He was a homicidal maniac who lived to kill
Branded as a heretic and lover of all things lecherous, the oddly christened Crimson Executioner (all other good drag names having been taken, apparently) is placed inside one of his own torture devices and pincushioned to death. Fast-forward a few hundred years, as Vogue's True Crime division shows up at the castle of craven delights to do a sadistic photo shoot about the connection between crime and beauty (and yet they never once mention Fred Hayman…hmmm). Thinking the place abandoned, they do a little Euro-trailer trashing and bust into the joint. There they meet the incredibly groomed and overmuscled Travis Anderson, a deranged actor who thinks he is the living reincarnation of…Liberace (the fact that, at this time, the gay piano player was alive and well and wowing the old ladies in Las Vegas was irrelevant). The frosted-haired fiend owns the joint and demands that the group leave him and his Jean Paul Gautier-in-training bodyguards alone to…umm…discuss sports. But they just ignore the fey fop and head into the dungeon for some carnal Kodak moments. A late night trip to the wine cellar breaks the seal on the Red Destroyer's spirit box and before long, a bodybuilder in red tights and a black mask is prancing around the palace, stabbing lovers and sending sinners to meet his mechanical spider (???). Has the Maroon Marauder really come back from the dead? Or is the homosexual ham just playing a really gory game of dress-up? Whatever the case, it's up to the group's Stephen King to save them all from a play date in the Bloody Pit of Horror.
Originally known as The Scarlet Executioner, then renamed A Tale of Terror (with a few Virgins for the Hangman and a Castle or Artena around for good measure) Bloody Pit of Horror is a true treat, a sleazy bit of cruel camp that mixes its messages and its sexual metaphors simultaneously and brilliantly. Like Halloween Horror Nights at Siegfried and Roy's house, this 1965 sadist's version of Queer Eye for the Slay Guy gives a whole new meaning to the concept of "coming out." For the costume drama-less Travis Anderson, one step into the Beet Beater's former domain and he's free to flex in the mirror, swear secret vengeance, and parade about in a fabulous set of paisley muumuus. While really nothing more than a starring vehicle for Jayne Mansfield's (by then) ex-hunk, the Hungarian fart-throb Mickey Hargitay, this mincing, mean-spirited sexploitation flick manages to manufacture enough outrageous kitsch cool that you just can't help but snuggle up to it like a hairy guy in leather chaps. The gothic setting, the moribund models, and a beefy, bisexual blood bringer in skimpy spandex all add to the aura of outrageousness here.
About the only things more goofy than the various torture devices—a mechanical spider packed with poison in a room filled with crossbow spider webs, a concrete "horse" with a built-in coal box for charbroiling your victims—are the ridiculous rants the title character is given to speak. Indeed, The Mickster is hampered with some of the most hilarious, narcissistic dialogue this side of Terence Trent D'Arby, and his overdubbed voice truly enjoys all the engorged emoting. Yes, our poor misunderstood ex-Mr. Universe is apparently unable to use his own vocal chords to chew lines of various lengths and laughability, so an incredibly butch-sounding sort is left to cover his accent tracks. Gems like these—"My vengeance needs blood," "Mankind is made up of inferior creatures, spiritually and physically deformed who have corrupted the harmony of my perfect body," "They have desecrated your world of beauty with their sordidness"—produce an endorphin rush of randiness. The most memorable bon mot (said while he is ceremoniously greasing himself up) of all, though, is: "I came to the isolation of this castle to avoid the contagion of human sentiment. And a woman's love would have destroyed me!" Indeed, it's a party every time our tainted titan opens his yap to imitate Lypsinka. Anticipating our man Mick's next weird waxing is just one of the joys to be found around this cavern of claret. There is really a decent mood of dread and decadence here, as well as some amazingly blasé actresses in various stages of near-nakedness. All the men come from the Maltese army school of wimpiness, and the photo shoot moments have a still life lunacy all their own. But it's Hargitay who really sells the relish here. In his final moments, mind bent on bedlam and moving from torture victim to torment set-up like a prop comic in the Catskills, you'll be lucky if you can keep up with him, let alone appreciate his desire to inflict damage.
Something Weird Video does an outstanding job with this release, providing a wonderful transfer and some glorious bonus goodies as well. On the print side, Bloody Pit of Horror looks exceptional. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is bright, crisp, and mostly defect-free. Any issue with the image comes from the source, not the digital domain. And since it's filmed in "Psychovision," the maintenance of the original theatrical aspect ratio must be a good thing. In addition, we get some deleted scenes, about ten minutes in total, which highlight tidbits and trims made to thin out the running time. Also optional is a trailer which frankly tells a little too much of the tale here. Of the short subjects offered, the stupid-as-a-stripper excerpt from Primitive Love underscores just how jokeless and jumbled said full-length feature is. Better is Cover Girl Slaughter, which aims toward a discussion of how the covers of dime crime novels and detective-style magazines are created. It may also just be an excuse to bathe scantily clad models in buckets of stage blood. Along with a nice gallery of exploitation art and some radio spot rarities, this is a stellar packaging of one wild, way-out movie.
Blatantly gay overtones, tacky European in-crowd types, and twisted tortures of the human body and sensibility make Bloody Pit of Horror one of the few foreign fear films to simultaneously frighten and flame on ice. So break out your hair gel and body oil, and lube up for a date in the dirty dungeon of the Crimson Executioner.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
• Theatrical Trailers
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