Before we get to the main review, I feel it necessary to tell you the story of how I embarrassed both myself and one of the stars of this film at the Collectormania autograph show in Manchester in November 2006.
I had already approached and had a lovely chat with 70's giallo starlet Barbara Bouchet, and had decided that my next victim would be Alexandra Bastedo, the beautiful female star of the 60's TV show The Champions. After making my initial introductions and having a quick chat about The Champions, I asked her if she was only signing the photographs on her stall, or if she would sign a piece of my own memorabilia that I had brought along with me. She smiled and said that she would sign anything at all, except one thing. At exactly the same moment she said this I produced my DVD of The Blood Spattered Bride from my jacket pocket. The smile froze on her lips and she frostily said, "And THATS the one thing I won't sign I'm afraid!!"
I think it's a real shame that she won't talk about this film, because while it's no classic it's a pretty interesting take on the J Sheridan Le Fanu Carmilla story, and is not without its share of arresting imagery.
A young girl, Susan (Maribel Martin) and her new husband (Simon Andreu-whose character is never given a name in the film and is simply referred to as "The Husband") are on their honeymoon at the husband's impressive country manor. They soon settle down to a quick bout of lusty love-making, which Susan appears to be enjoying greatly. As the days pass, however, Susan's enthusiasm for sex wanes rather dramatically, not helped at all by her husband's sexually aggressive behaviour (which at times almost borders on assault), and also by the fact that she keeps having nightmares of being attacked and raped by a masked assailant. Susan dreams of a beautiful woman giving her a knife and instructing her to kill her husband, and is astonished to find that when she wakes up she has the knife in her possession.
The woman from the dream is in fact Carmilla (Alexandra Bastedo) and, in the film's most arresting piece of visual imagery, she is discovered by the husband while he is out walking on the beach. He spots a snorkel sticking out of the sand, and proceeds to start digging with his hands. He soon uncovers a large pair of impressive breasts, so obviously he digs the young naked woman out of the sand as quickly as he can. He invites Carmilla back to his house, where she immediately begins a close friendship with Susan, and starts to drive a wedge between the young couple. This is where I have always had a problem with The Blood Spattered Bride. Carmilla is portrayed as a malignant and divisive "evil" character because she turns the young bride against her husband, yet the husband (who is no more than a violent domineering brute) is ostensibly portrayed as the hero of the piece. I suppose that this kind of attitude is simply a sign of the times that the film was made in, but I've always found it slightly jarring and distracting. Strangely enough, when the same attitudes are displayed in the Italian giallo films by the male leads I've always found it inherently amusing that blustering macho characters are portrayed as heroes, while it is quite often the female lead who is the most important character in the film. Anyway,I digress....
The two women soon become the most proactive characters in the film - the scene where Carmilla gets caught in a large man-trap and is threatened by a sexually aggressive male is eye popping stuff indeed, and it's not long until the two women are a "couple" and the emasculated husband is very much an outsider.
The film moves on to a shocking finale, which was trimmed upon its original release but is intact in the Anchor Bay/Blue Underground releases.
While The Blood Spattered Bride is not a classic by any means, it's a film I have returned to a number of times over the years. Yes, it is pretty slowly paced, but the director has a real eye for filming outdoors - the scenes in the forest are particularly oppressive and disturbing for reasons you can't put your finger on. Aranda also coaxes a great performance from Alexandra Bastedo. Maribel Martin is adequate in the role of the young bride, but doesn't have anything like the charisma of Bastedo, while Simon Andreu turns in his usual assured turn as the frustrated husband.
The film is now available as a "bonus" film on the recent Blue Underground re-release of Daughters of Darkness, and is an interesting companion piece to that film (even though the films are almost diametrically opposite in attitude and style). Needless to say, this package is a must for any serious fan of seventies horror films.