The Film (5/5)
So far I have only seen two films starring Barbara Steele. In both she played double roles. The first being of course, Black Sunday. Nightmare Castle however, has cemented her in my mind as the perfect Italian horror movie victim/vixen. She has such a ghostly face that can go from innocent to a sneer in a moment's notice.
The director Mario Caiano provides an excellent dark ambiance utilizing crisp black and white cinematography. The set design is particularly effective in creating a creepy but beautiful setting. The castle itself feels at times like an omnipresent entity shaping the events of the story. Adding to the wonderfully Gothic atmosphere is a fairly unknown at the time Ennio Morricone providing the score.
The credit sequence for Nightmare Castle is simple, but the Gothic art is creepy and sets the mood nicely. The film begins with Dr. Stephen Arrowsmith (Paul Muller) who is a sadistic scientist, in his laboratory while his bored wife Muriel (Barbara Steele) taunts him about his work. He gets angry, and it becomes obvious right away that they have a hateful relationship.
After the Dr. goes away on a fake business trip intended to trick his wife, therefore uncovering and confirming his suspicions of her infidelities, the film soon reveals that Muriel is cheating with the ground's keeper (Rik Battaglia). When the Dr. returns and catches his wife in the act, he tortures her and her lover to death. Muriel's mentally fragile stepsister Jenny (Barbara Steele) then steps into the film as the Dr.'s new wife but he seems to only have cruel intentions for her. You might be like me and find yourself asking why two stepsisters, who by title are not blood related, look exactly alike aside from hair color, but you will soon find yourself drifting along with the film, and it's dream like atmosphere. The new wife begins having ghastly nightmares and hallucinations that involve hearing beating hearts and seeing blood dripping from flowers. Could it be Muriel and her lover want revenge?
Audio/Video (3.5/5 (DVD) 4/5 (Blu-ray))
Severin Films have presented Nightmare Castle in the most uncut version ever available on home video. It features an amazing 1:66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The transfer is excellent, and does a fantastic job showcasing the crisp black and white cinematography of the film. That being said it is not without faults, and does feature some scratching and print damage throughout. None of this takes away from the film, and this is definitely the BEST Nightmare Castle has ever looked on home video to date.
The film has also been presented with a similarly excellent Dolby Digital mono track in English. Like most Italian films of the time, the characters are dubbed. The audio, however, is excellent and all dialogue is completely audible. Morricone's score comes in loud and clear, and there appears to be no hissing or grain present on the track.
Severin Films have chosen to use the Night of the Doomed UK version of the film for their Blu-ray edition of the film. The transfer itself looks pretty spectacular with some minor damage related issues that appear occasionally during the film, this ranges from minor scratches and instances of dirt, to larger things like a series of white dots that appears in the midst of what sequence. There is also some minor flickering in the elements for a moment or so in the third act, but nothing distracting. Overall, the transfer looks extremely nice, with fantastic detail throughout, contrast is solid, and I found this a very solid upgrade from an already excellent DVD.
Severin have included an audio track in English that does quite an excellent job bringing the film’s soundtrack to life. The dialogue comes through nice and loud, and Ennio Morricone’s score sounds fantastic.
The best part of the extras on this disc is the fantastic interview with Barbara Steele. She speaks candidly about how her career starting from the beginning. She tells how she got started in the industry, what it was like working with Mario Bava in Black Sunday, working with Elvis in Hollywood, working with Mario Caiano on Nightmare Castle, working with Fellini on 8 ˝ and how she fell in love with Italy, and so much more. Her interview is very heartfelt and quite honest.
Next you will enjoy a brief but insightful interview with the director of Nightmare Castle himself, Mario Caiano. He discusses his influences and his relationships with the cast and crew, why he chose the actors and actresses for each part, and gives an overview of the film. Severin closes out this special edition of Nightmare Castle with the U.K. and U.S. trailers for the film.
Cutting to the chase all the extra features from Severin’s prior edition of Nightmare Castle were included including the Steele and Caiano interviews, and trailers. However, Severin went out of their way to make this a truly special edition and it shows. First and foremost we a commentary track with Barbara Steele and horror historian David Del Valle that is an engaging conversation by a knowledgeable cineaste and a legend of cinema. Severin have also included HD scans of 2 other Steele faetures Terror Creatures from the Grave and Castle of Blood. Both films look like they came from print sources, and quality varies on each, but they look better than the public domain versions that have surfaced throughout the years (That being said Synapse did put a nice DVD of CoB about a decade ago). Both features are accompanied with making of featurettes, which pretty much makes this a Barbara Steele Gothic Trilogy SE package, and one of the finer releases of this year.
This DVD was excellent. It looks great, it sounds great, it's fun and it's dreamy.
Severin Films Blu-ray of Nightmare Castle is an upgrade in every sense of the word. The Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic, and those awesome cats at Severin have loaded this one so full of special features including 2 additional feature films that the entirety of the package could constitute one of the finest releases this year. Severin is truly having a banner year for releases, and this is another standout for the company. Any fan of the genre will love Nightmare. And if you've already seen the film, you need to see it again in this restored, remastered and uncut version. This is my favorite Italian Gothic Horror film.