Color, 1965, 74m.
Directed by Massimo Pupillo
Starring Mickey Hargitay, Walter Brandi
Image Entertainment (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1)
And here it is, the world's greatest Italian homoerotic torture film starring a giant fake spider. Originally released in Italy as Il boia scarlatto, this depraved mixture of cheesecake, beefcake, and campy torture devices stunned drive-in patrons in the '60s under the title Bloody Pit of Horror, promoted as a derivation of the writings of the Marquis De Sade. Whatever literary basis this film may have had goes flying out the window in the first scene, which finds a busload of models and their photographer/mentor (Walter Brandi) crashing a remote, abandoned castle for a glossy photo shoot. However, the castle isn't completely empty; a maniacal former Hollywood actor named Travis Anderson (Mickey Hargitay, husband of the late Jayne Mansfield) has assumed the persona of the Crimson Executioner, a puritanical torturer from the 17th Century bent on punishing interlopers on his property. Driven over the edge by the presence of his former sweetheart among the models, he proceeds to subject the infiltrators to a variety of tortures ranging from the rack to his ingenious "spiderweb."
Though he never really became a movie star in his own right, Hargitay is the real show here. His bizarre career in Italian horror, which led to such oddities as Delirium and The Reincarnation of Isabel, really started with his stint here, running around barechested in red tights, rubbing his oiled torso and gushing endlessly about his perfect physique. The bland starlets pretty much pale in comparison, prancing around in bikinis but failing to stand out as characters. However, scream queen spotters should look for giallo regular Femi Benussi, who later popped up in Hatchet for the Honeymoon and Strip Nude for Your Killer. Though not artfully made, Bloody Pit looks for all the world like a sordid '60s comic book sprung to life, its decadent fumetti pages spilling one after the other as scantily clad female forms are transfixed in a variety of fetish-oriented tableux. Add to that a funky, hilariously inappropriate jazz and funk score, and you've got a one of a kind cinematic experience guaranteed to liven any party.
Though it was widely circulated on the public domain market, Bloody Pit of Horror shot up a few notches in Euro horror awareness when Something Weird unearthed a longer alternate American print, entitled A Tale of Torture, prepared before Pacemaker removed ten minutes of dialogue from the familiar drive-in version. The image quality was adequate at best, but it was a nice recovery all the same. Something Weird's DVD offers the best of both worlds with a stunningly colorful print of Bloody Pit of Horror, perfectly letterboxed and in marvelous condition, with the extra trims included as a supplement. The sound on this film has never been outstanding, but its flaws may be more readily apparent on DVD where the constant layers of distorted recording and background hiss can pull away the trained ear from the pulpy dialogue and screaming. As eye candy, though, this really can't be beat. The disc also includes as astounding little mondo excerpt called "Cover Girl Slaughter," which features several models forced into increasingly outrageous violent poses for book covers, culminating in an unforgettable, Bava-like tracking shot from one setup to the other. Also included are a snippet from Primitive Love, a mondo comedy with Hargitay and Mansfield also on DVD, as well as the US theatrical trailer ("My vengeance needs blood!") and a wild compendium of exploitation promotional art accompanied by lurid radio spots. European DVD editions were later released but all proved to be unsatisfying, including a nice-looking French (with no English-friendly options of any kind) and a German release that suffers from some atrocious conversion issues to PAL with lots of jittery movement.