Wednesday, 10 June 2009

No. 154 : Whip and the Body



It’s a dark and stormy night as this period Italian drama opens and if you think that’s the end of the clichés you’d be wrong! The stormy night rattles a blood stained dagger that is exhibited in a fancy glass case - you can’t beat those 19th century craftsmen. We learn that a servant’s daughter killed herself after being pumped and dumped by Christopher Lee and the dagger has been kept in the hope that it can be used to exact revenge.

As luck would have it Kurt (Lee) shows up at the castle the very same day. His father is dying and Kurt is keen to make amends for his many disgraces so that he can have his share of the fortune resorted to him. While his Pop lies dying Kurt takes the chance to go riding and have a bit of kinky sex with his brother’s wife courtesy of her riding crop. When the she doesn’t return a search party goes looking while Kurt has a fatal tussle with the curtains which result in the now liberated dagger finding its way into his neck.

With half an hour gone and the bad guy dead you may think that you’re in for an early night, but no! The grave can’t hold this kind of bastard! The ravaged lady soon starts to see Lee’s ghostly image in the window and muddy boot prints cover the castle. Pretty soon she is being whipped again by forces unseen and the crack of lashes is heard continuously. When the father is found dead in his bed we have to wonder if revenge is being exacted from beyond the grave or whether someone is using that illusion to further their own means. Or it could be some one going a bit mental, it’ll be one of those for sure.

This film was made in 1963 and has all the hallmarks of a Hammer horror film from that era such as Christopher Lee, busty wenches and ropey special effects. It is in fact an Italian film, a fact disclosed as soon as anyone opens their mouth and the badly dubbed dialogue spews forth. It looks like Lee did his lines in Italian but they got someone else to dub them in English which gives you the distracting effect of having a name actor talking with some one else’s voice.

A lots of things work well in the film such as the setting, costumes and general unsettling mood. The acting is hard to critique due to the dubbing but there are certainly too many brooding silences for my liking. These are mostly cut short however by the overly dramatic score that demands attention at every turn. Lee does well as the whip cracking bastard although it’s hard to see how all the ladies fall under his spell. The idea of a love story that transcends death was a good one although the finale and revelations kind of undermine that.

It is a pretty decent stab at a period horror/romance and although never scary it does tread a somewhat dubious line at times, with the lady clearly loving the damn good thrashings she regularly receives. Perhaps not a main feature but a perfectly serviceable ‘B’ movie oddity, especially if you like the crack of a whip yourself, you kinky people!

Best Bit : “Open the tomb!”
‘W’ Rating : 14/23

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