Friday 11 November 2011

The Blood Spattered Bride (1972)

What would you do if you were walking along a deserted beach and came across a beautiful woman buried in the sand wearing nothing but a diving mask? If like me you’d be on the alert for the inevitable Spanish horror film crew that had to be lurking somewhere you’re reading the right column. There’s quite a bit of memorable imagery in Vicente Aranda’s 1972 Spanish lesbian vampire picture, but none that’s quite as bizarre or surreal as this. One presumes that the diving mask was probably requested, quite reasonably, by actress Alexandra Bastedo to stop all the sand from getting in her face, and to allow her to breath while the shot was set up. In fact director Aranda seems to have been most accommodating to both his lead actresses as one also presumes that he had no problems sorting out a nude double for Maribel Martin, even if it does look like they had to use more than one. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
            While US horror cinema has only used Sheridan LeFanu’s story Carmilla for the briefest of inspiration (eg in Stephanie Rothman’s 1971 THE VELVET VAMPIRE) Europe has done its best to do Mr LeFanu proud, with interpretations from France (Roger Vadim’s 1960 BLOOD & ROSES  / ET MOURIR DE PLAISIR), Italy (LA CRIPTO E L’INCUBO from 1964), and of course the UK (Hammer’s THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, which surprisingly enough is the most faithful of all, even if the two sequels, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE and TWINS OF EVIL aren’t). Spain’s version went under the original title of LA NOVIA ENSANGRENTADA but it’s best known by the title heading this article.
            Simon Andreu and Maribel Martin get married but all is not well. As soon as they get to their honeymoon hotel Maribel’s starting to suffer from hallucinations in which she is raped, causing her to want to leave. They travel back to Simon’s ancestral home, which has a tumbledown church next door (the kind of beautiful location movies like this seem to be able to come up with effortlessly) and paintings of all his female ancestors in the cellar, one of which is holding a bloody dagger, has had the face cut out of it and bears the name ‘Mircalla Karstein’. In this film the legend goes that she killed her husband because he wanted her to perform ‘unspeakable acts’ on their wedding night. What these acts were we never get to find out but they were certainly bad enough for Mircalla to become cursed as a vampire (probably) and to get sealed up in the crypt next door. While we’re finding all this out Maribel’s suffering from more hallucinations, but now she’s where Mircalla presumably wants her they’re taking the far more pleasant form of a ghostly Alexandra Bastedo, draped in lilac and wandering the ruins during the hours of darkness. It’s not long before Simon has discovered Ms Bastedo naked on, or rather in, the beach (see above) and has brought her back home for tea, as one does in EuroHorror films based on Carmilla. Of course it’s not a good idea, not least because one of Maribel’s night-time hallucinations has already involved both her and Mircalla stabbing Simon to death in a particularly unpleasant scene that has graced video box covers up and down the land. Calling herself Carmilla her seduction of Maribel continues, leading to the death of the local doctor and a huntsman, who gets more than just his face blown off after releasing Carmilla from an animal trap in a yet another arresting (sorry) image. The finale involves possibly the one direct visual reference to LeFanu’s story, when Simon riddles Mircalla’s coffin with bullets, causing it to fill with blood. But Simon has a further fate in store for the two bloodied female corpses within, summed up rather more subtly than one might expect by this point by a newspaper headline that leads to the fadeout.
            Like many European horror films of the time, THE BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE is a mixture of atmospheric longeurs, fine visual imagery, and the necessary exploitation elements that enabled this to be booked at many a drive-in cinema (with a movie called I DISMEMBER MAMA, which I have yet to see but I can’t say I’m in any hurry). Fans of films of this period, and of this style, will find a lot to reward their viewing patience in a film where probably the least subtle thing about it is the title. Oh, and all the blood that gets spattered over…well, perhaps it is a good title after all.


  1. Yeah I watched this in Manila, Philippines in 1977. And yes it was heavilly cut(they cut out the nudity and left the violent scenes in). Again watched it on DVD in 2008 and I can appreciate the movie now with all the scenes intact.

    I remember that I watched it in the afternoon and I was the only one in the theater except for two guys who were making out in the back.

    Anyways its surreal but still a watchable movie. Its more coherent than some Euro horror from the 1970s(like the surreal Succubus by Jesus Franco).

    As for media adaptations of Le Fanu's Carmilla. I watched a Nightmare Classics(US Cable TV horror anthology show from 1989) episode adapting Camillla starring Roddy Mcdowell as a van helsing type character(who gets killed in the middle of the ep.) & Meg Tilly as Carmilla. They changed the setting to the American South before the American Civil war.Actually liked the adaptation even with the changes.

    Another good adaptation is a radio play of Carmilla by CBC(Canadian Broadcasting center) in the mid 1980s as part of the horror show Nightfall. Very well acted and atmospheric and true to the original.

    Have yet to listen to the latest BBC adaptation of the story.

  2. Since we are on the subject of Sheridan Le Fanu...

    I remember watching two excellent British TV adaptations on his other work.

    The best is Schalken the Painter(BBC). Wow, very atmospheric. The ending is just great. Interesting for 1970s Brit TV as it had sex and nudity uncut on public TV. You won't get that in US TV in the 1970s.

    The other is Uncle Sillas as a black and white ep. on ITVs Mystery & Imagination(one of the remaining intact shows). Quite well done.

    Ash Tree press also came out with a buch of very nice Le Fanu short story collections

  3. Yes Schalken the Painter (for the BBC TV show Omnibus) is very good and creepy. Uncle Silas is quite good too. Talking of Mystery and Imagination I'm sorry they wiped their version of Carmilla with Jane Merrow as I would have loved to have seen that!

    The Ash-Tree LeFanu books are lovely. Here in the UK we have a paperback publisher called Wordsworth who have put out most of the LeFanu volumes in very smart affordable little paperbacks as well.

  4. Yeah, too bad they wiped most of the House of mystery eps. Same with many British horror and sci fi TV stuff like Dead of Night, Late Night Horror and Out of the Unknown.

    Maybe some of these wiped eps are in existance somewhere abroad. I'm preety sure they aired these shows in foreign countries. I remember seeing Hammer House of Horror and Mystery and Suspense in the Philippines in the early 80s. And they used to show Sweeney and Minder in Hong Kong late at night in the early 90s.

    I just finished listening to the BBC adaptation of Carmilla. Just excellent.

  5. Certainly there are versions around - I've seen three episodes of Dead of Night. Only one - Don Taylor's The Exorcism - is any good but it's worth tracking down. Copies of Out of the Unknown seem to be floating around as well.

  6. Yeah, I saw the remaining three eps of Dead of Night and Exorcism is just excellent. I believe I have all the existing eps of Out of the Unknown but some of the best eps still elude me like Nigel Kneale's chopper.

    I just read an article on a Aickman story adapted to an ep. of Late Night Horror called Bells of Hell(adapted from Ringing the Changes)

    As for excellent TV shows getting erased...we sort of have the same problem here in the USA..I believe that there are some tv shows from the 1950s and early 60s which have been erased. I myself am looking for eps. of Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected, the Evil Touch & Roald Dahl's Way Out. But supposedly the originals still exist in a network vault or in the UCLA movie and arts dept.

    As for the Philippines. The Phil had several horror TV shows from the 70s and the 1980s which are good but have been lost to poor handling and weather(not good to store film in 37 degrees with no air conditioning).

  7. I have I Dismember Mama around here somewhere... someone taped it for me yonks ago and twinned it with "Santa Claus Conquers the Martian" featuring a very young Pia Zadora as a green-faced Martian child.... I'll see if I can find it...

  8. Yeah watched Santa Claus conquers the martians on Canadian cable TV in 2007. Horrifying!!!!

    I also remember watching a young Jeff Goldblum as a drugged out rapist in Death Wish.