Director: Alberto De Martino
Notable Cast: Gerard Tichy, Leo Anchoriz, Ombretta Colli, Helga Line, Iran Eory, Vanni Materassi, Paco Moran, Emilia Wolkowicz, Harry Winter
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.
After the messy, but highly entertaining aspects of the previous film in this box set, Lady Morgan’s Vengeance, my expectations were established for The Blancheville Monster. Like the rest of the films in this set, this one was going to be a blind watch, but if it was as entertaining as the last one, I was going to be in fine hands. Yet, while the gothic tones, sets, and final 10 minutes are effective, The Blancheville Monster feels like a very obvious Roger Corman-style Edgar Allen Poe movie knock-off - and one that is burdened by its pace and mystery.
At first, this film sets up such a premise for entertainment that it was easy to slip back in my movie-watching chair, grab a beer, and feel comfortable that this film was going to deliver the goods. The atmosphere of its opening, as a carriage bounces its way through the woods towards a classic-looking gothic castle in the distance, is nostalgia 101. Original, nay, but certainly a welcome sight. Even as the film starts, which includes a disfigured “monster” in a tower and an Agatha Christie-style ensemble of characters all seem to possibly hide their own monstrous secrets, it is setting the stage for a great gothic horror film.
However, as the narrative and plot start to unwind, The Blancheville Monster reveals the real monster that stalks its cobb-webbed halls. A monster called “boredom.” Despite some fun elements including a doctor that might as well be twirling his mustache evilly, a running plot thread where one character is being seemingly hypnotized at night by a rumored family curse, and the titular monster that lives in the tower, the film is far more content in dragging its feet in moving any real pieces of its mystery forward.
The Blancheville Monster spends a significant portion of its time trying to establish red herrings and possible false threads to what is happening to the characters, particularly Emily - played with the standard wide-eyed confusion of a damsel in distress by Ombretta Colli. It spends too much time on it. On paper, it is a classic “spot the villain” kind of angle to the story, but in doing the plotting and narrative become a meandering saunter where nothing actually happens. When something does happen, for example when the film remembers to use its ruinous setting the “monster” in the tower, it still does so with little tension or sense of urgency which undermines some of its better aspects.
For fans of those who enjoy the Corman era of Poe films, there is a sense of fun to the knock-off elements at play in The Blancheville Monster, and the final act hits some great visual pops of atmosphere, but overall, this one is a relative chore to get through. Some of the performances help carry the film and the use of ruins as a setting and the castle add substantially to the atmosphere, but it is too little to make the film stand out.
If anything, here’s to hoping that the rest of the Gothic Fantastico kicks up the entertaining value over this one. Not that The Blancheville Monster is bad, but it’s plodding and generic. Take that how you will.