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Latarnia presents CASTILIAN CRIMSON
The Spanish Horror Film

EL COLEGIO DE LA MUERTE

SCHOOL OF DEATH

1975

 

Director: Pedro L. Ramirez
Screenplay: Ricardo Vazquez, Pedro L. Ramirez
Music: Cam Espana
Cast: Dean Selmier, Sandra Mozarowsky, Victoria Vera, Norma Kastel, Carlos Mendy, Estanis Gonzalez, Angel Menendez, Tito Garcia, Cris Huertas, Elisenda Ribas, Mario Alex, Ana Farra
Running time: 110 minutes
Eastmancolor ~ Panoramico

  

   

The attractive Sandra Mozarowsky (NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS) plays Leonor, an orphan at a girls school where young women are trained to be servants for wealthy families that "fear God" (their training includes getting whipped, not speaking, and obeying orders "in return" for financial support from an obviously corrupt benefactor). Sylvia, a friend of Leonor's is sent to a house to be a maid and is abducted and operated on by a disfigured man. When Leonor is sent to work with another family and the carriage breaks down, she sees Sylvia rushed off by a mysterious coachman despite the fact that she supposedly died days. The police exhume Sylvia's body and find her in place; however, Leonor and the doctor (Dean Selmier, I think) discover that Sylvia is in fact alive. Sylvia has been zombified and used by a prostitution ring with ties to the school. Leonor and the doctor are now in danger and the police are extremely slow to act (they do, eventually...). Things go horribly awry when music from a Victrola triggers Sylvia's memories and she ends up killing a wealthy client when he tries to force himself on her. She returns to the house where she was originally sent and kills one of the women involved and is in turn killed by the disfigured man. Meanwhile, Leonor escapes and is rescued by the handsome doctor who unwittingly takes her back to the school for safety as he, the police (who have identified a disfigured corpse dragged from the lake as Sylvia), and a journalist prepare to take on all those involved. The disfigured man and the school's headmistress drug Leonor to make her appear dead but the doctor insists on an autopsy to the consternation of the headmistress and the benefactor. Her body soon disappears from the morgue.

There are a couple genuinely surprising twists before the ending that I won't go into here because I think this is a film worth seeing.

Not to be confused with LA RESIDENCIA, to which it bears a very superficial resemblance, Pedro Luis Ramírez's SCHOOL OF DEATH is an entertaining period chiller with Bava-esque chiaroscuro lighting (care of Antonio L. Ballesteros) throughout and misty daylight exteriors that seem more Italian than Spanish. The score is provided by CAM Espana but does not feature any of the cues I recognize. The actors are adequate and the dubbing okay but it’s the visuals and unpredictable plot twists that keep this one going. Though it was made in 1975, the export version (with full English credits) features no nudity and little gore. The film was produced by Maximilliano Perez Flores who was behind some of Naschy's earlier films (LA MARCA DEL HOMBRE LOBO and FURY OF THE WOLFMAN). One wonders how the film might have turned out had Naschy written or directed and/or starred in it.

My review source was an old All American ex-rental tape (All American, which also released Carlos Puerto's SATAN'S BLOOD/ESCALOFRIO was a division of Mogul Video which released some Italian and Spanish horror film such as the abysmal DON'T LOOK IN THE ATTIC as well as FEAST FOR THE DEVIL (FEAST OF SATAN), THE ICEBOX MURDERS (a boring early eighties Spanish horror film with Jack Taylor and Mirta Miller) and DON'T PANIC (a retitling of SATAN'S BLOOD). The tape is cropped but the image is sharp and colorful). It's a rarity but Sinister Cinema also carries the film on DVD-R though I'm not sure if it’s sourced from the tape or a print.

-- Reviewed by Eric Cotenas