Latarnia presents CASTILIAN CRIMSON
The Spanish Horror Film




Director: Leon Klimovsky
Screenplay: Juan Jose Porto, Carlos Puerto
Music: Angel Arteaga
Cast: Agata Lys, Henry Gregor, Sandra Alberti, Ricardo Merino, Antonio Mayans, Isabel Pisano
Running time: 85 minutes
Eastmancolor ~ Panoramico


Leon Klimovsky (1906-1996) lived a long and productive life. He left the world of dentistry to become a film director and managed to turn out over 75 feature projects according to some sources. His parents were Russian and he was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After his first film, EL JUGADOR (1947), he worked in all genres: crime, melodrama, western and eventually horror. Relocating to Spain in the mid-1950s, he continued his busy schedule, eventually signing numerous Spanish-Italian westerns. Several of these (A FEW DOLLARS FOR DJANGO, HANDS UP DEADMAN, YOU'RE UNDER ARREST) have been claimed by, respectively, Enzo Castellari and Sergio Bergonzelli. Obviously, Klimovsky was a man producers could turn to in a crunch or when a handy name was needed for a Spanish director's credit for quota purposes.

VIOLACION FATAL, one of Kilmovsky's last features, was made after he directed a series of successful horror and science fiction films, some written by and starring Paul Naschy. His influential WEREWOLF'S SHADOW (1970) shows Klimovsky at his most atmospheric, while his sci-fi projects (I HATE MY BODY, THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK) show a marked tendency toward incorporating social commentary within strict genre requirements. Klimovsky is the antithesis of the high concept, high tech, CGI obsessed horror auteurs of today. His best work is simultaneously derivative and delirious, anachronistic and sexploitative. His 1972 Paul Naschy vehicle, VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES, for instance, has absurd dubbed dialogue and a goofy music track which make it an instant candidate for an Ed Wood guilty pleasure award.

One of his more elegant looking films, VIOLACION FATAL owes a lot to PSYCHO. Agata Lys (Margarita Garcia Sansegundo) is Veronica, a frustrated widow who operates a spotlessly clean bed and breakfast in an idyllic, wooded section of rural Spain. The lakeside resort is visited by a writer (Henry Gregor) working on a thriller. Holed up in his room writing, he notices that Veronica is more than a little strange. She tirelessly produces impeccably crafted ceramic figures which decorate the hotel. He overhears her talking to herself and witnesses her hostility every time a couple rents a room. Veronica is kind of a female Norman Bates, a timid, isolated woman terrified of men and resentful of the unmarried couples and no-tell-motel swingers who crash for a night of love. One night, two hikers (Antonio Mayans and Isabel Pisano) are slashed to death in their room. This is filmed from the POV of the black gloved, razor killer. It's unclear if Klimovsky is aping or parodying the then popular Italian gialli here. The bloodletting is certainly copious, with closeups of the razor cutting through necks, faces, breasts. Later, a sleazy businessman (Ricardo Merino) is killed after making out with a hooker. The same close ups of the black gloves, but, again, we don't see the killer's face. Is it Veronica, or Veronica's "dead" husband come back from the grave? An ironically satisfying double twist ending unravels the truth.

As in the Italian gialli the victims are always shown stripping down and making love before getting killed (cf TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE). It doesn't take too much imagination to see the connections with the fact that Italy and Spain are both historically Catholic countries where sensuality is often e expressed in Art often containing elements of violence.

The direction here is mostly by the numbers, although it should be noted that the camerwork of Pablo Ripoll is more active than usual for a Klimovsky film. The best scenes revolve around the sexual delusions, memories and fantasies of Veronica. These are filmed through red and aqua filters.

Agata Lys is superb at conveying the character's repressed anger and sexuality. Her performance goes a long way in making up for the sometimes predictable scripting and direction. The most curious aspect of the film is the hulking presence of Henry Gregor, the stage name of the Prince Enrique Starhemberg. The Austrian aristocrat also coproduced with cast member Ricardo Merino. The thought of a vanity production crosses the mind more than once. Gregor's fey mannerisms, along with a swirled perm from Hell, are especially odd considering his bulk. He grins a lot and mostly fades into the woodwork when Ms Lys appears onscreen with him. Paul Naschy's comment in his autobiography MEMOIRS OF A WOLFMAN seem on target, "Henry Gregor was a mediocre actor, but he might have become a noteworthy producer. He certainly had plenty of money."

The one outstanding element here is the urgent, sometimes lyrical score by the ever reliable Angel Arteaga. It provides some of the tension, drive and atmosphere that is sometimes lacking in Klimovsky's direction

-- Reviewed by Robert Monell, 2002