Bloody Pit of Horror (Il Boia Scarlatto)
Release date: November 28th 1965
Running time: 87 like, really long minutes
Directed by Massimo Pupillo (Max Hunter)
And so it begins, as the narrator says:
“On this fifth day of December in the year of our Lord sixteen hundred and forty-eight, by the power vested in us by our noble sovereign, this tribunal of Artena sentences you, the Crimson Executioner, to death. You will die by one of the very instruments you devised to torture and kill your innocent victims. You dared to take into your own hands the laws of both God and man”
Thus ending the long reign of terror brought upon the poor people of Artena, or whatever, by the Crimson Executioner. Or does it…?
Now, I could end this review right here and now by saying: “IT’S ITALIAN!!!” But since I’m here, and since I watched the damn thing, you can suffer through my review.
The fun starts as a group of girls, referred to as “The Cover Girls”, because they model for magazine covers… get it? including a photographer, Horror writer, publisher and crew show up at an abandoned castle they stumbled on while looking for a shooting location. Lucky them. Oh, I should mention there may be spoilers in here. Like it matters. Anyway, this castle is just what they’re looking for. Upon entering said castle, they realize it isn’t abandoned, as they are greeted by some of the current owner’s henchmen, all looking very resplendent dressed in identical striped sailor shirts. The publisher and a male crew member are ushered into the drawing room to speak to the owner, Travis Anderson, (played by body builder and Jayne Mansfield squeeze Mickey Hargitay) who is a recluse who doesn’t seem to want to make eye contact with anyone. They ask politely if they may use his castle for a photo shoot. He says No. He also says they must leave immediately. They apologize for disturbing him, and leave the room. But as Travis looks through a peep hole that happens to be in the wall, he sees the Cover Girls. You guessed it. Suddenly they’re welcome to do their photo shoot and stay the night.
So off they go to set up some good shots for their horror covers. Luckily for them, there is a dungeon in the castle, complete with ancient torture devices, including the torture device/tomb which holds the body of the Crimson Executioner himself. Someone accidentally bumps the latch and opens the tomb. Of course. Does the ghost of the CE escape? We think so, but we really don’t know. Meanwhile, the shoot is a go! We witness some happy scenes in the life of magazine cover artists, happily taking pictures of happy models while we listen to some really happy music. I’m happy. Is everybody happy? That’s good. That makes me happy. They see a large platform with knives supported by an old rope. What a cool picture that will make!! They tie down one of the male models (Yes there are male models too) under the rack, and say “Ready, go!!” and the happy ancient rope on the happy rack full of happy knives breaks, and kills the happy male model named Perry! At this point, the crew were a bit nonplussed.
But wait, It just so happens that one of the Cover Girls (Edith, played by “Louise Barrett” aka Luisa Baratto) actually dated Travis years ago. I know! She has a talk with him in his private chambers, and finds out he’s a complete nutter. He explains to her that he’s abandoned the world, with her in it. “You. You no longer mean anything to me. Even though I missed you when I abandoned the world” It’s understandable, though. Because as he puts it: “Mankind is made up of inferior creatures, who would have corrupted the harmony of my perfect body” Edith then points out quite cleverly that he’s an egotist. I was expecting a speech about essence here, but no such luck. He then proclaims himself to be possessed by the Crimson Executioner, and it is his sacred duty to carry out his “work” He wants not for the pleasures of the flesh. Even though he could have just as easily killed local dudes.
Meanwhile, the rest of the group sits down and decides what to do, after watching poor Perry die a horrible death. Most of the girls thought about bagging the whole project, and going home. Although I’m pretty sure no one ever mentioned calling the police, or making sure Perry’s remains were taken care of, or if maybe the accident should be investigated, or whacky stuff like that. The producer says they need to finish the photo shoot. Perry would have wanted it that way. The girls are shocked! How can you be so insensitive!! The producer says he loved him like a son, and he’ll triple their salaries. Bingo. It’s back on.
Anyway, here’s where the real fun begins. He sets out to torture cover models in ernest. I must say, he has some unusual devices in his ancient rec room, including a spider web armed with knives if anyone touches webbing while trying to save the girl, (Kinojo, played by Moa Tahi. Yup) before the poisonous mechanical spider reaches her. At least it really IS supposed to be a fake spider in this movie. I give them credit for that. He ties two other lovely models on a spinning barrel/thingie, with a blade positioned at breast level. He laughs hysterically, as it makes a bloody red mark above their breasts, not unlike female Captain Kirks. All the while laughing and proclaiming he’s the Crimson Executioner. I was surprised the girls didn’t beg him to get it over with, so they don’t have to hear him talk anymore. And for someone who cares not for the ways of the flesh, he ties all the models to the devices in a very provocative manner. All the while droning on and on that he’s the Crimson Executioner. Don’t talk, just kill, please.
You can probably get a good idea how it plays out from here. There’s more torture, some escape attempts, some fighting back, etc. Some more choice lines for our Crimson Executioner-chaneller. My favourite being: “It’s done. I’ve killed the writer” A hero emerges amidst the fray (Rick, played by Walter Brandt) who runs about the castle, dodges sailor-shirted henchmen, saves some cover girl(s), and yes, battles the Crimson Executioner and his perfect body. Mickey Hargitay looks like he’s having a ball in this, and gives it everything he’s got. Which isn’t much, acting-wise. And keep an eye on Louise Barrett, she’s going places. In Italy, most likely. The Cover Girls rival the legendary Spider Island girls in… umm… intelligence. All in all, a very fun film. I give it two claws up.