Monday, August 29, 2016

Vamp or Not? Mill of the Stone Women

Another suggestion from friend of the blog Ville, and I can only apologise that it has taken me so long to get to this film. I had seen it before and really should have gotten around to looking at it as a ‘Vamp or Not?’ as Ville suggested.

The film is from 1960, was directed by Giorgio Ferroni and, whilst an Italian/French production, was set in Holland. The cinematography is quite lovely at times, though the colour palate is rather muted and as I re-watched it I felt that this had a thickness to the photography that was reminiscent of its era but could have benefited from the deft lighting associated with Mario Bava (or perhaps just a digital clean up).

It begins with Hans von Arnim (Pierre Brice, La Notte Dei Dannati) arriving by barge. He is looking for the residence of Professor Gregorius Wahl (Herbert A.E. Böhme) and is directed to a further short boat trip followed by a walk to the Mill of the Stone Women – or at least that is what the locals call it.

the Carousel
He reaches the house connected to the Mill and is let in by the dour housekeeper Selma (Olga Solbelli) and is waiting when he sees a woman peeping from behind curtains. Before he can investigate he is taken through to the Professor’s study and, it seems, is only mildly curious when a wail sounds out from the room he left. The study is interconnected with a room with a diorama fed by carousel. A gust of wind catches the mill’s sails and the display begins on its own. The display is of infamous women (murderers and the murdered) who are all cast life-size – the stone women of the mill’s name. The Professor appears and speaks to the young man.

the Professor and Hans
He has been sent to write an article on the centennial of the Professor’s Great-Grandfather’s opening of the carousel. The Professor hadn’t been expecting him so soon but, as he is there, he might as well begin work straight away. He is given a workspace and told that he cannot remove the papers and so will have to work from there and that the Professor expects him to be done within five days. He is told the times of the last ferry back to town in the evening.

giving mixed signals
The Professor has a lesson to give at the art academy. Amongst his students is Liselotte (Dany Carrel), an old friend of Hans who holds a flame for him, and their mutual friend Ralf (Marco Guglielmi), who is shamelessly flirting with model Annelore (Liana Orfei). So, as things move on, Hans discovers that the face he glimpsed belonged to the Professor’s daughter Elfie (Scilla Gabel). On that one glimpse she has fallen in love with him and, when they do properly meet, he kisses her and then, the next day, realises he loves LiseLotte. This does not sit well with the Jealous Elfie but, also, he is warned by the Professor that she is sick and strong emotion can bring on an attack and thus asked to stay away from her.

assumed dead
This illness has necessitated that she has a live in physician, Doctor Loren Bohlem (Wolfgang Preiss, Cave of the Living Dead & The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse). When she succumbs to the illness, with Hans in the room, she wails and collapses, blood trickling from her mouth. He carries her to her room and she seems to have sores on her skin and, when he puts a mirror to her mouth, no breath – causing Hans to believe her dead. Later, in conversation, Bohlem and the Professor discuss how she has died and been brought back many times.

about to be transfused
The issue seems to be an illness of the blood and we see her having her “bad blood”, as the Professor terms it, drained out of her. She is then transfused the blood of an unwilling victim – in the scene we see, this is from the kidnapped Annelore. Bohlem and the Professor carry out the procedure together but Bohlem claims that his participation is absolutely necessary to her survival – suggesting that there is an element more than the transfusion necessary, as the Professor seems quite capable of performing that. Certainly, when they discover someone with a rare blood type, Bohlem suggests that use of a newly developed serum with that blood could prevent the need for any more transfusions. There is no suggestion that specific blood types are needed for the standard transfusions.

Bohlem and Elfie
This, of course, follows a science offering life through the life of another scenario. Unlike films such as I Vampiri the procedure is not making the person younger, although it does seem to remove the skin blemishes and sores that appear when she has a turn. More importantly she is aware of the procedure and the impact it has on the victim – we see her mock one victim. Hans visits her sleeping and she appears unnaturally still and she is said to have died several times – thus is sort of undead. Not important to the vampirism, but the Professor mummifies his victims and makes them the models in his display – beating a similar motif in Track of the Vampire by 6 years.

Lisalotte and Hans
All in all, I have to say that this is a vampire movie. I think it is the miraculous impact the blood (or possibly serum enriched blood) has on her (healing the blemishes as well as reviving life) and the fact that she knows she is extending her life through the deaths of others. A nice slice of euro horror and worth your time, the pace might be slow but the atmosphere works throughout. The imdb page is here.


Unknown said...

I like this one. Gorgeous Technicolor Gothic.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I'm glad you like, thanks for commenting, always appreciated