La Vergine di Norimberga (The Virgin of Nuremberg, 1963)

This Italian-made thriller was directed by Antonio Margheriti.  It’s a stylish, atmospheric and effective gothic horror film, also known as Horror Castle. It’s typical of the Italian Giallo genre —fantastic elements woven with mystery, horror and erotic moments. The setting is an ancestral castle, with a dungeon, winding passageways, medieval torture devices, traps and a masked phantom-like entity. It reminds me superficially of Franju’s superior Eyes Without Face (1960) and Bava’s Black Sunday (1960). Christopher Lee plays a sympathetic role, as character Erich, a former Nazi henchman and servant to a mysterious figure “The Punisher”.

Much like Black Sunday, the film’s opening moments grab our attention. How can you go wrong with an iron maiden scene?

Lee plays a disfigured (scarred) aristocrat and we’re not quite sure if he’s a villain or not.

He’s terrific in the film and his presence elevates the picture to a minor classic. One complaint. Why dub Lee’s voice? Ugh. However, the dubbing is competent and a vast improvement over Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962) and Hercules on the Haunted World (1961)(which are hard to listen to due to poor English dubbing). Lee’s physical presence captures our attention. You know there is more to this guy than meets the eye.

“Nuremberg” is filled with eye candy in lavish color. It’s gory too —a rat chews off a girl’s nose. There’s garish torture scenes and a water trap. The film has all the trappings. A Nazi experiment is revealed in flashback. Based upon this sequence, I would guess that director Antonio Margheriti had seen Eyes Without Face.  

The Punisher attacks. Great makeup predating Dr. Phibes. The Punisher reminds me a bit of Captain America’s nemesis “The Red Skull”.

Erich weeps. It’s rare that you see Christopher Lee in a supporting and compassionate role. Without revealing the story, I highly recommend The Virgin of Nuremberg. The film is available in an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer on a Shriek Show DVD.

4 Responses to “La Vergine di Norimberga (The Virgin of Nuremberg, 1963)”

  1. Brilliant film. Can be watched here:

    http://stagevu.com/video/vlmysroomfxv

    Lee is very good in this rarely-seen classic. Thank you, Barry, for spotlighting this film.

  2. BTW, the print is outstanding. Well worth checking out Stan.

  3. Robert Odell Says:

    Thanks for posting about this film. I had seen it when I was ten or eleven and had forgotten the title. It stuck in my mind because it was one of Christopher Lee’s few films i which he doesn’t play a villain. Now that I know the name, I can get a copy. ; )

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