Monday, May 21, 2012

"La Novia Ensangrentada"(1972)d/Vicente Aranda

By 1972, genre filmmakers weren't only making your father's vampire movies anymore, with gothic scenery familiarly chewed by hammy actors with penciled-in widow's peaks and corny accents and women who were little more than busty fang candy or sexy bat-bait.Nowhere was this more obvious than in Spain, where writer/director Aranda had just wrapped this off-beat, surprisingly sexy, uber-violent update on the Sheridan LeFanu vampire short story, Carmilla.Don't let the exploitative international title, The Blood Spattered Bride, ruin your experience with false promise of shlocky fun(despite free 'up-chuck cups' given out at the box office for squeamish and faint-of-heart theatergoers!), this is some potent hardcore imagery here, hauntingly set against a dreary Spanish countryside, and further intensified by the striking beauty of female leads,  Maribel Martin and Alexandra Bastedo, who more than resembled a Spaniard version of Blondie front-chick, Debbie Harry in her prime, at certain angles and under certain lighting to me here, and that's always hot.The original Anchor Bay disc eventually replaced the hulking Gorgon clamshell VHS in my collection(always hard to say goodbye to those, ain't it?), and though it's a bare bones release apart from the uncut widescreen print and the excellent "Berserk at the Bijou" combo trailer, it's managed to satiate my desire to revisit all the graphic genital-hacking, shotgunned nuts, blood-sipping, man-slashing mayhem whenever it arises, which is pretty frequently, to be honest.One of the more timely, thought-provoking vampire movies of the early seventies, fer sure, and one of my favorites.Onward.
Heyyy, this is even better than that 1853 half-dime love token I unearthed with my metal detector last summer.
We meet a delicious young newlywed named Susan(Maribel Martin) and her husband(Simón Andreu) as they stop off at a hotel for the night during a honeymoon roadtrip to his affluent family's sizeable estate in the thickly wooded countryside.As he gathers and checks their bags, she fantasizes about being strangled and roughly taken right on the marriage bed by a stocking-headed rapist, and is unwilling to consumate their vows or evenspend the night there, by the time he gets upstairs.At the manor, her husband becomes little more than a cartoonishly exaggerated libido, constantly pawing his young bride, and pouting like a toddler in the toy aisle when she manages to resist his advances, even locking herself in a pigeon coop and sending the key off into the wild blue yonder around one of the bird's necks, to keep the wolf-in-groovy-euro-turtleneck at bay.Through his creepy young cousin Carol(Maria-Rosa Rodriguez ), Susan soon learns of her husband's family history and their long-standing hatred of the women, as evidenced by the removal of all female portraits from the estate walls as ordered by Grandfather, and stemming from backward ring-wearing newlywed Mircalla murdering her husband on their wedding night, so the legend goes, and probably a major factor in the excising by knife of the striking blonde's grillpiece from her painting in the basement.Susan's mixed feelings about her octo-partner aren't helped much when he begins to show a cruel, sadistic side(though young Carol comments that Susan likes when he hurts her!), and after discovering Mircalla's defaced painting, she begins to frequently dream about her, and butchering her own husband with the woman's dagger, even removing his blood-pouring jewels afterward.When she awakens hovering over her sleeping spouse, clutching the very same blade from her subconscious, the line between fantasy and reality blur, and she begins to question her own sanity.
Doth Lady Mircalla(Alexandra Bastedo) require the G.P.S. estimate for the center of Stefano's goatee, perhaps?
With Susan's husband engulfed in a hopeless game of keepaway with the dream dagger, he decides to bury it at the beach, where he spots a human hand protruding from the sand nearby, and after clearing it all away, he's shocked to discover Carmilla(Alexandra Bastedo) buried naked save for a snorkel and some swim goggles.Back at the estate, Susan immediately recognizes Carmilla as the woman from her brutal dreams and pencil sketches, but her husband is too diplomatic to listen to her warnings, and by then, it's already too late.A physician trails the women to some dilapidated ruins nearby one night and is shocked by their animalistic cries of passion and the psychedelically sapphic blood drinking that follows.She later demolishes a roll top desk to score the aforementioned dagger for to slash said medical practitioner to pieces, and repeatedly shotgun's Carol's father in the face and groin when he finds Carmilla caught by the ankle in one of his animal traps.Eventually, Susan's husband musters up the sac himself to venture out to the ruins, where he's met by Carol, who's already been bitten on the neck, and relates that the women will come back, no matter what he does.She kneels on the ground and parts her hair for him, and he obliges by blowing the back of her head off with his rifle.He then discovers Carmilla/Mircalla's coffin, where he finds both women sleeping nude like the homicidal lesbian bookends that they are.He closes the lid and pumps the corpse box full o' lead before carving into one of Mircalla's lifeless breasts with a dagger.A newspaper headline declares that a "man cuts out three women's hearts".
"What's the big idea?!I was still using those genitals!"
Apart from a lot of Spanish television work, Martin has also appeared in genre fare like The House that Screamed(1969), and 1973's Bell From Hell.Bastedo, who appeared opposite Sean Connery in 1967 Bond flick, Casino Royale, also turned up in 1975's The Ghoul next to Peter Cushing and John Hurt, as well as a recurring character in Jennifer Saunders' comedy series, Absolutely Fabulous, and even a cameo as a Gotham socialite in Batman Begins(2005).You'll find Andreu in everything from Luciano Ercoli's La morte cammina con i tacchi alti(1971), 1979 white fu flop, Jaguar Lives! with Joe Lewis, Donald Pleasance, and Christopher Lee, and even 2003's Beyond Re-Animator.Aranda remains one of Spain's most renowned filmmakers to this day, tackling complex social issues and filling his lens with love, eroticism, and sadism, frequent favorite themes of his.Novia certainly covers all of those with an artistic flair, breathtaking cinematography, women that are beautiful to witness but dangerous to know, and stylized ultraviolence enough for any gorehounds in the audience.On the scale, it merits three Big ones, and comes recommended.Check it out for yourselves!
"Make way, the meat for this sappho-sammy just cracked your crusted coffin lid, you dames, you!"

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