• Long Hair Of Death, The



    Released by: Raro Video
    Released on: December 16thth, 2014.
    Director: Antonio Margheriti
    Cast: Barbara Steele, George Ardisson, Halina Zalewska, Umberto Raho
    Year: 1964
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    The Movie:

    The Long Hair Of Death, directed by Antonio Margheriti in 1964, begins when a supposed witch is burned at the stake for her crimes against God and for a murder for which she has been falsely accused. After promising the woman's daughter, Helen Rochefort (Barbara Steele), that he'd hold off on her execution if she gave herself to him, Count Whalen goes ahead and torches the poor woman anyway. Before Helen's mother dies, however, she curses the family of her executioner. Whalen decides that Helen knows too much, so he throws her over a waterfall theoretically silencing her forever. He does, however, allow the witch's other, younger daughter, Elizabeth (Halina Zalewska), to live.

    Years later, the town suffers from a horrible plague and the Count, who figures this is the witch's curse coming back to haunt him, goes insane. The Count's son, a drunken fool named Kurt Whalen (George Ardisson), has fallen in love with Elizabeth though she wants nothing more than to help her late mother's curse come to fruition. Eventually, thanks to a lucky bolt of supernatural lightning, Helen returns from the dead to exact that revenge. Using the pseudonym Mary, she coerces Kurt away from her sister knowing that he intends to murder the girl.

    At times a bit too melodramatic for its own good, this tragic gothic horror film is never the less a beautifully photographed affair that's got plenty of great cinematography and beautiful locations and sets. As is more often than not the case with Margheriti’s gothic horror pictures there’s more emphasis on mood and atmosphere than on pacing or scares. As such, even when things are moving slowly, which is often in this particular film, they’re still so nicely shot that you don’t wind up minding it too much. The shadowy interiors of the sets come to life with eerie style and the angles employed in capturing the imagery are never less than perfectly composed.

    Steele is, not surprisingly, the star of the show. Though solid supporting efforts from Ardisson and Zalewska are welcome additions to the cast and serve to flesh things out nicely, they’re not nearly as memorable as Steele’s role. Her unusual facial features give her such captivating screen presence that she’s hard to take your eyes off of. She’s also got the right balance here, in that we can believe her sinister intentions are exactly that yet still get a sense of fragility from her.

    Antontio Margheriti's direction in The Long Hair Of Death is as strong as always and while this may not work as well as Margheriti and Steele's better known collaboration, Castle of Blood (also made in 1964), it's still a strong gothic horror film with some memorable sequences and stunning photography.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Long Hair Of Death arrives on Blu-ray from Raro Video in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. As is typical with Raro Blu-rays, the unnecessary and overzealous application of digital noise reduction is hard to look past. This transfer isn’t completely sandblasted the way some from the label have been but detail is soft throughout. Close up shots do sometimes rise above and look quite good but the movie’s grain is a bit smeary. Black levels are okay and contrast isn’t bad. This definitely does give us a noticeable upgrade over past DVD releases, but it’s shame that the image is over processed.

    Audio options are provided in LPCM Mono in your choice of Italian or English languages with optional subtitles provided in English only. Neither track is going to blow the doors off of your house but they sound fine. Balance issues are never a problem and clarity of both tracks is decent enough. Dialogue is easy to understand and the score sounds good. There aren’t any problems with any hiss or distortion.

    The extras start off with a quick four minutes introduction from Chris Alexander, shot ‘selfie style’ in his rec room. Here he talks about how much he digs this movie and gives bizarre descriptions of Barbara Steele. From there we move on to a more interesting piece, a ten minute interview with Edoardo Margheriti, the late director’s son. He talks about his father’s career highpoints, his appreciation of gothic horror and he offers up some insight into his father’s creative process and working style. Writer Antonio Tentori then pops up for a seven minute piece in which he talks about Margheriti's directorial style and offers up some insight into what make his films interesting and important.

    Rounding out the extras are Italian and US trailers, menus and chapter selection. The Blu-ray case contains an insert booklet with an essay from Alexander offering up some basic info about the film and those who made it. The case fits inside a nice cardboard slipcover and we also get some reversible cover art.

    The Final Word:

    The Long Hair Of Death isn’t the best Italian gothic horror film ever made but it is a very good one. The film is nicely shot and features some great work from Barbara Steele and where it slips up with some of its pacing issues it makes up for that with fantastic atmosphere and beautiful visuals. Raro’s Blu-ray is a little waxier looking than most will want it to be but it’s perfectly watchable. Throw in multiple audio options and some okay extras and this is a decent, if flawed, presentation.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!