What is it about Italian schlock director Luigi Batzella and women in skimpy nightgowns fleeing through the woods? The Devil’s Wedding Night starts the same as his later Nude for Satan (1974), only minus the gratuitous nudity (Boo-hiss!). Psychedelic titles zoom right at you accompanied by Vasili Kojucharov’s rousing score. Meet Karl Schiller (Mark Damon - star of Pit and the Pendulum (1961) and Black Sabbath (1964)), an effete aristocrat searching for the magic ring of the Niebelungen (yes, the same one from Wagner’s opera) that will grant him power over all mankind, and whose past bearers range from Alexander the Great to Attila the Hun. His Poe-quoting best friend remains sceptical when Karl claims the ring was last seen in Transylvania. He warns him about vampires, but Karl owns a protective amulet drawn from the demon, Pazuzu.
So Karl arrives at vampire central right on “the night of the virgin moon”, when traditionally five local lasses are sent to Castle Dracula, never to return. Ignoring the warnings of Tanya (Francesca Romana Davila) the comely innkeeper’s daughter, Karl heads along to Castle Dracula where he meets spooky, sultry Countess Doringa De Vries (Euro-horror regular Rosalba Neri) who along with her spooky, sultry maidservant Lara (Esmeralda Barros) immerses him in all manner of satanic goings on.
A movie that exists in its own weird little time warp, this period gothic horror delves into a grab-bag of horror movie mythology drawing elements from Teutonic lore, Wagnerian opera, Bram Stoker, The Exorcist (1973) and the grisly historical crimes of Countess Elizabeth Bathory. Only a true visionary could pull off this mix and lord knows the man who directed The Beast in Heat (1977) is not that guy, so it's unsurprising he serves up a mess of jumbled images of which viewers are left to make their own sense. Early scenes were seemingly lifted from the Jonathan Harker segments in Stoker’s novel, while Batzella throws in his speciality: softcore satanic sex of lesbian and hetero varieties filmed in arty fashion, until Countess Doringa turns into a screeching bat and a plot twist introduces Karl’s twin brother Franz. And just who is that strange old man who pops up in various guises throughout the story?
Mark Damon, sporting a shaggy Seventies hairdo and black eyeliner that makes him look like a cross between Marc Bolan and Lon Chaney Snr.’s Phantom of the Opera, delivers a strangely theatrical performance as if auditioning for a kids’ Halloween show. However, once again Rosalba Neri proves her worth, coping ably with some very florid dialogue and breathless banter with both Schiller brothers. Batzella’s attempts at surrealism stray into outright silliness as when a drugged Franz cackles hysterically through an LSD trip (looking like the Jon Pertwee era Doctor Who credits) while Doringa and Lara roll naked on the floor and his brother’s voice calls from the great beyond. But cinematographer and future exploitation and porn mogul Joe D’Amato produces the occasional striking image like the moment a naked, blood-splattered Doringa rises from a coffin amidst plumes of smoke. Or the parade of virgins (in diaphanous gowns of course) sleepwalking out of town towards Dracula’s castle.
Everything climaxes with a chicken-brandishing Lara leading hooded cultists and naked virgins in a satanic chant of “Oom-manna-padma-oom!” before Franz (or is it Karl?) battles a Dracula-possessed Karl (or is it Franz?), then goes chop-happy with a handy axe. Nobody gets out alive but then that’s what happens when you go craving ultimate power.