There is nothing quite so satisfying as the fun one can have with a grade B film, especially those in the horror genre. Whether one is a novice merely watching for the unexpected fun of picking apart the plot devices (or lack thereof) and the low-budget sets and props (and the low-budget acting) or one is a connoisseur and able to relish the often poetic and intellectual intentions of the script writer and director, there is something to be said for these films that have a grand old time experimenting with ambitious concepts that would never be permitted to be attempted in a film without a shoe-string budget.
My first experience with these sorts of movies began at a very young age. Every Saturday morning, my sister and I would wake up, eat breakfast and then watch several hours of cartoons. She and I would debate over which channel we’d watch (this is all the way back in the days before remote controls, one of us would physically have to get off the couch, walk across the room and turn the dial to switch programs), until sometime around noon, when I’d get my way and put on “Creature Double Feature”, which was exactly what it sounds like: a double feature of 1960s grade-B horror flicks, mostly featuring some sort of murderous creature on the lose. I don’t remember feeling frightened while I watched them, though I still have chronic nightmares- mostly about being attacked by madmen, but I always enjoyed the sensations they made me feel. Some of these films still live in the recesses of my mind and have definitely influenced my writing (and my obsessive need to lock all doors and windows and look under my bed and in closets before going to sleep). They also helped me in the development for my love of all things cheesy. Suspension of reality due to silliness was never something that bothered me much in a film, just as long as my attention didn’t wane from boredom or was there an unnecessary use of gore (a liberal use of gore is fine, especially if it is clever gore, but I’m not a huge fan of the modern splatter flick).
That said, any film B-film that has the guts to begin with a quote from the Marquis de Sade, “My Vengeance needs blood!” has me at the get-go. Massimo Pupillo’s classic, Bloody Pit of Horror, aka Il Boia Scarlatto aka Crimson Executioner aka The Scarlet Executioner aka The Scarlet Hangman aka The Red Hangman aka Virgins for the Hangman aka Some Virgins for the Hangman aka A Tale of Torture aka The Castle of Artena aka Il Castello di Artena, was described in its trailer as, “Never before so much paralyzing terror as in this hair-raising orgy of sadism!” Bloody Pit of Horror is as wonderfully cheesy as it gets. The first scene sets the tone of the tale, wherein a red hooded sadist/murderer is put to death inside of one of his own Iron Maiden-type torture devices (this one conveniently has a window). The narrator shares, “On this fifth day of December in the year of our Lord sixteen hundred and forty-eight, by the power vested in us by our noble sovereign, this tribunal of Artena sentences you, the Crimson Executioner, to death. You will die by one of the very instruments you devised to torture and kill your innocent victims. You dared to take into your own hands the laws of both God and man. You set yourself up as both judge and executioner. You caused inhuman suffering, and took life not from any sense of justice, but from hatred and self-gratification. You showed no mercy to your victims, and no mercy will be shown to you.” Before he dies, The Crimson Executioner tells, “I’ll return and be avenged…This day shall be written in blood! No man can judge me! I am the supreme law! I shall have my revenge!” The real story begins when a horror writer and his book publisher, who are traveling with their entourage of models and assistants, arrive before the perfect castle wherein they would like to shoot pulp photos for their books. They break in, thinking nobody’s home, but they soon meet the castle’s mysterious owner, Travis Anderson, played by Mickey Hargitay (Jayne Manfield’s ex-husband and ex-Mr. Universe), who coincidentally is an ex-actor and the publisher’s secretary’s ex-boyfriend. A series of events then transpires which, of course, freeing the Crimson Executioner’s evil spirit, allowing it to take possession of Travis Anderson’s body and mind so that he can punish and torture his guests to their deaths. Though most of the actors are not at the top of their game, Mickey Hargitay seems to give it his all. The mostly scantily clad models are very two dimensional, but Mickey seems to transcend the screen. Sure, he is a bit over the top, but what Mr. Universe doesn’t come across as being a bit superhuman and cartoonish?
And, if you are a stupid quote junkie, you’ll really love this movie. Here are a few of my favorites:
Edith: You met the owner of the house. What's he like?
Rick: It's difficult to say, really. He was half-hidden behind a table.
Rick: Just as I thought: The rope wasn't worn; it was cut. At this point, there's only one explanation: Deliberate murder.
Travis Anderson: Mankind is made up of inferior creatures, spiritually and physically deformed, who would have corrupted the harmony of my perfect body.
Something Weird Video released a special edition DVD of Bloody Pit of Horror in early 2012. If you enjoy the low-budget Euro-horror genre, this is a must see!