Spoilers follow ...
- Castle of the Walking Dead review by NP
Handsome, big, strong Lex Barker – my favourite Tarzan, for what it’s worth – hadn’t played Edgar Rice Burrough’s tree-swinging hero for ten years, but he is still every inch the hero here. Not perhaps the most personable actor, he has a magnetic presence that dominates the screen (as a personal aside, I’m a big fan of comic artist Mike Ploog, who drew many horror strips for Marvel in the 1970s – Barker is like one of Ploog’s drawn heroes come to life). The same may be said for Christopher Lee as the evil Count Regula, whom we first meet facing the prospect of being publically quartered for his crimes. Karin Dor plays Baroness Lilian von Brabant, damsel in distress with the heaving bosom, who takes an instant liking to Barker’s Roger Monte Elise.
There are rumours, 35 years after his gruesome death, in which Regula still somehow lives. The search for him, with burning torches, through the impressively gothic and labyrinthine passageways of the castle threaten to become a little tedious. Hand in hand with the Countess, Elise stoically isn’t put off by gory entrails or threatening voices. It is here any tedium ends, with a wealth of pits, scorpions, snakes, leering faces and the like looming out of the shadows and the rank, dripping tunnels.
“The blood is the life,” says Regula (echoes of Dracula) to those who have witnessed his resurrection, who are in fact ancestors of those who had him put to death. It is here at last Poe’s ‘Pit and the Pendulum’, which had been credited as inspiration for this, makes a spectacular appearance, as Elise is tortured in a bid to fill Brabant with enough fear so that her blood may allow Regula eternal life … or something like that.
Director Harald Reinl and composer Peter Thomas conspire to produce something highly enjoyable, very colourful, gothic and dripping with wonderful horror atmosphere. Great fun.
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