La Bambola di Satana (1969)
aka Satan’s Doll or The Doll of Satan if you prefer.
Released by Twilight Time on blu ray, this was a new to me title that mixes giallo thrills against a gothic castle setting in modern day 1969, the time of the film’s release. While it’s by no means the best film of either genre and though outdated for today’s fright enthusiasts, it’s a fun throwback to when these Euro imports were rapidly thrown into the marketplace to recoup their investments hoping to turn a profit at the local drive ins.
It’s a black and white montage over the opening credits from director Ferruccio Casapinta that gives us a glimpse of things to come over the next ninety minutes. Erna Shurer stars here as a young woman journeying back to her ancestral home/castle estate after the death of her Uncle. She’s the sole heir and it’s time for the reading of the will. Accompanying her is her fiancée, Roland Carey. True to form the family lawyer is a senior citizen and there’s a spooky housekeeper, Lucia Bomez who not only is trying to convince the young woman to carry out her Uncle’s wishes and sell the estate but she also has a secret lover who the camera conveniently photographs from behind. And so the mystery starts.
“I guess I need to get used to this atmosphere.”
As this is a castle, Lucia the lusty housekeeper lets the young heiress in on the ghost story that haunts the castle and sure enough, chains begin rattling and her name, Elizabeth is eerily spoken in the dead of night. Perhaps a tour of the antiquated torture chambers in the catacombs beneath the castle floors might be in order to convince the young woman to sell to the neighbor who has conveniently let her know that he’s more than interested in the property.
Where the hell did that lawyer disappear to? He was supposed to hand over some family documents in the morning but seems to have gone missing. Little does our terrified heroine know that the night before, a mysterious intruder murdered the old man in his chambers and did away with the body. Filmed from the back and judging by that hair line, I think it might have been the housekeepers secret lover. One and the same.
I think there might be a red herring or two moving about that includes a young woman painting landscapes in the countryside and another couple who have joined Erna and Roland within the castle walls. Did I mention there’s a handy dandy butler patrolling the castle as well? The stormy nights pick up steam and Miss Shurer is beginning to have the most erotic dreams meaning the producers need to flash a bit of skin to sell their product to the distributors.
The dreams are rather warped and maybe even real as someone might be drugging her nightcap. Is she dreaming or really being tied to a rack, stripped naked and feeling the whip at the hands of her hooded captors? According to the advertising campaign, it looks real enough for the drive in crowd.
Fortunately for our leading lady, she has a fiancé who is willing to step up and uncover the mysterious goings on about the castle. This includes a pretty good hillside fist fight with a dubious character from the local bar who seems to be watching things a little to closely. While the fist fight is well done, the sound effects of those hellacious punches are hilariously bad.
On the one hand there are some wonderful shots captured on camera of purple skies and clouds at dusk or dawn I suppose and then BANG! that zoom lens begins cranking and I think I’ve been exported to another dimension and am overdosing on Jess Franco films. Over all this is a fun title that takes some Giallo killings, stirred with a reading of the will and capped by some weird 60’s attempt at psychedelic dancing of the worst kind at the local pub. Did Roger Corman have anything to with this? No I guess not.
If you do pick up the Twilight Time blu ray, the film looks good and the subtitles read fine. An added bonus feature is a commentary that includes David Del Valle who I find knows the medium and is always worth listening in on.