Saturday, October 12, 2013


After an on-screen note that this film is based on the writings of the Marquis de Sade (it's not), we see a masked figure called the Crimson Executioner being executed for heresy and sadistic crimes, stuck into an iron maiden as blood drips out of the bottom. The dead body is sealed in the device and kept in the dungeon of the Executioner's castle, so as never to be disturbed. Next we're in the present day as a publisher, some male photographers and some voluptuous female models are scouting locations where they can conduct photo shoots for some horror book covers. They come upon the castle where, at first, they get a frosty reception from the owner, an actor named Travis (Mickey Hargitay), but when it turns out that one of the women, Edith, is a former girlfriend, he relents and allows them to stay overnight. After the women get decked out in their sexy, skimpy attire for the photo shoots, people start dying. Travis is actually a nut-job who thinks that he’s been possessed by the Crimson Executioner and has been tasked with keeping his perfect body pure; women just corrupt the flesh and so must be done away with, preferably after some torture (whips, racks, etc.). For good measure, he tortures and kills the men as well.

Much has been written about this film as a graphic psychosexual exercise in sadism, with homoeroticism as the whipping boy (sorry, pun intended); the half-naked muscled torso of Hargitay, a former Mr. Universe, is on display throughout, mostly clad in just a mask and revealing red tights. The character rants about the purity of his body—reminding me of a hotter version of Sterling Hayden's General Ripper in DR. STRANGELOVE—and lovingly applies oil to his chest a couple of times. But since this is a shoddily-made exploitation movie, it does nothing with the interesting subtext. The torture and the almost undraped women (no full nudity) may have seemed graphic in 1965, but today the movie probably would only be rated PG-13, and the gore effects are weak and unconvincing—the blood left on a bared cleavage after a whipping looks like a smear of watered-down ketchup. Nevertheless, Hargitay acts his heart out, making me wish the rest of the movie was better so his character would seem more truly dangerous. [DVD]

No comments: