Latarnia presents CASTILIAN CRIMSON
The Spanish Horror Film




Director: Jess Franco
Screenplay: Jess Franco
Music: Fernando Garcia Morcillo
Cast: Montserrat Prous, Alberto Dalbes, Glenda Allen, Kali Hansa, Manuel Pereiro, Mario Alex, Luis Induni, Yelena Samarina
Running time: 83 minutes


A quiet, conventional psychological horror film which Franco produced for his own struggling Manacoa Films company. After a rocky start with the aborted zombie film EL MISTERIO DEL CASTILLO ROJO (also 1972) Franco obviously tried to play it safe with this adaptation of an Agatha Christie-style novel about a kidnapping followed by a series of murders on the island retreat of a movie star.

Staying close to Alicante, Franco was obviously on familiar territory geographically, but some may find the complete lack of sex, nudity and light violence a letdown from the man who gave the world SUCCUBUS and FEMALE VAMPIRE.

Valerie (Montserrat Prous) moves from the edges of the action to dead center as she is forced from her role as the trusted child care provider to a woman ferociously fighting for her life in the darkened villa. Armed with a double-barreled shotgun and swathed in ammunition belts, she literally lets her hair down under the supportive guidance of her director. The last reel may remind some of WAIT UNTIL DARK and Franco proves skilled at gradually ratcheting up the suspense. A good supporting cast, including Alberto Dalbes, Luis Induni, catwoman Kali Hansa and Manuel Pereiro, also helps in this claustrophobic setting.

The delicate features of Prous and her credibility in the early scenes--playing a guitar while in a deep depression, a wallflower at a party--really pay off when she transforms into the Ripley-style weapon in full metal jacket. Her eyes have a skittishness that when turned to resolve can rivet one to her character while raising the hairs on the back of the neck.

Franco may be referencing the gothic horror classic THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE with such details as the cold, disembodied eye which watches Valerie throughout and the general ambience of a vulnerable woman stalked by a killer in a dark house. The tropical locale and the Bahia music which open and close the film might qualify the film as Med-Gothic, a modality Franco would further explore in THE EYES OF DR ORLOFF, also featuring Prous.

This is not a bad film, just a very good general audience effort which shows that Franco could have written his own ticket into the mainstream. If I have employed some clichés in describing this film that's because the film is exactly a retreat into those clichés that when manipulated well can result in a box office hit. Franco obviously needed one and wanted one at this point. Luckily, he returned to the road less taken, spiraling off into the wild experimentation which continues to this very day.

-- Reviewed by Robert Monell