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.
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.
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.