Antonio Margheriti passed away just a few days after Synapse Films released this fully restored digital transfer of one of his most acclaimed movieson DVD. Made at the height of the Italian film industry, "Castle of Blood" is everything we've come to expect from the genre: a slowly paced but atmospheric Gothic ghost tale, obviously influenced by the success of Roger Corman's adaptations of Edgar Alllan Poe's stories, as well as Bava's "Black Sunday" - and like that film, starring the beguiling Barbara Steele. Fans of the movie cannot fail to be pleased with the restoration job Synapse have given the film; and those, like me who have never had the chance to see it before, now have the perfect opportunity to enter the shadowy world of this mesmerising film.
British journalist Alan Foster (Georges Riviere) meets up with the famous author, Edgar Allan Poe, hoping to acquire an interview with him. After a brief discussion with Poe and his friend, Sir Thomas Blackwood, Foster accepts a wager to spend one whole night in Blackwood's supposedly haunted castle. Blackwood assures him that nobody who has accepted the wager previously, has ever left alive the next morning! Foster, not believing in spectres and suchlike, is not unduly worried by these assertions and cheerfully sets out on his way. At first, the castle appears completely abandoned: the place is covered in cobwebs and shrouded darkness. But soon Foster hears music coming from a distant room and stumbles upon a young woman who claims to be Elisabeth Blackwood (Barbara Steele). Foster soon becomes enchanted by her, and forgets all about his grim surroundings; but their romantic tryst is interrupted by the appearance of another beautiful woman called Julia (Margarete Robsahm), who appears more hostile toward Foster's intrusion than Elisabeth. When Julia and Elisabeth are alone it becomes apparent that Julia is in love with Elisabeth but her advances are rejected by the raven-haired beauty, who reaches for a knife and stabs and kills Julia in disgust when she tries to kiss her. Elisabeth is then murdered herself by an unidentified man who suddenly appears. Foster is distraught - but is even more confused when their bodies disappear and another strange man appears calling himself Dr Carmus (Dominici/Kruger): a doctor of "metaphysics" who regales Foster with his theory regarding the elements that make up "man": the body, the senses and the spirit - each of which can exist separately from each other. Soon Foster realises that everyone in the castle is a ghost - doomed to relive the events that led to their deaths each year. But there is an even more disturbing secret Foster must uncover if he himself is to avoid a similar fate...
In typical Italian style, the film manages to uniquely combine elements of the ghost, vampire and even the zombie movie! It is very slow moving though, with long stretches of not very much happening at all -- but that just gives you a chance to luxuriate in the haunting atmosphere conjured up by marvellously crisp black & white photography, perfectly captured with this rich, anamorphic, widescreen transfer which is the result of combining numerous film elements to get the best possible result. The opening title sequence comes from a French print of the film using the film's French title: "Danse Macabre"; the audio is mainly in English, but switches to French for some sections which were cut from the English speaking version, and for which an English audio track therefore doesn't exist (the cut scenes include some lesbian canoodling between Steele and Robsahm and a completely unnecessary [but much appreciated!] nude scene from Silvia Sorrente); these sections are subtitled. The complete French audio track is also included but, unfortunately, full English subtitles aren't provided. It's obvious Synapse have spent a lot of time on this but it still isn't perfect (a few scenes contain a slight humming noise for instance) but this is not a great distraction, and I suspect that Synapse have done the best that could possibly have been done with the existing elements -- and it would be a churlish person indeed who complained about such things.
Extras wise the disc contains the US theatrical trailer and the original US opening credits, along with a stills gallery. The whole package is topped off with some liner notes by Tim Lucas. This disc is an essential purchase for any Italian horror fan especially as it reunites Barbara Steele with her co-star from "Black Sunday", Arturo Dominici (credited as Henry Kruger).