Latarnia presents CASTILIAN CRIMSON
The Spanish Horror Film





Director: Alejandro Marti
Screenplay: Julio Salvador
Photography: Raymond Heil
Music: Max Gazzola
Cast: Jorge Rigaud, Frank Brana, Michael Flynn, Catherine Franck, Teresa Gimpera
Running time: 101 minutes
Eastmancolor ~ Panoramico
A Spanish-French Co-Production


Here's a real obscurity, although it was apparently released on video in an English language version, which combines sleaze, sexual torture of beautiful women, vampirism, a mad scientist and a revived mummy in a period setting.

Despite the title, the mummy does not look Egyptian with his longish black hair, golden quarter shirt and matching skirt. He appears more like an Aztec or other Central/South American Native priest. He's also not bandaged like the traditional Universal Pictures mummies, but rather perfectly preserved when brought to our mad doctor (Jorge Rigaud). The scientist uses an electrical stimulation device to revive the specimen. The very first action the mummy takes is to suck the blood of a wound the doctor's brutish assistant has just suffered. And so it goes... The rest of the film is basically a series of recapitulations. See the mummy torture a beautiful peasant woman with a hot poker, sexually molest her, suck her bloodless and send out for the next victim.

Rigaud and his stooge are somehow mentally controlled by the ancient vampire. The scientist is locked in a cage while the assistant goes out searching for fresh blood. These stalk and abduct sequences are beautifully filmed in Van Gogh-style swathes of color, as the brute pursues a series of local femmes through shimmering fields of grain. Much of the film is devoid of dialogue and the iris in-iris out segues help create the look and feel of a silent film melodrama. Once the hosts are delivered, our parasitical Egyptian strips off their peasant dresses only to find billowing blouses under which are more troublesome undies. He never seems to be able to get them nude! That's an indication that this is the "covered" Spanish version. Later there's a reprise which does reveal a victim's nipples at the bottom frame line, this may be due to sloppy editing or point to earlier, more explicit scenes which have been excised. It would be interesting to have the English language version (if one is extant) for comparison sake.

This is all related in flash-back by Rigaud to Egyptologist Barton (Frank Brana). Barton is first seen galloping through the local farmlands on horseback, then interrogating an elderly woman and a young maiden who appears to be in a trance.
Barton arrives at the scientist's castle to discover Rigaud whipping the Mummy's severed hand, now displayed on the wall as a trophy. The scientist also appears to be a kind of wizard, transforming a rod into a serpent to impress Barton. After Rigaud finishes his repetitive narrative he retires for the evening. Barton has a dream [?] where he follows the suddenly animated hand to its former owner. What it all means is up to the viewer. The untranslated Spanish dialogue may make the film seem more obscure than it actually is to a non-Spanish speaker like myself.

Succulently lensed by Raymond Heil [the cinematographer of the infamous LAS RATAS NO DUERMEN DE NOCHE] with a particular sensitivity to the possibilities of early morning light--canary yellows, delicate violets and surging crimsons are delightfully abundant in both the interiors (Spain) and the exteriors (France).

One can perhaps read this as an allegory of sado-masochistic tendencies in gothic science fiction or perhaps a reflection on the insular tendencies of Spanish folklore. Maybe it's just a well-filmed sexploitation programmer intended for undiscriminating audiences. The pace drags throughout and Marti doesn't appear to be another Mario Bava, despite his pictorial talents. As far as I can make out this appears to be his last feature film. Rigaud would be a familiar face in numerous Italian giallo mysteries while Brana kept busy as a walk-on-and-get-shot functionary in many Spaghetti Westerns. Julio Salvador and Vincent Didier adapted Didier's story.

Reviewed by Robert Monell, 2002