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Blu-Ray : Highly Recommended
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Sale Price: $95.99 Last Price: $ Buy now! 3rd Party 95.99 In Stock
Release Date: May 30th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1964

Danza Macabra Vol. One: The Italian Gothic Collection

Overview -

Nothing goes bump in the night quite like an Italian horror film, doubly so for those dealing in the gothic. Severin Films brings together four underseen gothic horror shockers from Italy with Danza Macabra Volume One: The Italian Gothic Collection, a four-disc box set chock full of archival and newly produced supplements to round out each film, plus the US Blu-ray premiere of the oversexed and sleazy Lady Frankenstein, a Roger Corman-produced drive-in classic. Get ready for four tales of madness with this Highly Recommended release from Severin!

In a genre known for its castles, crypts and candelabras, Italian Gothic also embraced themes of violence, madness, and sexual deviance. With these 4 films, those impulses dare to go even deeper: In 1964's THE MONSTER OF THE OPERA, director Renato Polselli and screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi craft a surreal erotic shocker set within a contemporary dance troupe. Perhaps the genre's rarest film, the berserk supernatural narrative of 1965's THE SEVENTH GRAVE also makes it among the strangest. For 1970's SCREAM OF THE DEMON LOVER, director José Luis Merino gathers classic traditions, then strips them naked and ties them to a torture rack. And 1971's LADY FRANKENSTEIN delivers iconic EuroCult talent on both sides of the camera for one of the most luridly entertaining shockers of the decade. The films in this collection are now fully restored from their original negatives, with 12+ collective hours of Special Features.

DISC ONE: THE MONSTER OF THE OPERA (1964)

Conceived as a sequel to their landmark THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA, director Renato Polselli (THE REINCARNATION OF ISABEL, DELIRIUM) and screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK, LIBIDO) resurrected their gothic-fiend-stalks-a-theatrical-troupe framework for an over-the-top aria of reincarnated lovers, sheer nightgowns, sapphic hunger, interdimensional damnation and frenzied 'opera' that "looks like the fever dream of an oversexed choreographer" (Fantastic Movie Musings). Marco Mariani (TOMB OF TORTURE), Giuseppe Addobbati (NIGHTMARE CASTLE) and Milena Vukotic (BLOOD FOR DRACULA) star in this surreal and still potently erotic shocker now scanned in 2K from the original negative, featuring an all-new interview with Gastaldi and more.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • NEW 2K RESTORATION FROM THE ORIGINAL CAMERA NEGATIVE
  • Audio Commentary With Kat Ellinger, Author of Daughters Of Darkness
  • Terror At The Opera – Interview With Screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi
  • Capodimonte Gothic – Interview With Italian Film Devotee Mark Thompson-Ashworth
  • Radio Polselli – Archival Audio Interview With Director Renato Polselli
  • French Trailer
  • Italian audio with English subtitles
  • REGION-A "LOCKED"

Disc Specs:

  • Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
  • Audio: Italian Mono
  • English Subtitles
  • Region A
  • Run time: 84 mins

DISC TWO: THE SEVENTH GRAVE (1965)

For more than 50 years, it has existed only via rumor, reputation and barely watchable bootlegs. It remains perhaps the strangest Italian Gothic ever made: The sole feature by enigmatic director Garibaldi Serra Caracciolo – here using the anglicized pseudonym 'Finney Cliff' – combines familiar murder mystery elements of THE CAT AND THE CANARY with odd dollops of mad doctors, escaped lepers, giallo-style killings and one of the most strikingly original séance sequences in the entire genre. Antonio Casale ('Bill Carson' in THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY), Ferruccio Viotti (SEX OF THE WITCH) and Gianni Dei (PATRICK STILL LIVES) star in this fascinating rarity now scanned in 2K from the recently discovered negative, with all-new Special Features that explore the bizarre circumstances behind the film's production, release and half-century disappearance.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • NEW 2K RESTORATION FROM THE ORIGINAL CAMERA NEGATIVE
  • Audio Commentary With Rachael Nisbet, Film Critic And Co-Host Of Fragments Of Fear
  • Seven Graves And A Mystery – Interview With Film Historian Fabio Melelli
  • English Aesthetic With Giallo Blood – Video Essay By Gothic Scholar And Author Rachel Knightley
  • Italian audio with English subtitles
  • REGION-FREE

Disc Specs:

  • Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
  • Audio: Italian Mono
  • English Subtitles
  • Region Free
  • Run time: 77 mins

DISC THREE: SCREAM OF THE DEMON LOVER (1970)

Though he made only two horror films, veteran writer/director José Luis Merino (THE HANGING WOMAN) here embraces the genre's classic elements and ravishes them to vivid extremes: When a beautiful biochemist (Erna Schurer of STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER) arrives at a foreboding castle to work for a sinister baron, she'll unlock a nightmare of dark romance, sexual violence, grisly family secrets and some of the most perverse moments in '70s Gothic. Carlos Quiney (ZORRO THE INVINCIBLE), Agostina Belli (BLUEBEARD) and Enzo Fisichella (MALABIMBA) co-star in this Italian/Spanish co-production – also known as KILLERS OF THE CASTLE OF BLOOD and released in the U.S. by New World Pictures cut by nearly 20 minutes – now scanned in 4K from the negative for the first time ever.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • NEW 4K RESTORATION FROM THE ORIGINAL CAMERA NEGATIVE
  • Audio Commentary With Rod Barnett, Film Historian And Co-Host Of NaschyCast, And Robert Monell, Writer And Editor Of I'm In A Jess Franco State Of Mind
  • Scream Erna Scream! – Interview With Actress Erna Schurer
  • In The Castle Of Blood – Video Essay By Stephen Thrower, Author Of Books On Jess Franco And Lucio Fulci
  • Trailer
  • Audio: English Mono / Italian Mono
  • English Subtitles
  • REGION-A "LOCKED"

Disc Specs:

  • Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
  • Audio: English Mono / Italian Mono
  • English Subtitles
  • Region A
  • Run time: 98 mins

DISC FOUR: LADY FRANKENSTEIN (1971)

Co-produced by Roger Corman, "one of the most underrated horror movies of all time" (Classic Horror) features ultra-lurid direction by American-International star Mel Welles (LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS) from a story by by Dick Randall (PIECES), distinctive cinematography by Riccardo Pallottini (CASTLE OF BLOOD) and score by Alessando Alessandroni (THE DEVIL'S NIGHTMARE), a cast that includes Hollywood legend Joseph Cotten (CITIZEN KANE) alongside EuroCult icons Paul Müller (NIGHTMARE CASTLE), Herbert Fux (MARK OF THE DEVIL), Marino Masé (TENEBRAE) and Mickey Hargitay (BLOODY PIT OF HORROR), and a titular performance by the remarkable Rosalba Neri (THE DEVIL'S LOVER) for whom "only the monster she made could satisfy her strange desires!" LADY FRANKENSTEIN is now scanned in 2K from the original negative, with alternate scenes, all-new Special Features and much more.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • NEW 2K RESTORATION FROM THE ORIGINAL CAMERA NEGATIVE
  • Audio Commentary With Kat Ellinger, Author of Daughters Of Darkness, And Annie Rose Malamet, Film Scholar And Host Of Girls, Guts, Giallo
  • Audio Commentary With Alan Jones, Author Of Dario Argento: The Man, The Myths & The Magic, And Kim Newman, Author Of Nightmare Movies
  • Meet The Baroness – Featurette With Actress Rosalba Neri And Film Historian Fabio Melelli
  • Piecing Together LADY FRANKENSTEIN
  • The Lady And The Orgy – Documentary Short On Director Mel Welles
  • The Truth About LADY FRANKENSTEIN (2007) – German TV Documentary
  • Clothed Insert Shots
  • Video Short Illustrating BBFC Censorship Cuts
  • Italian Opening Credits
  • Bigfilm Magazine (1971) – Italian LADY FRANKENSTEIN Photo Novel
  • Extensive Image Gallery
  • Home Video Gallery
  • Radio Spots
  • TV Spot
  • Trailers
  • Audio: English Stereo / Italian Stereo
  • Closed Captions / English Subtitles
  • REGION-FREE

Disc Specs:

  • Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
  • Audio: English Stereo / Italian Stereo
  • Closed Captions / English Subtitles
  • Region Free
  • Run time: 98 mins

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
NEW 2K RESTORATION FROM THE ORIGINAL CAMERA NEGATIVE (Lady Frankenstein) (REGION FREE)
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.78:1
Audio Formats:
English Stereo / Italian Stereo
Subtitles/Captions:
English (with CC on Lady Frankenstein)
Release Date:
May 30th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

Castles, spiders, crypts, candelabras, sexual deviance, and shocking violence, oh my! The country of Italy has produced some of the greatest horror films of all time, owing much to the constantly polemic political situations that integrate wonderfully into spooky films, plus the country is chock full of locations that give vivid life to the wild and crazed plots lying therein. In Danza Macabra Volume One, you’ll be treated to a varied collection of gothic horror works, ranging from haunted opera shocks in black and white to vivid, gory and colorful monster violence. Such a variety gives the viewer the opportunity to sample what will be expanded upon in future volumes. Sticking to the Italian gothic movement opens up plenty of opportunities for diverse works from the country’s leading talents, thus this set also serves as a nice primer for all those diverse works.

First up in the set is The Monster of the Opera, a 1964 horror shocker from director Renato Polselli (Delirium, The Reincarnation of Isabel) and screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (All the Colors of the Dark, Libido). Monsters and sexual frenzy are the name of the game in this one, with a story about an opera troupe slowly devolving into insanity caused by a powerful vampire that lurks in their theater. You can tell clearly why the production of the film was held up because of budgetary issues, as the film starts out strong going right into pitchfork killing, screaming, and close-ups of vampire faces, then it recedes a bit into low-budget and slow, methodical unraveling of the troupe. But when that climax comes, you’ll be shocked to the heavens by Polselli’s assaultive style and some risqué violence.

The second film in the set may be the most obscure of the bunch. Garibaldi Serra Caracciolo’s The Seventh Grave, a 1965 film that is rather amateur in execution but has a couple of key sequences that rise above. This rarity concerns a group of travelers from America and Great Britain as they visit the estate of the late Sir Reginald, which reportedly houses the lost treasure of famous pirate, Sir Francis Drake. But when they try to summon Drake’s ghost, of course, the bodies start piling up. This entry in the genre is plagued by poor technical craftsmanship in certain sequences, but it strikes gold briefly during the séance sequence, although the well-worn tropes thrown at the various characters fall flat. Film scholar Roberto Curti originally panned the film in his essential book on Italian gothic films, but its flaws and eccentricities are certainly worth a late-night viewing.

Third up is my favorite film in the entire set, Scream of the Demon Lover, an especially sleazy Spanish-Italian horror film that was cut down over 20 minutes for its original US release through Roger Corman’s New World Pictures. The truncated 78-minute version played on double features with Stephanie Rothman’s The Velvet Vampire, one of the finest and most poetic restructurings of the vampire myth from the US. Shot on 16mm and with a female lead who’s anything but a damsel in distress, Scream of the Demon Lover takes a few plot devices from Antonio Margheriti’s The Virgin of Nuremberg and mashes them with the painterly, vivid colors of Mario Bava to create something really unique. The dark romance that runs through the story has equal weight with the violence, plus it revels in an opulent, decaying house harboring plenty of secrets. The sumptuous visuals and thick 16mm textures jump off the screen.

Last, but certainly not least, is Mel Welles’ drive-in classic, Lady Frankenstein. The 1971 Italian horror film was co-produced by Roger Corman through New World Pictures, but it was more than just a distribution deal. Corman helped director Mel Welles gain the financing needed when it originally fell through, and star Rosalba Neri is the bedrock of this hastily made work that stitches uncouth elements of horror together like the patchwork of the monster’s flesh in the film. This is drive-in delirium from Italy that has an American sleaze to it. The story is simple, with Neri’s character being the daughter of Dr. Frankenstein (Joseph Cotten) and she develops a thirst for her father’s work. Very large, heaping helpings of gore and nudity can be found throughout.

Needless to say, whichever film you start with in Danza Macabra Volume One: The Italian Gothic Collection, you’ll find sexual fervor and spooky violence in abundance. Whether you skew toward the more American-leaning gore and nudity or the histrionics brought to you by 60s Italy, you’re sure to be sated by this box set.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
More EuroCult favorites comes to HD with Danza Macabra Volume One: The Italian Gothic Collection from Severin Films, presented here in a slip-top box with four black amaray cases inside. Each movie is given a BD50 disc, except for The Seventh Grave, which gets a BD25. All four discs boot up to standard menu screens with options to play the film, set up audio and video, browse bonus features and select chapters.

Video Review

Ranking:

All four films in Danza Macabra Volume One: The Italian Gothic Collection have earned new HD transfers that put them far and above previous releases. The Monster of the Opera features a new 2K scan from the original negative that falters a bit in finer detail, but that can most likely be attributed to the age of the source. Otherwise, the film offers terrific black-and-white contrast with a nice thick layer of grain. The Seventh Grave was scanned in 2K from its recently discovered negative and I was gobsmacked a bit by how beautiful the transfer looks given the very, very low budget of the production and its rare value. Contrast is tuned in just right and film grain is resolved well, plus it doesn’t seem like much damage was found at the source.

As for Scream of the Demon Lover, that title was scanned in 4K from the original single-strand 16mm negative and the result is nothing short of gorgeous. That 16mm grain is thick, but the encode handles all those vibrant textures and colors well without losing detail along the way. Lady Frankenstein was scanned in 2K from the original negative. This looks to be the same scan from the 2018 UK Blu-ray release from Nucleus Films, although with a better color grading that respects both exteriors and interiors more accurately. All in all, the films in this set look great given the age and wear on some of the negatives.

Audio Review

Ranking:

Similarly to the video presentations, each film is gifted with a solid representation of the original Italian soundtracks all packaged in the DTS-HD MA codec, save for Lady Frankenstein. The Monster of the Opera comes with a clean 2.0 Italian track, as does The Seventh Grave. Scream of the Demon Lover wasn’t shot with live sound, but both Italian and English dub tracks sound good despite being very thin. Lady Frankenstein offers both English and Italian options in the LPCM codec, and both presentations sound remarkably clean with nary a moment of damage.

Special Features

Ranking:

On the supplements side, Severin has packed this box set with interviews with cast and crew, video essays from preeminent horror scholar Stephen Thrower, plus and all-new interview with Rosalba Neri for Lady Frankenstein that deserves your attention immediately. I highly recommend watching Thrower’s essay on Scream of the Demon Lover, as there isn’t a ton known about this little ramshackle Italian horror that could, so his wealth of information certainly helps give context. The interview with Ernesto Gastaldi on The Monster of the Opera is fun and flighty as well, with the Italian filmmaker recounting just how quickly and haphazardly he and director Renato Polselli had to move to make the film marketable to vampire-overloaded audiences at the time.

Disc 1: The Monster of the Opera

  • Audio commentary with Kat Ellinger, author of Daughters of Darkness
  • Terror at the Opera – Interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (HD 30:30)
  • Capodimonte Gothic – Interview with Italian film devotee Mark Thompson-Ashworth (HD 14:22)
  • Radio Polseslli – Archival audio interview with director Renato Polseslli (HD 21:30)
  • French trailer (HD 2:29)

Disc 2: The Seventh Grave

  • Audio commentary with Rachael Nisbet, film critic and co-host of Fragments of Far
  • Seven Graves and a Mystery – Interview with film historian Fabio Melelli (HD 12:52)
  • English Aesthetic with Giallo Blood – Video essay by gothic scholar and author Rachel Knightley (HD 14:43)

Disc 3: Scream of the Demon Lover

  • Audio commentary with Rod Barnett, film historian and co-host of NaschyCast, and Robert Monell, writer and editor of I’m in a Jess Franco State of Mind
  • Scream Ema Scream! – Interview with actress Erna Schurer (HD 19:18)
  • In the Castle of Blood – Video essay by Stephen Thrower, author of books on Jess Franco and Lucio Fulci (HD 38:59)
  • Trailer (HD 2:53)

Disc 4: Lady Frankenstein

  • Audio commentary with Kat Ellinger
  • Audio commentary with Alan Jones, author of Dario Argento: The Man, the Myths & the Magic, and Kim Newman, author of Nightmare Movies
  • Meet the Baroness -- Featurette with actress Rosalba Neri and film historian Fabio Melelli (HD 21:48)
  • Piecing Together Lady Frankenstein (HD 35:18)
  • The Lady and the Orgy – Documentary short on director Mel Welles (HD 8:08)
  • The Truth about Lady Frankenstein – German TV documentary (HD 43:57)
  • Clothed Insert Shots (HD 2:56)
  • Video Short Illustrating BBFC Censorship Cuts (HD 2:52)
  • Italian Opening Credits (HD 2:42)
  • Bigfilm Magazine – Italian Lady Frankenstein photo novel (HD 2:39)
  • Extensive image gallery (HD 5:38)
  • Home Video Gallery (HD 5:38)
  • Radio Spots (HD 1:33)
  • TV Spot (HD 00:27)
  • Trailers (HD 5:44)

Final Thoughts

Danza Macabra Volume One: The Italian Gothic Collection is yet another stellar box set from Severin Films, with brand-new HD presentations of four Italian gothic films that run the gamut from sleazy US-Italy co-productions to long-underseen rarities, and the set is packed to the gills with special features to enjoy. For all lovers of Italian horror, this release comes Highly Recommended!