THE BLOOD-SPATTERED BRIDE
This misogynistic Spanish
horror fest from the seventies has its moments, but isn’t much. It’s
interesting, I guess, for its ultra-macho take on the lesbian vampire classic
CARMILLA...and for the plentiful female nudity!
Joseph Sheridan LeFanu’s 1872 novella CARMILLA appeared a decade previous
to Bram Stoker’s DRACULA, and has proven every bit as influential, particularly
to European horror filmmakers of the seventies. The Spanish BLOOD-SPATTERED
BRIDE (LA NOVIA ENSANGRENTADA; 1972) is notable as perhaps the nastiest of all
the CARMILLA offshoots
of the period. It stars the alluring Maribel Martin, of
A BELL FROM HELL
and Augustin Villaronga’s MOONCHILD, and was directed by Vincent Aranda. Aranda
is one of Spain’s top filmmakers, having helmed upscale (though often lurid
and/or sleazy) films like LOVERS (1991), INTRUDER (1993) and JEALOUSY (1999),
but it’s difficult to tell from this film.
One thing about THE BLOOD-SPATTERED BRIDE that really irks me is the amount
of bloodletting we’re allowed to see. I’ve viewed several different versions
over the years, and while its most recent incarnation, Blue Underground’s
restored DVD cut, contains more grue than I recall from any of the others, it
still ends the same way. I’ve heard the film’s infamous final freeze frame is
not the actual ending, and that the action initially continued on--yet I’ve
never seen any evidence of that.
A macho nutcase has just married the luscious Susan, who he takes to
drilling relentlessly whether she likes it or not. And it’s not just he who has
his way with her, as Susan is raped in their honeymoon suite by a man with
pantyhose over his face. At her request the two leave the hotel to stay at an
old castle owned by the husband’s ancestors. But in a deserted crypt under the
castle is the grave of Mircala Karstein, who claims to have killed her husband
200 years earlier with a wedding knife because, according to legend, he tried to
make her do “unspeakable things”.
Susan is unaccountably affected by this story, and is visited that night by
the undead Karstein, still dressed in her wedding gown, who bites Susan on the
neck and bequeaths her a dagger. This causes much controversy among the
castle’s inhabitants, particularly when a young girl staying in the place, the
daughter of the castle’s resident servant woman, claims she planted the dagger
herself. Susan, understandably stressed by all this, has a nightmare of
stabbing her husband to death under the spell of Karstein, and from then on
finds dream and reality becoming increasingly blurred.
One day at a nearby beach Susan’s husband literally digs a naked woman out
of the sand. The woman, a good-looking blonde, introduces herself as Carmilla.
The man takes Carmilla back to the castle, where she immediately puts Susan
under an erotic spell. Carmilla reveals that she’s the blood-spattered bride
reincarnated, and that she wants to off Susan’s hubbie. But the latter becomes
wise to Carmilla’s dastardly plot, and decides to put an end to it all by
shooting Susan, Carmilla and the servant girl (who’s also under Carmila’s spell)
multiple times, and, for good measure, rip out their hearts.
Directorial-wise this film is a standard affair with a succession of
close-ups and over-the-shoulder shots contained within thoroughly conventional
camera angles. There are some strikingly off-kilter elements here and there,
notably the sight of the male lead unearthing a woman’s face and two naked
breasts from the sand on a beach, but for the most part the film is
underwhelming--check out an early dream sequence presented through a ridiculous
But THE BLOOD-SPATTERED BRIDE is intriguing in its reinterpretation of an
extremely feminine-minded tale through a distinctly Spanish brand of machismo.
Note how the lead actress Maribel Martin spends a large part of the running time
getting raped and brutalized, often by her own husband! As for the character of
Carmilla, she’s presented as a lesbian “pervert” who enslaves the bubble-brained
Susan in an effort to destroy her hubbie’s masculinity. Aranda’s solution to
this dilemma is to have his hero murder every woman in sight (including a little
girl!) in the deliriously over-the-top finale--which may or may not be intact in
its current DVD form.
THE BLOOD-SPATTERED BRIDE
(LA NOVIA ENSANGRENTADA)
Director: Vincente Aranda
Producer: Jaime Fernandez-Cid
Screenplay: Vincente Aranda
(Based on CARMILLA by J. Sheridan Le Fanu)
Cinematography: Fernando Arribas
Editing: Pablo G. Del Amo
Cast: Simon Andreu, Maribel Martin, Alexandra Bastedo, Dean Selmier, Angel
Lombarte, Montserrat Julio, Rosa Rodriguez