whalen, the Count’s son, has his eyes on her. During a freak lightning storm Helen is restored to life, and the shock of seeing her ends Count Whalen’s life. She then begins to use her charms to steal Kurt (who does not recognize her) away from Elizabeth, and into her trap.
This film is incredibly atmospheric, and a lot of fun. However, I will admit to preferring Steele and Margheriti’s prior collaboration Castle of Blood The sets are an amazing sight, and the photography is excellent. Barbara Steele gives another of her memorable Italian horror performances. I would highly recommend this film, and An Angel for Satan for fans of both Barbara Steele, and Italian horror.
An Angel for Satan is presented in a anamorphic (16:9) widescreen transfer. The transfer is pretty crisp for a film this rare and obscure. There is some mild grain and print damage throughout the film, but overall it looks quite good. The Long Hair of Death is presented in a 1:85:1 widescreen transfer, and is non-anamorphic. The film does not look nearly as good as An Angel for Satan. There is a lot of print damage, and grain throughout the film, and there are some parts of the print that appear to be either overexposed. Regardless, this disc is a fantastic deal for horror fans out to expand their Barbara Steele filmography.
An Angel for Satan is presented with an Italian mono track, and comes equipped with English subtitles. The Long Hair of Death is similarly presented with a mono track, this one in English. In both cases the tracks offer strong clear audio, without much hissing and background noise.
Unfortunately, this disc is not heavy in the extras department. Midnight Choir has only offered the original theatrical trailers for both films.
Both debut releases from Midnight Choir are impressive in the fact that they have taken 4 films that have not received much attention in the U.S., and have released them for the fans to see. I would recommend both discs wholeheartedly to any fan of Italian horror wanting to expand his collection, and knowledge of the genre. While the extras are lacking on both discs, the cost makes both discs well worth the purchase.