When Judge Daryl Loomis tried on a pair of tight '70s pants, it took three doctors and a team of horses an hour to get him out.
"There will come new evils. According to the legend of the seven full moons, Loreley will take the form of a filthy beast. She must devour human hearts to return to her slumber of centuries."—German folktale
Hanging ominously above one of the most dangerous stretches of the Rhine River, the Loreley rock has long been a place of fear and legend for German people. Countless sailors' heads have dashed against the rocks trying to navigate this stretch of river. Over the years, people came to believe the ghost of a woman named Lorelei who, after her lover's death, cast herself from the cliff and forever after lured sailors into her grasp so she can either replace her love or rip out their hearts. Other legends claim that under the cliff lies the treasure of Nibelung from ancient German lore and that the forces of Valhalla guard the stretch. These legends have been used scores of times, from poetry and paintings to film and famous opera cycles. The Loreley's Grasp takes elements from both stories. I must admit that the idea of a Spanish sea monster film is not the most appealing one to me. Mermaids aren't that scary, and on top of it, they advertise the monster on the cover and it looks like a reject from the Swamp Thing makeup department. Still, Amando de Ossorio did very good things in his Blind Dead series, so maybe he can work his magic on mermaids, too.
Facts of the Case
The brutal slaying of a young girl on the eve of her wedding throws a sleepy German town into turmoil. Her heart torn from her chest, the townspeople believe that the only thing capable of such savagery is a wolf or a bear. The blind artist has another idea, though (don't they all). When he was a boy, his mother would scare him with tales of Loreley, the legendary siren who would tear sailors' hearts from their bodies in just this way. He's convinced that she attacked the girl and that she will strike again. The people laugh at his superstition and focus on how to take down this wolf. A professor at the local girls' boarding school demands that, because of their isolation, they should be protected, so the mayor hires local hunter Sigurd (Tony Kendall, The Whip and the Body, in the tightest, whitest pants I've ever seen) to hunt and kill the beast. While patrolling the grounds, he strolls down by the river where he sees the image of a beautiful woman (Helga Liné, Horror Rises from the Tomb) running from him. He finds her relaxing in an abandoned building and falls in love immediately with her. She isn't shy in revealing that she is the Lorelei of legend and that she is in love with him too. With the safety of the town at stake, Sigurd must choose between his honor as a hunter and his desires as a man for supernatural romance.
Something that is often appealing in European horror films is the atmospheric countryside. The foggy hills and ancient buildings have afforded many scenes a foreboding air that no amount of production value can match. The outside is free, and a lot of these cheapies have exploited this to the hilt. As cheap as it is, The Loreley's Grasp takes it one step further by using stock footage of Spain and matching it to newly shot footage, and attempting to make it all appear to be Germany. The stock footage is obvious, and some of these scenes come off as second rate, but Ossorio is still able to milk a good amount of atmosphere from the landscape. The extremely rural setting, both from these scenes and those of the town, takes the film out of time and place, making for an immersive experience. Ossorio doesn't take full advantage of this atmosphere though, and it makes for an inconsistent story.
While the horror part of the film is absurd, the romance is much better executed. Ossorio succeeds in combining the two legends to create a fairly believable story of this siren and her eternal search for love. Lorelei firmly believes that Sigurd is her true love, but knows that he is out to killer her. Her journey to accept this is a surprising and welcome aspect to the story. Liné is good in the title role, evoking sympathy in her steely but lovelorn performance. Tony Kendall has a good interplay with both female leads and does well overall as a generally ineffective hero.
Deimos' release of The Loreley's Grasp is the best treatment the film has ever had. It was mastered in Hi-Def for the release and it shows in the sharp level of detail in the print. Color levels are sometimes inconsistent, though; skin looks warm and full in one scene, then icy cold and sickly in the next. Still, the print is quite clean and the details are mostly sharp. Audio is clear and free from background noise, but unspectacular. The minimal extras include a stills gallery, the original Spanish credit sequence (which is exactly the same as the English except with Spanish words), and a trailer.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
When I said that the main horror story is absurd, I wasn't kidding. Never is there any real motivation for the killings and the hunter is only around the boarding school to show Kendall walking around the girls in those pants. The only part of the story I really liked is a throwaway subplot that comes out of this, but it's the best I've got. With all the hearts torn from chests, the kills are gruesome enough, but they come at predictable times, and it sucks all the suspense out of the film. It gets worse, though, when we get our explanation. One of the most out-of-place scenarios I can imagine, I'll spoil nothing except to say that it involves a kind of moonlight photosynthesis and a radioactive dagger. It's dumber than it sounds.
The good outweighs the bad in The Loreley's Grasp. There are some interesting shots and atmosphere to burn, but beware if story continuity is an issue for you.
Everyone involved is guilty and sentenced to a year confined in Tony Kendall's pants. Court adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Deimos Entertainment
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