This misogynistic Spanish horror fest from the seventies has its moments, but isn’t much. It’s interesting, I guess, for its ultra-macho take on the lesbian vampire classic CARMILLA…and for the plentiful female nudity!
Joseph Sheridan LeFanu’s 1872 novella CARMILLA appeared a decade previous to Bram Stoker’s DRACULA, and has proven every bit as influential, particularly to European horror filmmakers of the seventies. The Spanish BLOOD-SPATTERED BRIDE (LA NOVIA ENSANGRENTADA; 1972) is notable as perhaps the nastiest of all the CARMILLA offshoots of the period. It stars the alluring Maribel Martin, of A BELL FROM HELL and Augustin Villaronga’s MOONCHILD, and was directed by Vincent Aranda. Aranda is one of Spain’s top filmmakers, having helmed upscale (though often lurid and/or sleazy) films like LOVERS (1991), INTRUDER (1993) and JEALOUSY (1999), but it’s difficult to tell from this film.
One thing about THE BLOOD-SPATTERED BRIDE that really irks me is the amount of bloodletting we’re allowed to see. I’ve viewed several different versions over the years, and while its most recent incarnation, Blue Underground’s restored DVD cut, contains more grue than I recall from any of the others, it still ends the same way. I’ve heard the film’s infamous final freeze frame is not the actual ending, and that the action initially continued on—yet I’ve never seen any evidence of that.
A macho nutcase has just married the luscious Susan, who he takes to drilling relentlessly whether she likes it or not. And it’s not just he who has his way with her, as Susan is raped in their honeymoon suite by a man with pantyhose over his face. At her request the two leave the hotel to stay at an old castle owned by the husband’s ancestors. But in a deserted crypt under the castle is the grave of Mircala Karstein, who claims to have killed her husband 200 years earlier with a wedding knife because, according to legend, he tried to make her do “unspeakable things”.
Susan is unaccountably affected by this story, and is visited that night by the undead Karstein, still dressed in her wedding gown, who bites Susan on the neck and bequeaths her a dagger. This causes much controversy among the castle’s inhabitants, particularly when a young girl staying in the place, the daughter of the castle’s resident servant woman, claims she planted the dagger herself. Susan, understandably stressed by all this, has a nightmare of stabbing her husband to death under the spell of Karstein, and from then on finds dream and reality becoming increasingly blurred.
One day at a nearby beach Susan’s husband literally digs a naked woman out of the sand. The woman, a good-looking blonde, introduces herself as Carmilla. The man takes Carmilla back to the castle, where she immediately puts Susan under an erotic spell. Carmilla reveals that she’s the blood-spattered bride reincarnated, and that she wants to off Susan’s hubbie. But the latter becomes wise to Carmilla’s dastardly plot, and decides to put an end to it all by shooting Susan, Carmilla and the servant girl (who’s also under Carmila’s spell) multiple times, and, for good measure, rip out their hearts.
Directorial-wise this film is a standard affair with a succession of close-ups and over-the-shoulder shots contained within thoroughly conventional camera angles. There are some strikingly off-kilter elements here and there, notably the sight of the male lead unearthing a woman’s face and two naked breasts from the sand on a beach, but for the most part the film is underwhelming—check out an early dream sequence presented through a ridiculous strobe effect.
But THE BLOOD-SPATTERED BRIDE is intriguing in its reinterpretation of an extremely feminine-minded tale through a distinctly Spanish brand of machismo. Note how the lead actress Maribel Martin spends a large part of the running time getting raped and brutalized, often by her own husband! As for the character of Carmilla, she’s presented as a lesbian “pervert” who enslaves the bubble-brained Susan in an effort to destroy her hubbie’s masculinity. Aranda’s solution to this dilemma is to have his hero murder every woman in sight (including a little girl!) in the deliriously over-the-top finale—which may or may not be intact in its current DVD form.
THE BLOOD-SPATTERED BRIDE (LA NOVIA ENSANGRENTADA)
Director: Vincente Aranda
Producer: Jaime Fernandez-Cid
Screenplay: Vincente Aranda
(Based on CARMILLA by J. Sheridan Le Fanu)
Cinematography: Fernando Arribas
Editing: Pablo G. Del Amo
Cast: Simon Andreu, Maribel Martin, Alexandra Bastedo, Dean Selmier, Angel Lombarte, Montserrat Julio, Rosa Rodriguez