After the amazing spectacle that was Blood and Black Lace, I decided I needed to get more familiar with the director of that film, Mario Bava. He was a cinematographer for a dozen years before actually stepping up to direct, albeit uncredited (Ulysses, a retelling of The Odyssey starring Kirk Douglas, five years before Spartacus). He did a bunch of westerns, a bunch of peplum (sword-and-sandals) movies, he basically started the giallo movie trend, directed several science fiction films, slasher films, and gothic horror movies.
This one is The Whip and the Body, released a year before Blood and Black Lace. I’ve grown a little weary of giallo movies, so I decided to roll with this one– it’s a gothic horror movie starring Christopher Lee, and Lee always maintained that it was one of his best movies.
Hoo boy, it’s a doozy. This entire blog is basically an excuse to show you these beautiful, beautiful pictures.
Lee plays Kurt Menliff. The opening shots feature him riding up to a castle. It’s beautifully lit and framed. When he gets there, he’s greeted with trepidation and downright animosity by his father and his brother. He left years before, apparently, after driving the daughter of one of the housekeepers to suicide. The housekeeper, by the way, still works there– and still has the dagger her daughter killed herself with. She swears that before she dies, she’ll see Kurt impaled on it.
Kurt’s there purportedly to wish his brother congratulations on his new marriage. It turns out that Nevenka, the woman Kurt’s brother just married, used to be Kurt’s special lady. They used to have some kinda thang goin’ on– and the next morning, when Kurt finds her on the beach, that thang just keeps goin’.
The thang is, basically, he whips the crap out of her, she loves it, and then they knock boots.
He leaves her there and goes back to the castle, holding her riding crop, which he claims he found outside the castle. They ask him where she is, and he claims not to have seen her– he was just out riding around. Then he drops this hot potato:
In other news, the castle is beautiful. The costumes, the sets, the lighting, the color. This is precisely what a beautiful technicolor gothic horror castle should look like.
Anyway, Kurt gets murdered with that dagger.
Then his ghost starts showing up on a nightly basis, menacing Nevenka (and sometimes whipping the shit out of her for sexual pleasure).
These scenes are pretty bonkers, you guys. I mean, there’s one in particular where Christopher Lee is just going nuts on Nevenka with a riding crop and she’s rolling around moaning in ecstasy, and I straight up could not believe this was a major motion picture in the 1960s.
I mean, apparently it never made it through unscathed– the US-released version cut out all of the weird S&M stuff– about fifteen minutes’ worth, a full sixth of the movie– and was retitled “WHAT?!,” presumably because it now made zero sense, and left audiences confused and scratching their heads.
Strange footprints appear in the weird creepy castle. Kurt’s father is also murdered with the same dagger.
Holy shit, the sets are beautiful, especially when bathed in Bava’s peculiar and magnificent color and lighting.
Eventually, they dig up Kurt’s corpse. To make sure he’s dead.
SPOILER: He is.
As they dig him up, he appears to Nevenka again, telling her that because they’re about to open his coffin, she’ll never see him again, and demanding that she come with him.
Then they set his moldering-ass corpse on fire!
Man, this movie is beautiful.
SORRY FOR THE WEIRD TRUNCATED BLOG YOU GUYS I JUST REALLY LIKED ALL THESE SET PIECES AND NEEDED AN EXCUSE TO POST TWELVE SCREENSHOTS