Synopsis: This tale of betrayal and gruesome vengeance is based on the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. An attorney arrives at a gothic castle to settle the estate of a dead man who could summon the souls of ancient plague victims. The widow and her terrified daughter inform him that the castle is haunted by the dead man’s spirit. One by one the occupants of the castle -friends and family who betrayed him- die a festering, torturous and violent death, leaving only the daughter and her lover to escape their dreadful fate.
eyelights: its core plot.
eyesores: its execution. its cheap-o production. its performances. its overdubbing.
“The day of revenge is coming.”
‘Terror-Creatures From the Grave’ is a bit of enigma: though the 1965 Italian-American co-production is credited as “inspired by Edgar Allan Poe”, there is no indication as to which Poe work it references. It’s also directed by Massimo Pupillo but, for some reason, was credited to Ralph Zucker, the film’s producer.
Further to this, the black and white film has been released in multiple forms: various languages, various lengths, different scenes, …etc. A perfect example of how garbled the movie’s history is, the Alpha Video DVD lists the film’s length as being 61 mins, though it’s 72 mins. And there’s a 77-minute cut, too.
Well, that’s the only appropriate reaction to this very WTF film, which is as nonsensical as its DVD transfer, which is a $#!t letterbox VHS copy featuring a sometimes wobbly, jumpy and/or blurry picture, as well as some garbled vocals. It’s as though Alpha Video didn’t give a crap what they were releasing.
It’s not surprising after having watched this head-scratcher.
Set in 1911, it begins with a short intro of a man having a drink in a pub, being inexplicably startled by something and running out while taking his bowler and cloak with him. After trying to get his horse, the frenzied animal tramples him to death. We don’t know why, and it’s never explained.
The rest of the picture has nothing to do with this rushed scene. It all revolves around the Hauff country villa, which receives a visit from Albert Kovak, an attorney charged with helping Lord Hauff with his will. Except that Hauff has been dead nearly a year, and Kovak only just received a letter from him.
…which was written in his handwriting and sealed with his crest – which was buried with him.
Bom bom bom.
Over the course of the next hour (or hour and a quarter, depending on which version you watch), Kovak will try to solve the mystery with the help Corinne and Cleo Hauff and a local doctor. But what do Hauff’s experiments with supernatural forces have to do with it? And why are the locals afraid of the villa?
Though its plot could be intriguing, ‘Terror-Creatures From the Grave’ is delivered in a pedestrian fashion, leaving little surprise – or at least no cause to care: even if we haven’t put the pieces together well in advance, there’s no build-up of tension, just a series of poorly-staged “spooky” scenes.
For instance, Corinne keeps seeing her father – but no one else can. Or they find the apothecary dead from acid – but the doctor writes it off as a heart attack. Or a plague-ridden zombie comes for them and, though the doctor says it’s an especially virulent form, they all just stand there like dummies.
It’s all so risible that it’s impossible to get into the spirit of things. The best of them all, though, is this old man in a wheelchair who decides to commit suicide after hearing about what’s going on at the Hauff villa: he wedges a sword in the fireplace mantel by the hilt and wheels himself right into the blade.
To make matters worse, the picture goes off-course a couple of times towards the end to give us some romantic twists, as Albert and Corrine suddenly fall in love and Cleo and her secret lover meet. Needless to say, this was thrown in for the ladies in the audience (if any!) but it ultimately contributes nothing.
The performances are also horrible, beginning with Walter Brandi as Albert, arriving at the villa looking all dejected for no particular reason (The gardener also inexplicably looked depressed, so perhaps it was the Pupillo’s direction that was behind it: “More sullen! More sullen! Cave in your shoulders!”).
It didn’t helped that the overdub (most of the actors were Italian) is complete garbage, and even Barbara Steele, the lone English-speaking actress, sounds terrible, having been overdubbed inappropriately. This may explain some of the utterly nonsensical dialogues; perhaps they made sense in Italian.
In any event, ‘Terror-Creatures From the Grave’ is weakly-staged and poorly edited, like amateur cinema, or b-movie tripe. And it adds insult to injury by throwing in a simple-minded and abrupt ending that magically washes all the problems away – literally. Its key redeeming quality is that it’s mercifully brief.
“Edgar Allan Poe” must be spinning in his grave over it.
Date of viewing: January 4+6, 2016