SPOILER ALERT: This essay contains more spoilers than a copy of the film's script, was originally intended for a fan site, and assumes a working knowledge of the movie beforehand. --
After almost a year of obtaining examples of this long lost [and apparently soon to be resurrected] sex thriller I finally sat down with an old drinking buddy last night, assaulted an 18 pack of Molson's, and about halfway through we turned to Fernando diLeo's nasty little film for a couple of laughs, and it delivered.
I say "nasty" only to play into the movie's sordid reputation. Known variably as ASYLUM EROTICA, SLAUGHTER HOTEL, the original title of La Bestia uccide a sangue freddo, THE COLD BLOODED BEAST and a French title translating out roughly as THE INSATIABLE EROTIC DOLLS OF PROFESSOR HITCHCOCK, SLAUGHTER HOTEL [as we will refer to it here] was one of the most effective of the post LA RESIDENCIA/HOUSE THAT SCREAMED thrillers to come off of the continent that began mixing graphic sexual content with increasingly graphic violence: the only question became how to narratively justify the sex & blood. Fernando diLeo chose an amusingly satisfactory angle that actually sounds like the premise for a porno film: A masked, ruthless killer runs amok at a "rest home"/insane asylum catering to sexually insatiable wealthy nymphomaniacs, all of whom are naturally a standout elite corps of Eurohorror's sex queens: Margaret Lee, Rosalba Neri, Jane Garret, with the always willing Monica Strebel on hand as a ravishingly gorgeous asylum staff member who gives new meaning to the term "Wet Nurse". Eurohorror heavyweight [and frequent Italian sleaze co-enabler extraordinaire] Klaus Kinski plays the kind Professor Keller who has a haircut that makes him look like a member of Yes and is onscreen for maybe 15 of the movies 90 minutes or so of activity, during which [on the Gorgon tape, at least] he gets to smoke two or three cigarettes, speak a few lines of psychobabble, and have Margeret Lee fall in love with him. Pretty good for a couple week's work, I'd say. A somewhat confused and elderly looking John Carlson plays the clinic's lead physician, with various other orderlies and groundskeeping staff rounded out by the sinister Dr. Hyde, actor Fernando Cerulli made up to look somewhat like an alter-ego to Kinski's good Professor. A kewpie doll to those who can guess whom the killer turns out to be.
This is one interesting asylum: the "guests" are free to come & go as they please -- although since the villa it is located in is in the middle of nowhere they are effectively trapped in a guilded cage -- and the delightful patients seem to spend the vast majority of their time playing croquet [which must have some subtextural meaning about knocking balls through hoops that I am missing], lounging around having cocktails & chatting with each other about their common ailments, luxuriating in bubble baths while helpful attractive female nurses soap their breasts for them, seducing the "good-meaning but gosh darn it he's a man" gardener, trying to initiate group sex encounters with the orderlies, smoking and endless supply of cigarettes, and above all else, masturbating.
There is more masturbation in SLAUGHTER HOTEL than most straight-up porno movies. Since the Gorgon tape of SLAUGHTER HOTEL is a cut R rated version, the masturbation is implied/suggested/depicted in anticipation of or the laborious aftereffects thereof. While my buddy & I chugged beers and let the film unfold I had to step outside for drags off a series of half-smoked cigarettes, and the question I'd keep yelling from the door would be "HOW'S THE MASTURBATION LOOKING?" "CUT." Would be the reply. THE INSATIABLE EROTIC DOLLS OF DR. HITCHCOCK apparently has the graphic inserts used to more fully depict this plot-dependant activity, and I'll review that version as soon as I have built up the resolve to subject myself to it.
Between various orgasms, the killer brutally murders his way through the cast, using the medieval axes, knives, spiked maces, swords, and even a crossbow that are used as wall decorations down in the main hallway. Like most modern Americans I have myself been to see counsellors for one reason or another during my life, and not one of them had double handed battle axes as wall decorations in their buildings. Curious.
Of all the cast members, Rosalba Neri seems to be the one who actually allowed herself to become involved with the production and endows her character with a feline, predatory awareness that probably results in the fanatical cult following that this film has engendered. Her steamy, psychedelic shower scene is almost brilliant in depicting an almost pure, pornographic vision of a woman with such a cosnuming sense of nymphomania that she is driven to distraction. Her striptease & sex scene in the greenhouse is probably the film's high point for me, and there was a sense of disappointment to her murder, since none of the surviving ladies was as interesting, and her genuine attempt to coaxe her murderer into at least screwing her first was perhaps the movie's most effective moment. Everything that woman touched was golden.
The film's other main noteriety is for the scene where blond Jane Garret first "interferes with herself", as the nuns at school would say, and then is done in by the killer in what is the most graphic murder of the film: He first stabs her, then slices her abdomen from neck to pubis & off to the side in what can only be an edited attempt to eviscerate the woman. While I will agree that the sight of her intestines might be necessary to diLeo's vision for the film I was glad to be spared the moment. Perhaps the Italian and French versions will contain the entire disembowling, and I'll make note if warranted in a future posting.
On the whole I found the production to be an interesting mix of kink, sleaze and gory killings, with the subplot involving Rosalba Neri's incestous relationship with her brother providing an extra layer of filth that I wasn't expecting. While the dubbing & picture quality of the Gorgon tape reviewed is not up to standards, I found the movies' color schemes to be compelling, and director diLeo's camerawork definitely showing a ready pre-curser to what would become the slasher film's structure of switching to the Darth Vader breathed killer's perspective. I also liked how diLeo was able to combine the elements of a gothic thriller with a lurid modern day sex picture so effortlessly: the scenes of the killer lurking around in the dark, selecting weapons and then having to scamper about to remain unnoticed had a nice quality to them that actually sort of put us in the killer's shoes, though one does wonder why a health clinic if any variety would have what seens to be an inexaustible supply of cigarettes for characters to puff away on so copiously, but whatever: 1971 Italy, everybody smoked.
It's interesting to add as a footnote that none of the "Fernando deLio Scholars" whom I have queried about this movie to claim to be particularly fond of it, and all of us have expressed a dismay to each other at understanding why the film has such a violently ferverant cult following. One of my experts -- who personally knew diLeo and has met Ms. Neri & spoken with her -- stated catagorically that neither was fond of discussing the film or considered working on it to have been a pleasant experience. This may be because of the notorious post-production editing that pushed the film into the area of genuine pornography in at least one form, or it may be that they were intelligent artists who understood that while they did the best with what they had to work with, SLAUGHTER HOTEL basically sucks once you get down to it, though it does have some moments that add up to more than the sum of it's parts.
Of additional interest: The villa used for at least some of the filming is the same building used in Anthony Margheriti's WEB OF THE SPIDER; The upstairs hallway is exactly the same set, only with the walls painted white and the furniture re-arranged. Check it out.
SQ032904 **1/2 out of a possible ****