Loony Lord Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen) is a murderous psycho with a thing for redheads. Tortured by visions of his late wife Evelyn’s infidelity, Alan lures pretty prostitute Polly (Maria Teresa Tofano) and later, gorgeous, flame-haired stripper Susan (Erika Blanc) back to his creepy castle. Suave playboy Alan has the ladies strip down to their panties and don shiny, leather boots for go-go dancing fun amidst the gothic gloom, before he whips, tortures and murders them. Or does he? During these psychotic episodes Alan blacks out. When he awakens, the girls have gone, so he assumes the worst. His psychiatrist (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) fears Alan is headed for the asylum. Against all odds, Alan finds happiness marrying lovely Gladys (Marina Malfatti). But soon the pair are haunted by Evelyn’s walking corpse. Is there really a ghost? Or is there an earthly culprit: wheelchair bound Aunt Agatha (Joan C. Davis)? Slimy cousin George (Roberto Maldera)? Blackmailing groundskeeper, and Evelyn’s brother, Albert (Rod Murdock)? The blood splattered finale packs a sting in the tail.
Few films sum up the groovy age of Euro horror better than this one. Emilio P. Miraglia’s delirious giallo reinvents itself every twenty minutes, tossing out wild imagery, undraped beauties and outrageous twists, amidst a sublime score by Bruno Nicolai. Shorn of its violence and nudity, it would make the greatest Scooby-Doo episode of all time. On a logical level, it’s ridiculous that Alan keeps getting away with abducting women, and sub-plots including Aunt Agatha’s phoney paralysis and her affair with Albert are abruptly dropped. However, this remains a cult classic on the strength of its imagination and outstanding visuals. Miraglia reworks sleaze into elegance, with dreamy, sensual images like Evelyn running naked through the forest, or her spectre wafting around the castle. He makes inspired use of picturesque locales like the mist-drenched forest, and bathes the real-life castle in psychedelic colours. Often derided as bland, spaghetti western star Anthony Steffen isn’t entirely awful as Alan, but - though cult film expert Chris D. launches a spirited defence in his liner notes - he isn’t particularly charismatic either.
Super-siren Erika Blanc makes an unforgettable entrance, thrusting her bottom out of a coffin to perform a scorching striptease. After strutting her stuff in bikini briefs and leather boots, she exits the film far too early. But Marina Malfatti provides an agreeably strong-willed, vivacious, sexually confident heroine. Wearing some spectacular outfits, Gladys proves a feistier than macho misogynist Alan had reckoned. Though there are no heroes in this story per se, the mean-spirited climax leaves the most agreeable schemers dead, leaving us with no one to root for. A dispiriting end to an otherwise fabulous ride. No Shame’s region 1 DVD offers a beautiful presentation of this drive-in favourite, paired with Miraglia’s far more obscure The Red Queen Kills 7 Times (1972). Extras include insightful interviews with production designer Lorenzo Baraldi and star Erika Blanc. Blanc offers amusing insights on her co-stars and an intelligent assessment of Italian cult cinema. She also introduces the main feature, camping it up wonderfully.