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review added: 9/27/02



Castle of Blood
1964 (2002) - Synapse Films

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Castle of Blood Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/B

Specs and Features

89 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.78:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 49:58 in chapter 10), Amaray keep case packaging, original US theatrical trailer, original US opening credit sequence, stills gallery, liner notes by film historian Tim Lucas, film-themed menu screens, scene access (19 chapters), languages: English/French (DD mono) and French (DD mono), subtitles: English (when newly restored French language footage is used)


"Every death is repeated tonight."

In a quiet British pub, a lone voice trails off into the darkness telling a tale full of blood, evil and mystery. The storyteller claims it to be true, but a journalist arriving on the scene claims to have read it earlier -- in a book written by the same man telling the story. That man is Edgar Allen Poe. The journalist has been hounding Poe for days trying to get an interview on Poe's once in a lifetime visit to the British Isles. When asked how he comes up with all of his macabre stories, Poe doesn't blink and, with all seriousness, tells the interviewer that all of his stories are in fact very much true - every last one of them. To make matters worse, a man listening in on the story has a castle about two hours away, and if the journalist can stay there overnight, he can prove that horrors like the ones Poe conjures exist in our world. Not having too much money, the journalist takes the bet and finds himself to be a very poor gambler. Years and years of tragic murders are played in front of his eyes and ,like some sort of twisted dinner theater production, he himself is the star. The odds of him living through the night are just about zero.

Castle of Blood is a neat little gothic horror film. It's not going to be found on anyone's top ten horror film list, and quite frankly it's a pretty tired and cliched film, but it's got a certain charm. And I don't think it takes itself too seriously so it's that much more watchable. The filmmakers knew what they had on their hands and play it for what it is. Plus, I think Castle of Blood has some of the best use of black and white photography to be found in a horror film. The shadow work in this film is creepy as hell, and even though it gets old fast, the shots of people walking around the castle holding a candelabra while white candle light licks their noses are incredibly beautiful.

Synapse, saver of lost cult films and spender of countless dollars presenting them in the best possible fashion for our home video libraries, proves that they love movies more than just about any DVD company out there. There may be an audience out there for a film like this, but it's certainly not Monsters, Inc. sized. Still Synapse treats the film like there might be. Synapse is a friend bringing over a flick they want you to see. They spread the love out there for these films and I for one am glad they're doing it. Believe me, I call Don at Synapse once a week and quiz him on different lost cult flicks to release. In most cases, he either has them lined up or is working on it. Hey Don: Forbidden Zone! That's all I'm saying.

Anyway, this isn't an epic love poem to Synapse, it's a DVD review. I just want people to realize that we're lucky someone is willing to spend their hard-earned money releasing movies 15 of us want. But these films are great films in their own way, and deserve to be seen by everyone. So it's our job to let the masses know they're out there.

Castle of Blood is presented in anamorphic widescreen, and although the film has seen better days, I don't think it could look any better given the circumstances. The print is dirty, torn and scratched and you'll want to pluck hairs off your screen several times. The second half of the film looks remarkably better than the first; so stick with it and the really good stuff with the light and shadow work will pay off. The sound is mono for both the French track and the English track. The odd thing - but good for us film fans - is that Synapse went and pieced the original version of the film back together. Problem is, since the film was made with French money, the original version is in French. So when Synapse added back the footage never seen in American distribution, it was never redubbed. The track jumps back and forth into French and then back into the dubbed English. It gets comfortable after awhile, but it is a bit jarring. You will be amazed at how much American audiences didn't see in the original release, including a small but interesting lesbian plot point. This combined audio track sounds fine for what it is. It's been gone through with a fine toothed comb, and we get it here in the best quality it's ever going to be. I do wish Synapse went ahead and subtitled the entire film for those who choose to view it in French, as only the French footage is subbed, but that's only one nit to pick on the otherwise stellar treatment.

Extras are light, but we do get some neat stuff. There's a very cool American trailer with an enthusiastic voiceover guy - everyone who watches old trailers will recognize him. There's also a nice selection of stills and the age-worn American title sequence, featuring a static cityscape of London. Other than that, there's very cool liner notes from Tim Lucas (of Video Watchdog fame), detailing the film's history down to the last inch of footage shot. That guy knows his Euro Horror.

Castle of Blood will make for a perfect Halloween horror viewing. It's got some great stuff in it. Plus, it features the odd beauty of Barbara Steele (looking remarkably like Christina Ricci here). But the real star of the DVD is the DVD itself. Synapse really took great care of the film. I always look forward to their discs... and this one is no exception.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com




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