Latarnia presents CASTILIAN CRIMSON
The Spanish Horror Film





Director: Santos Alcocer
Screenplay: Santos Alcocer
Music: Jose Luis Navarro/Ray Ellis
Cast: Jean Pierre Aumont, Boris Karloff, Viveca Lindfors, Rosenda Monteros, Ruben Rojo, Dianik Zurakowska
Running time: 95/97 minutes




Not thought of as a "Spanish horror movie," EL COLECCIONISTA DE CADAVERES, otherwise known as BLINDMAN'S BLUFF and CAULDRON OF BLOOD, is certainly one, with a Spanish director, Santos Alcocer (using Edward Mann as a signature for the export prints) and a Spanish production behind it. American money was also pumped into the film, via Robert D. Weinbach Productions.

Of course, under its generally known English titles EL COLECCIONISTA DE CADAVERES is chiefly recognized as being one of the last films to star Boris Karloff and suffers in reputation as a movie not much better than the ill-regarded quartet of Mexican horror films that Karloff made toward the end of his life. This is unfortunate, as the film has a superb textural performance by the Swedish actress Viveca Lindfors (playing the dominatrix wife of the crippled and blind Karloff character, Franz Badulescu) and moments of truly grotesque and disturbing horror.

The plot idea of using recent dead cadavers for a work of art is nothing new in film, but the central axis of EL COLECCIONISTA is Tania Badulescu (Lindfors), who is compelled by her dysfunctionalism to further the career of her sculptor husband and add to the money pot she is collecting for herself. This is Lindfors' film, therefore, and Karloff is merely around for splendid window dressing. (Claude Rains was originally considered for the Karloff role, but was too sick to take it on.)

There are several delicious moments. Every scene inside the basement cave that contains "the cauldron of blood" (actually an acidic vat meant to fizz away meat from its bone) is sharp with creepy atmosphere and suspense, and the entire sequence involving Elga (played by Polish sex kitten Dianik Zurakowska) inside the Badulescu house is handled with a successful manipulation of suspense and subtle kinkiness.

Not that the film is without problems. Director Santos Alcocer manages to make the first thirty minutes rather difficult to sit through, as he changes the film's mood every two minutes or so before settling in to tell his story. The very 1960s-style musical score by Ray Ellis is inconsiderate and even harmful, except in a few romantic passages, where it becomes pleasingly haunting. I'm not sure if this score was actually a replacement used for the English-language version, as another composer, Jose Luis Navarro, is listed on Spanish production notes.

I viewed the film via the old Vidcrest video, which is filled with pops and crackles in the audio and exhibits a none too glorious, almost dupey-looking picture. There is brief nudity from Zurakowska, and signs that there may have been more, as a couple of scenes have a telling jump cut when Zurakowska is about to show more flesh. (One unkind cut comes after the soap pops out of Dianik's hands as she is taking a bath and she's about to get up to retrieve it!) There's a video out now on the Republic label, but I don't know if the print/beta master it is sourced from is in better shape than the one used for the long out of circulation Vidcrest tape. A widescreen, uncut print available on DVD is recommended. Of course.

-- Reviewed by Mirek

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 El Coleccionista de Cadaveres