The Legend Of Blood Castle

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Ceremonia sangrienta (1973), or The Legend Of Blood Castle, is another horror film in a long standing tradition within the genre of films based upon or inspired by the real life Countess Elizabeth Báthory (played by the stunning Lucia Bosé in the film). Filmmaker Jorge Grau opted to base his film more closely on the facts of that case than the more popular Hammer Films of that same era. What Ceremonia sangrienta and Hammer’s Countess Dracula (1971) do have in common is an excellent sense of Gothic atmosphere and erotica.

Jorge Grau’s film is, however, relatively more nuanced and complex than most Vampire related films. Ceremonia sangrienta begins and ends with the trial of a vampire, there’s the recurring relationship between the Count (Espartaco Santoni) and the inn keeper’s daughter (Ewa Aulin), the ever escalating paranoia of the Countess, and a use of rhyming images that elevate Ceremonia sangrienta. Grau’s film is still heavy on the camp and the spectacle of topless women, but it has a maturity to its structure that makes it engaging beyond the fright factor.

All of this skill points to one concept which, no matter how fantastic the film becomes, remains at the center of Ceremonia sangrienta; the concept that fear perverts rational thought into superstitious panic. Ceremonia sangrienta was made in Spain two years before the fall of Francisco Franco which no doubt helped to form how Jorge Grau addressed these themes. In addition Grau litters the film with references to other forms of vampirism, particularly the financial vampirism of the aristocracy, which again seems a rather direct reference to Franco.

The political subtext to Ceremonia sangrienta gives the film a unique sort of agency. Ceremonia sangrienta isn’t the best film to reckon with the crimes of Countess Elizabeth Báthory, but it is one of the most succinct in drawing a connection between the infamous Countess and the modern age. Ceremonia sangrienta is an excellent film deserving of wider recognition.