“The Devil’s Nightmare” (1971)
Studio: Cetelci S.A.
Starring: Erika Blanc, Jean Servais, Jacques Monseau, Daniel Emilfork
Directed by: Jean Brismée
Running Time: 88 min.
Synopsis: Seven people spend the night in a castle that is haunted by a succubus.
A very eerie and scary horror gem from Italy about a tourist group of seven who get stranded and have to spend the night in a creepy castle in Germany, which is cursed by a succubus. The film delivers both in style and scares and has a great cast of characters and a very thrilling story.
I first saw this film back in the late 80’s on the USA Network’s Saturday Nightmares. It was a film that played many times on the channel and was always a treat to watch. Revisiting it recently, it still packs in the scares and is entertaining to watch.
The film starts off in Berlin, 1945. Stock footage is shown of World War II fighter planes dropping bombs on a city. It then goes to a woman about to give birth. The father of the unborn child, a Nazi, Baron Von Rhoneberg (played by Jean Servais) waits for the baby to be born. The scene is shot in a gritty sepia tone and it fits the mood. When the baby is born, the mother dies while giving birth. The Baron asks if it’s a boy to the nurse, but it’s a girl instead. The Baron asks everyone else to leave and then he murders his newborn daughter. It’s a very shocking scene and taboo even for horror films at that time. The way the scene is shot you see the baby covered in a blanket as The Baron stabs her. No cutting to an extreme close up or a cutting to a fake baby, the baby is still in frame as her father murders her. To this day it’s still a shocking sight.
About twenty-five years later, The Baron lives in his family’s castle, which is cursed. Centuries ago, one of his ancestors made a deal with the devil. Along with his soul the devil wanted the eldest daughter of each generation serve as his succubus. That’s why The Baron killed his daughter, to stop the curse once and for all, but unknown to The Baron, his dead brother fathered a daughter, Lisa, (played by Erika Blanc) who has returned to the castle the same night the seven tourists are there.
The atmosphere of the film is just so creepy. The old castle itself is frightening and is right out of classic Dracula or Frankenstein film. The Baron even has an old lab where he turns lead into gold. There are also a few characters in the film that are creepy as hell, especially the undertaker, who is this tall, skinny bald man that tells the tourists to go to the castle for the night. The butler of the castle, who was also a Nazi with The Baron, now takes care of him and his place. As he shows the guests to their rooms, he tells tales of all the grisly murders that happened in the castle throughout the centuries.
One thing that always freaked me out for some reason was the succubus herself. She’s very beautiful at first, but then her face transforms into some creepy witch/demon/zombie looking face. She goes around pursuing each guest to get his or her soul for the devil. One she really wants is a young priest in training, who she heavily tries to seduce. One neat thing is that each guest represents one of the seven deadly sins and one by one they die by their sin.
Some of the stand out scenes in the film are, when a couple are murdered in the attic that are filled with old torture devices like the guillotine and an iron maiden. Also, the film has a very steamy lesbian scene between two of the girls. The scene is really hot and close to soft-core porn. How most European horror films of this time just tease you with these types of scenes, this one delivers. The haunting score of the film is another stand-out as well and is performed by Alessandro Alessandroni.
If you haven’t seen The Devil’s Nightmare yet, check it out. This great hidden Italian gem is a scary, creepy, stylish horror movie that would be prefect to watch on Halloween or any night of the year.