RottenPop Rating: ★ ★ ★
MPAA Rating: n/a
Release Date: August 5th, 1964
Director(s): Warren Kiefer
Producer(s): Paul Maslansky
Writer(s): Warren Kiefer
Starring: Christopher Lee, Gaia Germani, and Philippe Leroy
Studio: Serena Film
The Castle of the Living Dead or Il Castello di Morti Vivi, is a French and Italian horror movie released in 1964 in Italy. It stars veteran horror actor, Christopher Lee alongside European actors like Gaia Germani, Philippe Leroy, and Luciano Pigozzi, and also a very young Donald Sutherland playing three different roles! The movie is helmed by filmmaker Warren Kiefer. A fascinating artist that had penned over a dozen are forgotten films and he directed a handful as well.
Following the Napoleonic wars, a traveling circus that specializes in performing mock executions takes their show to a castle owned by the mysterious Count Drago. It’s a show that promises a big payout. However, their host seems a bit odd. Drago, played by Christopher Lee, turns out to be a creep that keeps the corpses of his victims mummified and entombed within in his stone walls. Can our merry group of traveling entertainers survive the horrors that await?
Christopher Lee is heavily favored in the movie. He gets the most screen time and he has really good dubbing compared to everyone else. But his character lacked any real depth. I was much more interested in Antonio De Martino, the cool dwarf that ended up being a big hero. I want to hang out with that guy. And then we had Donald Sutherland’s multiple roles. They weren’t demanding, but still pretty impressive considering the picture. I had also appreciated some of the filming locations. This crew spent five weeks filming at Castello Orsini-Odescalchi and Bomarzo in Italy. All on an estimated budget of around $130 - $135,000 or so.
The Castle of the Living Dead was released during an upswing in the horror genre. Christopher Lee’s portrayal of Dracula in Hammer Films Horror of Dracula had rekindled the fire that kept that genre hot. Christopher Lee’s makeup is corny. I have to admit that. But the movie isn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting. The quality isn’t great and there are long periods of silence. But for a low-budget feature, this one is pretty good. Interestingly, Donald Sutherland and Warren Kiefer had become good friends after this movie. Donald had even gone on to name his son after the filmmaker.