Back in the day it wasn't uncommon for producers to take foreign made films and change the names of the cast and crew, apparently to assist in passing them off to xenophobic American audiences...subsequently, Bloody Pit of Horror (1965), originally titled Il Boia scarlatto, directed by Max Hunter aka Massimo Pupillo (Django Kills Softly), co-written by Robert McLoren aka Romano Migliorini (Kill, Baby... Kill!) and Robert Christmas aka Roberto Natale (Vengeance Is My Forgiveness), features Walter Brandt aka Walter Brandi (Curse of the Blood Ghouls), Louise Barret aka Luisa Baratto (Two Pistols and a Coward), Alfred Rice aka Alfredo Rizzo (Go with God, Gringo), Barbara Nelly aka Barbara Nelli (The Amazing Doctor G), Nick Angel aka Nando Angelini (The War of the Planets), Femi Martin aka Femi Benussi (Finders Killers ), along with those whose names didn't need changing like Rita Klein (Tarzak Against the Leopard Men), Moa Tahi (Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs), Ralph Zucker (King of Kong Island), and Mickey Hargitay, one time Mr. Universe and ex-husband to blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield, and one of a number of muscle men to venture abroad to make sword and sandal pictures.
The movie, claiming to be based on the writings of the Marquis De Sade, begins in the year 1648, where we see The Crimson Executioner, who has recently been tried and convicted for torturing and killing the innocent, being put to death by one of his own, macabre devices, but not before he issues a bunch of nonsense about returning from the grave and avenging his own death...yadda, yadda, yadda...anyway, his body is sealed in a funky iron maiden in his castle, which is left standing as a constant reminder of his crimes against humanity. Fast forward to the present, and we see a crew of photographers and models arriving at a castle (I'm betting its The Crimson Executioner's old digs), as they're looking to take some lurid cover shots for some horror novels. Also along is Rick (Brandi), author of the novels (he's former investigative reporter) and Edith (Baratto), the wardrobe and make up girl. Nobody answers, so they bust in, only to discover the joint is home to reclusive actor Travis Anderson (Hargitay), star of various muscle man films. At first Anderson is adamant that they leave, that is until he sees Edith, who seems on the frumpy side, but you can tell she's hiding quite the bushel in her basket. Anyway, as you can imagine, the group, who now has limited permission to use the castle (the dungeons are out of bounds), begins shooting, and someone accidentally breaks the seal to The Crimson Executioner's tomb...uh oh...and now the killings begins, as Anderson has become possessed by the spirit for the long dead executioner, in a sequence I won't soon forget. As he's donning The Crimson Executioner's attire (a scarlet cape, hood, tights, ill-fitting black mask, and huge, gold medallion), he starts slicking up his muscled frame (from a chalice full of oil he had handy), spewing forth the following bit of dialog...
`I was forced to retreat to this castle. Mankind is made up of inferior creatures...spiritually and physically deformed who would have corrupted the harmony of my perfect body.'
He yaps on like this for a while, before finally getting down to business, that being killing those who deserve killing...which is just about everyone, as The Crimson Executioner's thirst for vengeance is insatiable...
While this isn't the trashiest European feature I've ever seen, it's certainly the trashiest homoerotic European feature I've ever seen. One thing's for sure, Hargitay, who's certainly no actor (he used that `1,000 yard stare' expression a little too often), sure had screen presence, oily as it was...he seemed almost get into his role a little too well, perhaps as it appealed to some repressed, sadistic tendencies (`roid rage?). This thing is worth getting alone for his climatic transformation scene where he starts spouting off about `purity' and the `harmony of his perfect body', rubbing oil onto his bare chest, all while staring lovingly at himself in the mirror. Another favorite scene of mine is when Hargitay, in full Crimson Executioner mode, deals with the annoying, self important publisher, locked in a cage, over a pit of fiery coals. Huzzah for the Executioner! I normally wouldn't condone torture, but given some of the irritating characters populating this movie, I was willing to make an exception. Be sure to check out Hargitay's character's henchmen...they were all dressed the same, in white pants and blue and white striped shirts, resembling those henchmen type characters often found in the old Batman television series. The only thing `corrupting the purity' of this film was the lack of a strong hero type, Walter Brandi hardly fit the bill, even despite his best efforts. He was decent looking, but seemed a little paunchy and out of shape to meet the physical demands of his character. The script, while nothing to write home about, is actually better than expected, featuring some decent comic touches, probably the best one listed below as two models are talking...
Blonde Model: I'm not just a dumb blonde, you know.
Brunette Model: Who says you're a blonde?
There's no actual nekkidness in the movie, but plenty of scantily clad females, along with some key set pieces intended to obscure our view of any, possible nekkidness. The various torture devices display (and used) were interesting, if you're into that kind of thing. There's some blood, but nothing really over the top, but then again, this was made in the mid 1960s, so the gore content is expectably low. Also, the location shooting in the castle was very cool, especially the dungeon sequences. One thing seemed strange and that was the film seemed a little too short, running all of 74 minutes, but then I read some of the material was removed to accommodate fitting this film into a double bill with another feature, for its American release. The deleted sequence in the extra features section provides the material removed, filling in the gaps for the American release.
The widescreen (1.85:1) picture quality on this Something Weird Video/Image Entertainment DVD release is very sharp and clean, and the Dolby Digital mono audio comes through clearly. If you're interested in quality (in picture and audio), I'd recommend going with the Image Entertainment release as I know there are some other companies out there who've also released shoddier versions this film on DVD, at a less expensive price. As far as extras, included on this DVD is liner notes from director Frank Henenlotter (director of the films Brain Damage and Basket Case), deleted footage (15:52) featuring an alternative/extended opening sequence (with the title A Tale of Torture), an excerpt from a goofy flick titled Primitive Love (4:50), featuring Mickey Hargitay and Jayne Mansfield in a black haired wig, an excerpt from Cover Girl Slaughter (3:29), a rough, theatrical trailer for Bloody Pit of Horror, and a gallery of exploitation art featuring Horrorama radio-spot rarities. All in all a three star film with an extra star for strength of the Something Weird Video/Image Entertainment DVD release...they did an excellent job.