Director: Massimo Pupillo
Notable Cast: Barbara Nelli, Paul Müller, Gordon Mitchell, Erika Blanc, Michel Forain, Carlo Kechler, Edith MacGoven
Arrow Video has delivered another one of those classic box sets they are known for unleashing with their latest: Gothic Fantastico: Four Italian Tales of Terror. Pulling together four films under a common thematic and stylistic aspect, this set contains some 1960s cult cinema finds with brand new 2K restorations, gorgeous packaging, and enough new commentaries, essays, and interviews to impress any movie collector.
Although this might be the first film in the Gothic Fantastico: Four Italian Tales of Terror box set, one might expect that a film named Lady Morgan’s Vengeance would have a lot more - vengeance? Yet this 1965 gothic romantic horror film centers most of its time and energy around the gaslighting of the titular Susan Morgan rather than the vengeance that comes thereafter. Not that establishing characters, plot, and motivations is a bad thing, but despite some strong visual elements and performances Lady Morgan’s Vengeance is a film that doubles down on its easy-to-consume (yet oddly offbeat) story which burdens the overall experience.
Lady Morgan’s Vengeance is a tame film by today’s standards, but director Massimo Pupillo imbues the entire film with a palpable atmosphere, gorgeously shot in black in white, and hammers home its formulaic concept with relative ease. Although it occasionally gets into some more intense moments like a possible torture dungeon in the basement of the new house, the focus on developing the atmospheric touches in the first two acts lends well to set the stage for its supernatural finale.
The film does have its well-shot and visually punchy moments, including an impeccable sequence where Susan is led up some shadowy stairs to the roof while under a trance-like spell. Just the manner that her billowing nightgown waivers in the wind is one of those classic gothic horror moments worth noting and why this film is included in this set. If anything, these moments can carry the film through its rockier moments and just went the film starts to slog one of these key scenes will pop up and keep the audience locked in.
Beyond that, Lady Morgan’s Vengeance makes some intriguing choices. Not only does the titular vengeance take until the final act to really get rolling - with the unintentional humor that comes with one of her acts of vengeance being the ability to turn whiskey into water (?!), but the film spends far more time on the villain dynamics than the protagonists. While the love plot drives the supernatural spin of its latter half, Lady Morgan’s Vengeance is far more interested in how the villains plot or react than it is about finding the balance between their greed and lust compared to love and justice. It makes for some wildly entertaining over-the-top performances, particularly from Gordon Mitchell, and the film adds in an out of left field ending that goes for broke. It is not enough of a foundation to uplift the overall film though.
Although Lady Morgan’s Vengeance is entertaining and features some great visuals and fun performances, it is a film that blows into the viewer's brain with a whisper and leaves just as quickly once the credits roll. It is one of those curiosity viewings for cult cinema fans more than anything and for that - it’s worth the watch.