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BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE, THE (La Novia Ensangrentada) (director/writer: Vicente Aranda; screenwriter: based on the short story Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu; cinematographer: Fernando Arribas; editor: Pablo González del Amo; music: Antonio Pérez Olea; cast: Simon Andreu (The Husband), Maribel Martin (Susan), Alexandra Bastedo (Carmilla/Mircalla Karnstein), Dean Selmier (The Doctor), Rosa M. Rodriguez (Carol); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Jaime Fernández-Cid; Blue Underground; 1972-Spain-in English)
“Just don’t expect it to be all that intelligent.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Prolific Spanish filmmaker Vicente Aranda (“Lovers”/”Exquisite Cadaver”) bases this stylish and hauntingly violent lesbian vampire film on the short story Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu. It opens with a quote from Plato “The good are those content to dream what the wicked in practice actually do.” It somewhat adequately cobbles together a slasher exploitation film with a Euro art one. Despite all its gore it manages to say something intelligent about sex and marriage (just don’t expect it to be all that intelligent).

A newlywed couple, the beautiful young bride Susan (Maribel Martin) and her much older husband (Simon Andreu) leave their posh hotel on their honeymoon when Susan freaks out as she fantasizes being suffocated and raped in her bridal gown. They flee to his oppressive old country family estate, where he aggressively devours his virgin bride with rough sex and she becomes disgusted by his demanding sexual appetites. Susan is haunted in the cold vast house by a series of bad dreams and that the pictures of the family matriarchs have all been removed from the drawing room to the cellar. Surrounded only by the servants, she never gets to feel comfortable and realizes she hardly knows her hubby. She dreams of being handed a dagger to kill her husband by a statuesque blond woman dressed as a bride. The 12-year-old servant girl Carol (Rosa M. Rodriguez) tells her of the legend of 200 hundred years ago when her husband’s descendant was killed by his virgin bride, Mircalla Karnstein, with a dagger, when he demanded on their wedding night unspeakable sex acts. Susan continues to suffer from nightmares requiring the attention of a doctor and keeps waking up mysteriously with a dagger at her side, even though her hubby keeps hiding it (there are so many illogical twists that it’s best to ignore or else the pic will become impossible to watch).

Things pick up in intensity when the beautiful blonde woman in Susan’s dreams turns up naked on the beach and her husband brings her home as a guest. She turns out to be Carmilla (Alexandra Bastedo), a man-hating vampire who seduces Susan and puts the bite on her to drink her blood and possess her in a lesbian relationship. The husband finally catches on that Carmilla is really his ancestor Mircalla Karnstein and a vampire, and that his life is in danger. The repressed Susan’s desires are awakened in the intense lesbian love affair and she cuts a mean figure as a man-hater, waving the dagger around as the best of ’em do in slasher films.

Aranda’s well-crafted but hardly subtle or sensible misogynistic erotic horror story fills the screen with an eerie gothic atmosphere, haunting imagery, and revels in the gorgeous photography of cinematographer Fernando Arribas. The mise-en-scène is artfully accomplished, it conveys strong feelings over sexual tension and even throws reincarnation into its horror story blender (though in a hardly convincing manner). The version to see is the Blue Underground one, which adds the twenty minutes from the cut version. All the bloodbath scenes will make this film best suited, most likely, for the cult viewer who is not squeamish and can dig that the film at least tries to be a little arty.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”