The Marquis de Sade’s writings are violent, sadistic and blasphemous. It only makes sense that someone would make a horror movie based on them. In 1965, Italian director Massimo Pupillo (under the name of Max Hunter) gave it his best shot on Bloody Pit of Horror.
Bloody Pit of Horror begins with the trial and condemnation of the Crimson Executioner, a sadistic torturer who is put to death in one of his own devices. He is placed in an iron maiden, the door is shut and the lock is covered with wax, sealing him in his dungeon for all time. Three hundred and some odd years later, a horror novelist named Rick (Walter Brandt from Terror-Creatures from the Grave), his crew and a group of models are traveling the countryside looking for spooky places to photograph. They come across a big castle and, believing it to be empty, break in and have a look around. When confronted by the owner of the castle, a creepy actor named Travis Anderson (Lady Frankensein’s Mickey Hargitay), they are told to leave. After seeing one of the models, a young lady named Edith (Luisa Baratto from The Devil’s Man), Anderson quickly has a change of heart and says that they can stay for the night, but must be gone first thing in the morning. Rick asks if they can take some pictures, and Anderson agrees, as long as they are gone in the morning…and that they stay away from the basement. The group begins setting up and the models get into their costumes, and they pose on some of the crazy torture devices that are scattered around the castle. However, the members of the group start dying off, one by one, first seemingly by accident, then more and more deliberately. Just as the killings start to look like the Crimson Executioner has come back, Rick and Edith want to find out whom…or what…is responsible, before it’s too late for them.
It’s unclear exactly how much of the Marquis de Sade’s writings influenced Bloody Pit of Horror, but there are a lot of sadistic torture machines in it. The script, written by Romano Migliorini (as Robert McLoren) and Roberto Natale (as Robert Christmas), is a fairly straight men-and-women-being-stalked-by-unseen-killer plot, punctuated with a little ghostly possession for good measure and sprinkled with a generous helping of torture. As stereotypical as the film sounds, it does have some really interesting things going on.
First of all, there are the torture traps. They’re cool. They range from the typical stretch racks and spiked coffins to more eccentric devices. At one point, the Crimson Executioner straps a couple of the models to the sides of a cylinder and spins them around while poking swords closer and closer to their bodies. In another scene, the Executioner puts a victim in a big wooden cage and hangs it over a raging fire. But the best trap is the one that most likely took him the most time to set up. The Executioner ties a woman to a huge spider web in a big room, hooks up a bunch of bow & arrows to shoot if anyone attempts to rescue her, and sets a giant spider-like thing on her. The scene looks like something a James Bond villain would dream up, and it’s one of the more memorable scenes in the film.
For what it is, Bloody Pit of Horror is shot pretty well, thanks to cinematographer Luciano Trasatti (credited as John Collins – apparently no one wanted to put their real name on this movie). The film has the look of a classic 60’s horror film, something that could have been made by Hammer or Universal, although a lot brighter in Technicolor. The castle is a great location, and Trasatti uses every inch of it to make the Crimson Executioner’s legend come alive. Trasatti is also an expert at shooting insert shots of torture devices, making for some interesting camera work.
Bloody Pit of Horror has its silly moments. A lot of them. The Crimson Executioner himself is played more like a psychotic superhero than a horror movie villain. Anderson’s bodyguards are dressed like henchmen from the Adam West-era “Batman” T.V. show. And the music editing is so bad that it sometimes sounds like a skipping record. However, as any horror fan can tell you, even bad horror is still pretty good, and Bloody Pit or Horror falls into this category – so bad, it’s good.