Directed by: Antonio Margheriti
Written by: Ernesto Gastaldi & Edmond T. Greville
Starring: Rossana Podesta, Georges Riviere & Christopher Lee
Reviewed by: Brett H.
If there is one film in the Shriek Show DVD cannon that I personally single out, it would have to be Antonio Margheriti's The Virgin of Nuremberg. Alongside such "gems" as the smutty Slaughter Hotel, outrageous Burial Ground: Night of Horrors, psychological mind bender Spasmo, a low point in horror history, Zombie 5: Killing Birds sits the company's lone wolf of Italian gothic horror. Although with Eurohorror's abundance of castles, paintings, cloaks and plethora of style, the apples didn't fall too far short from Bava and Margheriti's trees. Unlike most gothic horrors of the time, The Virgin of Nuremberg is shot in rich, splendid color. Will the castles still creek as loudly with all these news hues or should they have stuck with tradition and filmed in haunting black and white? Well, I guess I'll give you two guesses.
The story opens on a young woman who is spending the night at the family castle of her husband - and what a night it is. Right off the bat she is drawn to the museum of the abode, which is adorned with various torture devices and instruments of death from years gone by. As the thunder roars, she opens one of the torture mechanisms named 'the Virgin of Nuremberg' and is shocked to find a woman inside with her eyes obliterated deep in the sockets! Distraught, she is put on doctor's orders to get some rest the next day. Unwilling to be sedated, she becomes enveloped in a shroud of terror and mystery and starts to believe that the tortuous family member known as the Punisher, dead now for 200 years, still stalks the halls of the mansion with his tools of death!
The Virgin of Nuremberg is a solid entry in the Italian gothic cycle and really surprised me at just how well this 1963 film used color to its advantage. Part of the appeal of the classics is the rich black & white cinematography, but it is not missed at all here due to lush tones that jump off the screen much in the style Masque of the Red Death would accomplish a year later to greater success in addition to a creative use of red gels for brief moments that turn tree branches into a shade of red amidst the black night. Even the hooded, cloaked (and hideously grisly looking) 'Punisher' is reminiscent of the Poe film and without a doubt it uses its castle setting as well as any film to come before it or since, especially with the added details that color brings to a particularly gory scene. Skulls, torture, tombs, thunderstorms, a twist or two and the great Christopher Lee in a fun, yet small role as a tortured soul of a servant with a disfigured face that shares more than one thing in common with the killer. What a combination!
Of course, the film isn't without its problems, which mainly reside in the script. The amazing, literary style quotes of so many classics are sorely missed here and the dialogue is merely average. The plot displays only one decent twist but it is ahead of its time in the way of being quick to the punch and this trait separates it from the vast pack of slower, story building gothic horrors. Riz Ortolani provides the jazzy score, which is adequate but again feels a bit out of place despite the fact that the film is set in the sixties, emits a much older tone. There are some undertones and social commentary pertaining to a significant event in history but I will refrain from spoiling anything regarding the subject. I knew the film dealt with this topic beforehand and I can't help but wonder if this played a part in me being not so shocked when the flick played out.
Shriek Show's DVD of this lavish looking shocker is enhanced for widescreen televisions in its original aspect ratio. The print looks quite good for a film of its age, so a few lines and some softness here and there is nothing to complain about. The colors are rich and detail is above average given the age. Unfortunately, the audio isn't in as good shape with low and sometimes muffled dialogue levels, but acceptable music and ambiance. Special features include a small image gallery and a loud trailer. Overall a nice package for devoted fans of our genre; you can't really go wrong with this Virgin. It hovers somewhere in the nether world between a collectors purchase and a great rental, and since I plan to give this one another spin for the atmosphere alone, I'm going to stamp my approval on this one with a punishing Buy it!
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