Odd film, this. Not being the biggest fan of Hammer, I always felt Amicus a more competent stable (neither really produced a film that was actually frightening, but they could be entertaining, and Amicus were glossy and lurid.) This one is a little-known piece that always gets bad reviews but I happen to like it. Firstly, it has a splendid cast. Secondly, the camerawork is something to behold, the sickly lurid colours blending in with the gorgeous period costumes and attractive, dramatic locations. There is also a little more going on here than meets the eye. Perhaps a subtle nod to the Glamis Castle story…? There’s a little bit of class war going on, and despite its vivid rape scene I can’t help feeling this isn’t quite the exploitation movie it appears. For an early 70s movie it does at least treat the issue seriously; the effect it has on the victim and the fact that no measures can atone for it are believable.
A word to the excellent music, beautiful but interspersed with a spooky zither. And Geoffrey Whitehead is very good. The graveyard climax is pretty powerful too, and the closing shot as a camera wanders an empty room to the Bible is a cut above what one expects from this genre. The bad points are the tacky severed hand, the occasional Grand Guignol hamminess and the fact that the film does rather overplay it’s hand…it spends so long building up to its revelation that by then it will always be a let down.
And one other criticism…Catherine recovers from her wedding night ordeal ridiculously quickly, which totally contradicts the film’s central premise. Still, the open window symbolism and the Malleus Mallificarum references are neat, as is the wonderful scene of Charles standing by the window as the snow falls and reading the lines from Milton’s Comus. This film honestly isn’t as bad as you may think and you could certainly do alot worse on a dark winter evening!