Time for a trip down memory lane. There was a time, before movie trailers received the same MPAA ratings as movies themselves, that it was possible for young children - like myself at the time - to be exposed to the most incredible images. There was one that haunted me for a long time: a woman tied to a chair, a cage containing a hungry rat being fastened over her face. I tried to find that movie for a long time, but all I remembered was that it had the word "castle" in the title. The movie had been re-named Horror Castle for the American market, but its original title was The Virgin of Nuremberg.
Rossana Podesta is Mary, who for the first time is visiting her husband's ancestral castle in Germany. Like a good many things in this movie, the reason why hubby Max must return to his castle/museum every six months is not explained; what is important is that Mary has a talent for investigating mysterious goings-on the castle late at night, wearing only a filmy negligee or house dress.
You see, Max's ancestor 300 years ago was a fellow named The Punisher, who had quite the reputation for torturing and killing young girls. When Mary discovers a dead woman in the titular device (known better to most as an iron maiden), it appears that someone has put on the Punisher's red and black mantle and is very determined to follow in his bloody footsteps. Not helping things is the presence of a scarred Christopher Lee, who, like everyone else in the house, obviously knows more than he's telling.
Though the credits are in Italian, the director is still billed as "Anthony Dawson", one of the pseudonyms of Antonio Margheriti, who has rarely failed to show me a good time. If the plot is astoundingly formulaic, the movie is nonetheless well-made and often beautifully lensed. Sequences like the aforementioned rat cage incident are effective, and there are some startlingly good makeup effects.
The transfer tends toward the grainy,but the print Shriek Show unearthed of this film is absolutely gorgeous. I spotted a flaw perhaps halfway through, made even more obvious by the pristene quality of its surroundings.
Christopher Lee is, of course, prominently displayed on the front cover, billed as "Christopher Lee of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy". Makes you wonder if some unsuspecting folks might be caught unawares... but then, it must be noted that it looks like Lee has, at last, gotten his wish and is now identified with something other than Dracula.
There is a photo gallery of publicity materials from many countries, and trailers for four movies: this one (though in Italian), Jess Franco's Faceless, Shriek Show's own Flesh for the Beast, and Flesheater, Bill Hinzman's 1988 bid at capitalizing on his role as the first zombie in the original Night of the Living Dead. None seem worth the bother.
This brand of gothic horror certainly won't be for all tastes, and those expecting a high Italian body count are going to be disappointed; but for those seeking stylish chills, The Virgin of Nuremberg is worth seeking out.
Dr. Freex, 7/28/2004