Il trono di fuoco (1970)

Directed by Jesús Franco [Other horror films: Gritos en la noche (1962), La mano de un hombre muerto (1962), El secreto del Dr. Orloff (1964), Miss Muerte (1966), Necronomicon – Geträumte Sünden (1968), The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968), Der heiße Tod (1969), Marquis de Sade: Justine (1969), The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969), Paroxismus (1969), De Sade 70 (1970), Nachts, wenn Dracula erwacht (1970), Les cauchemars naissent la nuit (1970), Vampyros Lesbos (1971), Sie tötete in Ekstase (1971), Jungfrauen-Report (1972), Drácula contra Frankenstein (1972), Der Todesrächer von Soho (1972), La fille de Dracula (1972), Dr. M schlägt zu (1972), Les démons (1973), La comtesse noire (1973), La maldición de Frankenstein (1973), La nuit des étoiles filantes (1973), Los ojos siniestros del doctor Orloff (1973), Al otro lado del espejo (1973), La noche de los asesinos (1974), Les possédées du diable (1974), La comtesse perverse (1974), Les gloutonnes (1975), L’éventreur de Notre-Dame (1975), Sexorcismes (1975), Frauengefängnis (1976), Jack the Ripper (1976), Un silencio de tumba (1976), In 80 Betten um die Welt (1976), Die Marquise von Sade (1976), Greta – Haus ohne Männer (1977), Die Liebesbriefe einer portugiesischen Nonne (1977), Die teuflischen Schwestern (1977), Der Ruf der blonden Göttin (1977), El sádico de Notre-Dame (1979), Mondo cannibale (1980), El caníbal (1980), Die Säge des Todes (1981), La tumba de los muertos vivientes (1982), La mansión de los muertos vivientes (1982), Revenge in the House of Usher (1983), El tesoro de la diosa blanca (1983), Macumba sexual (1983), Sola ante el terror (1983), Sangre en mis zapatos (1983), Mil sexos tiene la noche (1984), El siniestro doctor Orloff (1984), Lilian (la virgen pervertida) (1984), La esclava blanca (1985), Faceless (1987), Killer Barbys (1996), Tender Flesh (1997), Mari-Cookie and the Killer Tarantula (1998), Lust for Frankenstein (1998), Vampire Blues (1999), Dr. Wong’s Virtual Hell (1999), Helter Skelter (2000), Vampire Junction (2001), Incubus (2002), Killer Barbys vs. Dracula (2002), Snakewoman (2005), La cripta de las mujeres malditas (2008), La cripta de las mujeres malditas II (2008), La cripta de las condenadas (2012), La cripta de las condenadas: Parte II (2012)]

This Jesús Franco film didn’t really do a whole lot for me. While there are some solid scenes of torture every now and again, much of the film came across as a historical drama, and were it not for Christopher Lee (playing the sinister Judge Jeffries), I would have liked this film a lot less.

Widely known as The Bloody Judge, I really appreciate, as a moderate student of history (a minor of mine in college) the historical nature of the film, though I am slightly put off by how it overshadows any and all of the horror aspects (which come primarily from the torture sequences).

Of course, this film isn’t without it’s positives. Christopher Lee does great in his role (though I don’t think the conclusion insofar as Jeffries was concerned was that satisfactory), and Hans Hass Jr., Milo Quesada, and Maria Rohm stand out also. Also, there was a solid sequence at the end once William of Orange came ashore. Alas, the ending played out somewhat quickly, which gave it a somewhat anticlimactic feel.

Personally, I think the biggest problem with this film is it’s meandering plot. The basic plot, in which the son of a Lord is looking to get married to the sister of a woman killed for being a witch and escape out of England is all well-and-good, but at an hour and forty minutes, I will admit to having stopped caring past a certain point. Loved the torture sequences (though none were overly over-the-top), and every scene with Lee, but much of the film just wasn’t my cup of tea.

As it is, when it comes to historical horror films, I already have the 1968 Witchfinder General to fill the void. If you see this for any reason, it should be Lee’s solid performance as a despicable judge killing innocents in the name of God and country. Truth be told, I was hoping for more than I got from this. The Bloody Judge may work for you, but it didn’t do a lot for me.

5.5/10

La corta notte delle bambole di vetro (1971)

Directed by Aldo Lado [Other horror films: Chi l’ha vista morire? (1972), L’ultimo treno della notte (1975)]

This Italian giallo, widely known as Short Night of Glass Dolls, was a decent film for much if the run-time, but toward the end, it sort of went into a somewhat incoherent mess.

The mystery here is pretty good, and enjoyable to watch unfold. A young woman disappears without a trace in Prague, and her lover, an American journalist, attempts to find her. It’s typical for a giallo, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. It’s made better by the setting, and more so, the time period, as this took place when then-Czechoslovakia was a Communist state behind the Iron Curtain.

Because of that, there is a bit of anti-USSR material strewn throughout the film, and even toward the conclusion, though I don’t think it’s terribly over-troubling. It does lead to a more oppressive feel, and much of the going-ons have a very conspiratorial feeling to them. Problematically, the conclusion doesn’t explain what’s going on nearly as well as I’d have liked, and honestly, I’m at a loss right now as to what actually happened, and why. It’s just not made clear, as far as I could tell.

Worth noting, most of the main story is told via flashback, and the present-day material, luckily, is decently engaging. Still, I don’t care much for the conclusion they had there, either, though it certainly possessed a somewhat bleaker feel than some audiences might be used to.

I’m not trying to harp too much on the movie, because much of it is really engrossing. It’s not until the final ten minutes or so that the movie, in my opinion, falls apart. It’s just rather noticeable because my enjoyment level went down so much as the ending unfolded, and I felt that given how good the film was before, it was rather unfortunate.

I liked much of the principal cast of this film. Jean Sorel took a little bit, but he grew on me as the film went on. Playing a friend of his, I thought that Mario Adorf did well with his more care-free, fun-loving character. Lastly, playing the woman who goes missing, Barbara Bach did well as a beautiful, semi-mysterious woman.

For a giallo, La corta notte delle bambole di vetro is extraordinarily tame. There’s little to no gore, and many of the staples you might expect from the subgenre, such as first-person view from the killer, or black gloves, are absent. The mystery is certainly here, and like I said, it’s done well, but this movie feels really toned down, and if you’re expecting a run-of-the-mill giallo, then you’ll likely to be disappointed.

I will admit to being disappointed by this one, if only because the conclusion (to both the flashback and present-day stories) were so unsatisfactory. I can live with little gore, because the story was otherwise engaging, but what draws me to giallos is how everything’s pieced together nicely at the end, and I definitely didn’t get that feeling here. For what this movie is, it’s okay, but I’d definitely temper your expectations before jumping in.

6/10