Poor innocent Jenny has married a psychopathic Mad Scientist and moved into a castle of nightmares that is haunted by her late sister, Muriel, and her lover, David. Jenny’s new husband, The evil Dr. Stephen Arrowsmith, tortured and then murdered his ex wife and her lover when he finds them making love in the greenhouse. In a fit of jealousy, Stephen ties the lovers up and then electrocutes and burns them with acid. After they are dead he removes their hearts so that he can cure his own lover, Solange, of a disfiguring disease.
What Stephen does not realize is that his wife’s fortune passes onto her sister in the event of her death. So Stephen then has to court and marry the sister, Jenny, in order to carry on in the lifestyle he has grown accustomed to… A huge castle, his own laboratory, and his now youthful and lovely assistant. Stephen Brings his new bride home to the castle. Unfortunately his plans all go out the window when the restless spirits start haunting the very emotionally fragile Jenny. She quickly goes mad from the stress of it all.
Scream Queen Barbara Steele plays the duo roles of Muriel and Jenny. The two characters couldn’t be more different, Muriel is conniving and adulterous, while Jenny is sweetly innocent and mentally unstable. This duality creates a perfect venue to showcase the talent of Ms. Steele. Barbara Steele is best known for her striking good looks and grace in The Pit and the Pendulum, where she co-starred along side Vincent Price. Nightmare Castle was directed by Mario Caiano and was originally filmed in Italian but has been dubbed over in English. The DVD version I own is uncut, but when this film was originally screened in the US, all the best scenes were cut out of it. In fact 20 minutes was cut out from the Italian version because the torture scenes were considered far too risqué for american audiences.
Nightmare Castle and The Whip and the Body are good examples of classic Italian Gothic Horror that pushes the limits of the sensors of the early 60s. In a lot of ways these movies were way ahead of their times for the torture and sex that is depicted on screen. The Gothic scenery is beautiful with exquisitely decorated Victorian rooms and the leading ladies are dressed in ruffled and corseted dresses of the time. The Castle is charming and creepy at the same time, with carnivorous bleeding plants, dark shadowed corners, and cobwebs. Even though the movie is beautiful to watch, the dialogue and storyline is a little far-fetched at times.
In the end, Nightmare Castle is a real treat for Gothic Horror Movie lovers that love the scenery and costumes but for those who don’t know and love the genre might find it a little slow and tedious.