Also released in the U.S. as THE DEVIL’S CRYPT, the Italian-made THE DEVIL’S WEDDING NIGHT is cult favorite that has the right blend of old-fashioned monsters, creepy castles, fog-bound crypts and R-rated erotica (i.e. bare breasts and blood). Although the film has had numerous VHS and DVD releases in the past, it now gets its most definitive U.S. home video offering on Blu-ray from Code Red DVD.
In the 18th century, scholarly archaeologist Karl Schiller (Mark Damon, HANNAH QUEEN OF THE VAMPIRES) is doing research on the Ring of the Nibelungen which is supposed to have special powers and known to have belonged by Count Dracula. With an amulet which is supposed to protect him against all evil, he plans to ride his horse to the Carpathian Mountains where the ring is believed to be, but his twin brother Franz (also Damon), a womanizing gambler with debts, has beaten him to the punch. With his brother’s protective amulet at hand, Franz makes an overnight stay at a local inn with the usual superstitious villagers, and he receives a friendly warning from the innkeeper’s lovely daughter (Enza Sbordone, TALES OF EROTICA). Franz then arrives at Castle Dracula, where he’s greeted by a dark zombie-like woman named Lara (Esmeralda Barros, KING OF KONG ISLAND) who is the servant to the Countess de Vries (Rosalba Neri, here billed as Sara Bay, 99 WOMEN). Franz is seduced by the Countess, and immediately after he spots the desired ring on her finger, she puts the bite on him. Twin Carl soon arrives, but it’s already too late; Franz is now a vampire and subject to the Night of the Virgin Moon, a satanic ceremony which will require five virgins summoned to the castle as blood sacrifices, as well as sharing vows with the evil Countess.
Originally known as "Il plenilunio delle vergini", THE DEVIL’S WEDDING NIGHT follows a common trend in Europe in the early 1970s of vampire movies chock full of nudity and often embracing themes of lesbian bloodsuckers as exemplified in similar films from Jean Rollin, Jess Franco, Harry Kumel and other exploitation filmmakers. THE DEVIL’S WEDDING NIGHT doesn’t take the level of nudity and sexuality to the extreme like some of these entries, but it does take it farther than Hammer’s “Karnstein Trilogy”, a series which at times it looks like it’s heavily imitating. The director, Luigi Batzella, who would often use pseudonyms such as “Ivan Kathansky”, did a few spaghetti westerns in the 1960s and later trash favorites such as NUDE FOR SATAN and SS HELL CAMP. Batzella was obviously a cut-rate filmmaker and not in the least bit a stylist, as the behind-the-scenes champion of the film are cinematographer Joe D'Amato (the notorious PORNO HOLOCAUST director here billed as “Michael Holloway”, but we all know he’s really Aristide Massaccesi). As a cameraman, D’Amato has an eye for lurid imagery, especially when lensing the Countess’ naked smoke-filled blood bath or the crimson-lavished blood ceremony, furnished with hooded sacrificers and a string of nubile beauties. The film has a terrific period look to it, and this is also due to the actual castle (Balsorano Castle) where it was mostly shot in and around. Balsorano can also be seen in the same producer’s (Ralph Zucker’s) THE BLOODY PIT OF HORROR and a number of black and white Italian gothics from the previous decade including TERROR IN THE CRYPT with Christopher Lee, and it really offers some enticing, decaying atmosphere. There are some truly trippy scenes in the film, including when three characters break into fits of laughter for no particular reason and the Countess transforming into a vampire bat (a real bat shown in close-up) in the middle of her lovemaking to Franz.
Since she had already essayed the title role in the Italian-made erotic monster movie LADY FRANKENSTEIN using the same “Sara Bay” screen name, it was only natural that Neri appear here in what is essentially another knock-off on the Countess Elizabeth Báthory legend (which Hammer had already taken a stab at with COUNTESS DRACULA, as did Jorge Grau in the Spanish-lensed THE LEGEND OF BLOOD CASTLE). The Bathory angle is just one ingredient in this kitchen sink horror film which also incorporates Count Dracula and themes from Edgar Allan Poe stories, but it’s one of Neri’s best genre roles and she looks great in the buff or in a black veil and tiara, summoning village virgins with her mystical ruby red ring on top of the castle (although she’s speaking her lines in English, she’s been dubbed over by another actress). American actor Damon had already been in Roger Corman’s HOUSE OF USHER and Mario Bava’s BLACK SABBATH, and by this time he was mainly acting in Italian productions. Damon has fun playing the twin brothers, and the split screen effects and a double with a similar mane of jet black hair both make the scenes convincing. Although he’s played his share of good guys, he’s sinister-looking enough to play a Dracula-esque vampire (who sort of resembles Count Karnstein in TWINS OF EVIL) as well as his nice twin (even though at times it’s hard to tell them apart, but that’s actually woven into the story). Xiro Papas (here billed as “Ciro Papas”) plays a brutish and bald long-fanged vampire monster (this is around the same time he played another mute creature in the incredible FRANKENSTEIN ‘80) and Gengher Gatti (one of the zombies from THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE) plays a character known as “The Mysterious Man” who is not unlike “The Man in Black” from Hammer’s THE VAMPIRE LOVERS. The score by Vasili Kojucharov, who mostly worked in westerns, at times feels overblown but there are some nice, eerie musical pieces to be found on the soundtrack.
In the U.S., THE DEVIL’S WEDDING NIGHT surfaced on DVD as part of the Elvira “Movie Macabre” line from Shout! Factory as well as a budget release from Alpha Video (paired with a TV print of THE WITCHES MOUNTAIN). Code Red has now licensed it from Telefilms, creating a beautiful transfer from the original vault elements. Starting off with the original Dimension Pictures logo, the film has been presented anamorphically at 1.78:1 (so its hard-matted compositions look right on) in 1080p HD. Colors are quite striking, detail is excellent (day-for-night scenes hold up really well), grain is subtle and nicely maintained and fleshtones are surprisingly life-like. The image is mostly clean, but there is a yellow/orange-tinted line formation (emulsion scratch) which is seen more than 30 minutes into the picture and lasts for a few minutes. The DTS-HD mono English track is also well done, with only an occasional pop to be heard.
Beautiful Katarina Leigh Waters does a skit (as twins) as well as bookend hosting duties when you play the film in “Bucket List Theater” mode; she also shares a few facts about the cast and crew and reveals a brief gore shot (the blood gushing from a severed hand) culled from the Japanese tape version, a bit which is not found in the U.S. cut of the film. Just released, the Blu-ray of THE DEVIL’S WEDDING NIGHT was available exclusively through Code Red DVD as part of a three-pack bundle (with THE NIGHT CHILD and THE OBSESSED ONE), but became unavailable before we could publish this review. Keep checking Code Red’s site for the title to show up for sale again, because it’s highly recommended, especially for fans of 1970s European vampire movies. (George R. Reis)
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