The Faceless Monster (Nightmare Castle) Movie Review

The Faceless Monster....or Nightmare Castle
Review by Colleen Wanglund, MoreHorror.com

Written and directed by Mario Caiano, THE FACELESS MONSTER (1965) is an Italian horror movie that was released in the United States with the original title NIGHTMARE CASTLE. Upon its release to video it was given the different title. Although in my opinion, THE FACELESS MONSTER doesn’t fit the movie and is a bit misleading as to the subject matter.

The movie stars Barbara Steele in a dual role—as Muriel, the wife of scientist Stephen Arrowsmith (Paul Muller) and Jenny, Muriel’s step-sister. Muriel is having an affair with the handyman David (Rik Battaglia) and one night they are caught red-handed by Stephen. With the help of his loyal housekeeper Solange (Helga Line), Stephen kills Muriel and David, removing their hearts and using their blood for some experiments involving a youth serum.

Muriel was the one with the money and before her death she informed Stephen that she was leaving everything to Jenny, her mentally fragile step-sister. Stephen marries Jenny, much to Solange’s dismay….and it seems Solange was the subject of Stephen’s experiments. Stephen’s plan is to drive Jenny insane so he can have her committed and keep the fortune for himself. He instructs Solange to secretly feed drugs to Jenny that will hasten Jenny’s mental collapse. Jenny begins to lose it but Solange apparently gave Jenny a placebo.

Jenny’s hallucinations and nightmares continue and at times she acts as though possessed by Muriel. Dr. Dereck Joyce (Laurence Clift), the doctor who was treating Jenny’s instability is brought to the castle. Stephen sees the attraction the two have for each other and is now determined to get rid of Dereck. Unfortunately for Stephen and Solange, Dereck has found the hearts of David and Muriel and set their spirits free to seek their revenge.

What I love about THE FACELESS MONSTER is its gothic atmosphere. The interior shots of the castle are so dark and somber that you would expect to see ghosts hiding everywhere. The plot is heavy with old horror movie clichés but they are executed brilliantly. Barbara Steele (CAGED HEAT {1974}, CASTLE OF BLOOD {1964}) plays both roles beautifully and it’s worth the watch just to see Ms. Steele.

Laurence Clift is a bit flat in this movie but Paul Muller (LADY FRANKENSTEIN {1971}, FANGS OF THE LIVING DEAD {1969}) and Helga Line (HORROR EXPRESS {1972}, THE MUMMY’S REVENGE {1973}) as the couple with selfish and sinister motives easily carry the movie through. This film is reminiscent of Barbara Steele’s good and evil dual roles in BLACK SUNDAY (1960) as well as GASLIGHT (1944) the classic Charles Boyer/Ingrid Bergman man-driving-wife-insane plot.

While not one of the best Italian horror films of the era (or best Barbara Steele vehicle for that matter) it is definitely one to watch for the atmosphere and creepiness alone. Besides what not to love about a mad scientist, a bleeding plant, a youth serum and vengeful ghost lovers?

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