The Virgin of Nuremberg (1963)

a.k.a La Vergine di Norimberga, Horror Castle (USA)
Christopher Lee stars in Antonio Margheriti's well directed, but plot hole laden gothic horror. US R1 Media Blasters DVD.

The Film

Mary Hunter is staying with her husband at his ancestral castle in Germany. One stormy night she awakens alone, hearing a woman's screams and following them deep into the house, finds the body of a woman in an Iron Maiden. The next morning she is convinced by her husband that it was just a bad dream, but she is suspicious - later she encouters the disfigured servant Erich (Christopher Lee) and suspects he might be involved. When another stormy night breaks, Mary finds herself being persued by a killer, but who is it...?

The 1960s were the best for gothic horror - spreading from England at the end of the 1950s, across to America and throughout Europe, both north and south. As usual the Italians were quick in on the game, and as well as the highly rated films from Mario Bava, there were dozens of lesser known, but equally sucessful gothic horror films released during the decade. Co-written by director Antonio Margheriti (credited as Anthony Dawson) The Virgin of Nuremberg takes a twist on the gothic horror genre by incorporating some murder mystery themes - unfortunately, while the gothic horror set-up is effective, allowing for some good, tense scenes, the mystery itself is very muddled, with the conclusion leaving more questions unresolved than answered. Characterisation is generally poor and although the climax is good for a horror film, the plot holes make it very poor in the mystery stakes.

Fortunately the production is good enough to keep the film interesting.
Margheriti's use of shadow is very effective (although he works it even better in his later, black and white film Castle of Blood (1964)) and the sets look very impressive. Composer Riz Ortolani gives the film a very curious score - the tense scenes get some typical orchestral music, that frequently teases the audience with unexpected stings of events that never happen, however it is nearly ruined by some very out-of-place smooth jazz that completely destroys the atmosphere.

Christopher Lee is often top billed for this film in English speaking markets, and although he only gets a relatively minor role to play here he does so well, with some good physical acting, and a generally menacing atmosphere. The rest of the cast are relatively little known - Rossana Podestà as Mary does a good job in avoiding becoming a mere scream queen, while Georges Rivière as husband max gives a relatively plain performance.

Virgin of Nuremberg is certainly not the best of the 1960s gothic horrors, but thanks to its effective direction and production, it rates as interesting - and worth watching for genre fans. Partly recommended.

In brief:

Anyone famous in it? Christopher Lee - The English actor who got his big break in Hammer's Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Directed by anyone interesting? Antonio Margheriti - Italian exploitation director who worked in every genre, best known for gory horror Cannibal Apocalypse (1980) and all-star war film Code Name: Wild Geese (1984).
Is it scary?Several scenes are tense and atmospheric - scary in the right conditions.
Any violence? Some blood and gore.
Any sex? No
Who is it for?
Of interest to fans of the 1960s gothic horror cycle.
Good soundtrack? Riz Ortolani provides a mix of good orchestral music, and terribly misused light jazz.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio  - 1.85:1. Anamorphically Enhanced. Colour
The print is of decent quality, with strong colours, but ome print damage and a relatively soft transfer.
Audio Original English mono track - sound fine with minimal hiss.
Note: The English track does not include the original voice of actor Christopher Lee.
Subtitles None.
ExtrasThe disc includes:
  • Photo and stills gallery, including lobby cards and posters (some which are not even for this film!).
  • Original theatrical trailer (WARNING: CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS)
  • Bonus trailers for Flesh for the Beast, Flesh Eater and Jess Franco's Faceless.
Region Region 1 (USA, North America) NTSC
Other regions? French DVD, no English.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Print used is Italian language.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 15th December 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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