What a wonderful pile of cheese. And what a wonderful title. Bloody Pit of Horror. It just rolls off the tongue. Of course, there have been countless bad horror flicks with great titles. What makes this less disappointing than so many others is a certain lightheartedness — a feeling that one is watching a funhouse flick. At no point is any of this film meant to be taken seriously. It’s not a black comedy, but neither is it a downer. Rather, it’s as if everyone’s favorite gang of youths in the neighborhood got together to make a backyard play for all the parents to see, maybe to raise some money for Billy’s operation. Aw, gee whiz, it sure is neat. It’s also Italian, which means it is shameless schlock.
From way back in 1965, Bloody Pit of Horror stars legendary sword-and-sandal actor Mickey Hargitay as Travis Anderson, a former sword-and-sandal actor who has taken up residence in an abandoned castle and surrounded himself with some of the Joker’s henchmen.
The castle (played by the Castello Piccolomini in Balsonaro, not to be confused with the Castello Piccolomini in Celano, or the one in Capestrano, or the one in Ortucchio) was the site of brutal murders and tortures in medieval times, carried out by the Crimson Executioner (also played by Hargitay in an into scene). The Executioner’s reign of terror was ended when he was himself executed, sealed in an iron maiden, and his castle declared off limits for all time, as a reminder of his evil.
The Executioner is great. He looks like a Mexican wrestler. I mean, this costume is just glorious:
Fast forward to the present day, and a book publisher, Parks (Alfredo Rizzo), wants to use the castle for a photoshoot. The project is a series of pics of scantily-clad models to be used in a horror anthology written by Rick (Walter Brandi).
At first, Anderson is unwilling to have the group traipsing around, but he changes his mind when he remembers this is a horror flick, and horror flicks need victims. What follows is Anderson, believing he is the reincarnation of the Crimson Executioner, torturing and killing members of the cast, leading to a denouement in the torture chamber that is akin to a fight scene from the old Star Trek show.
The torture scenes are more hilarious than they are horrifying. Director Massimo Pupillo really put his actresses through the ringer. He had them hung, splayed, and stretched all over imitation medieval torture devices. My personal favorite torture was one reserved for raven-haired Kinojo (Moa Tahi). She was tied up in a giant spider web, with the strands connected to bows and arrows. If anyone touched one of the strands, the arrows would fire, killing her. As if that weren’t enough, a papier-mâché spider full of venom slowly creeps towards her, ready to end her life no matter what. The scene is ridiculous, but also campy to a high degree. It’s all so fake that it’s impossible to take seriously.
And that can be said for all the stuff in this flick that is supposed to be horror. It is horror, in that people get hurt and die, but scaring people or inducing a feeling of dread (like the Saw films) could not have been the aim of this film. If it was, then it was an abject failure.
There are so many simple things Pupillo and company could have done to ratchet up the horror. The first step would have been turning down the lights some. Creepy castles just aren’t all that creepy when they are well-lit. Another would have been the instructions to the actresses. They play their roles in caricature. It’s impossible to ignore, especially when Rita Klein goes full ditzy blonde. But, then, this movie wouldn’t have been nearly as funny. Also, as noted above, there’s the torture. It’s lack of realism is a positive aspect, in relation to the tone of the rest of the film. The evidence that this film is not meant to be taken seriously is the film itself.
Bloody Pit of Horror is not a good film. But it is lively and eccentric. Hargitay’s manic performance is perfect, and the whole damn thing is high kitsch. A movie this bad shouldn’t be this watchable, but there it is. Bloody Pit of Horror makes it into the top half of the Watchability Index, bumping DeepStar Six out of the #98 spot. Check it out.