It Happened at Nightmare Inn is something of a travesty. It’s a victimization of what looked to be a fairly decent Spanish horror flick from 1973 called A Candle for the Devil. That film is an 83-minute-long flick about a pair of murderous sisters who run a B&B in a rural village in Spain. It Happened One Night is a 67-minute-long cut of that film with all the juicy bits removed for American television. The cuts are so ruthless that it’s obvious to the viewer that key scenes are missing. So much has been excised that it ruins much of the storytelling, as important plot points are passed over. If at all possible, I recommend potential viewers stay away from the TV cut, unless they are curious to see what happens when a toddler with a pair of scissors is allowed to edit an already finished film.
From screenwriters Antonio Fos and Eugenio Martin, and directed by Martin, Nightmare Inn follows Marta and Veronica (Aurora Bautista and Esperanza Roy), two very Catholic sisters who spend their time judging the lifestyles of their guests. Should a female guest dress scandalously, or stay out late into the evening, there follows a severe scolding and a murder. The two are so holier-than-thou it’s infuriating, and also makes for a compelling premise.
The fly in their ointment is Laura Barkley (Judy Geeson), a tourist, and the sister of one of the supposedly immoral guests the sisters have killed (the fate of the sister is one of the scenes that didn’t make the TV cut). Laura was supposed to meet her sister in the village, but, unaware of her sister’s fate, finds her missing. She enlists the help of some locals and other tourists throughout the course of the film in finding her sister, but it’s all for naught, as Marta and Veronica continue to be quite stabby.
There looks to be a decent film, here. Well, as decent as the struggling Spanish film industry under Franco could make. There are echoes of Italian horror, which is no surprise. Italy was where Spain took most of its film cues at the time.
The cast gave credible performances, and Martin’s direction had liveliness to it. And it all came crashing down on the altar of broadcast television prudishness. How ironic that a film about an intolerant pair of sanctimonious murderers had all its life removed to satisfy broadcast censorship here in the States. It’s sad.
Despite being more entertaining than it had any right being, It Happened at Nightmare Inn is cast into the depths of the Watchability Index for the crime of wanton mutilation of film, bumping The Last Exorcism Part II out of the #324 slot. Stay away.