Films From the Void: The otherworldly dreaminess of THE BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE

Director Vicente Aranda’s 1972 vampire film, The Blood Spattered Bride, is a film that has always escaped my attention. It’s been pointed out here and there that Spanish horror doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves, due to the relatively small output size, in comparison to its neighbor, Italy.The Blood Spattered Bride ably demonstrates, however, that the Spaniards could do creepy, gorgeous atmospheres just as well as their counterparts to the east.

The plot summary is immediately intriguing:

“Susan, a young bride, travels with her husband to his family’s ancient manor house in the far north of Spain. Susan is a virgin and is very hesitant about her husband’s sexual demands. She is also disturbed about her unfamiliar surroundings and wonders if she will ever come to terms with her new married life. She is shocked to discover that all the old portraits of female members of her husband’s family have been locked away in the basement. When she finds them, she discovers that one of the portraits shows a woman holding a strange dagger. The woman’s face has been cut out of the painting. Her name is Mircala Karstien …”

The film is minimally cast but this is works to evoke the film’s effective atmosphere. Though a small crew, fans of genre fare will readily recognize the husband, played by Simon Andreu — a Spanish character-actor who has appeared in close to 200 titles — and is rounded out with a pan-Euro cast, as was common for the time/genre.  

A tight cast has a way of focusing one’s attention, and making every unknown action quite suspicious. Who brought the dagger into the house? Where does Susan keep going? What’s up with housekeeper’s daughter, Carol? It’s all quite hallucinatory in the telling, and some lavish use of settings — including a collapsed and mossy ancient building — lends The Blood Spattered Bride a further otherworldly sensation.

The unfortunate thing is that you have to get past a pretty nasty rape scene in the movie’s opening moments to get to this, and Andreu’s husband character is rather insistent his wife fulfill her marital duties for the majority of The Blood Spattered Bride’s runtime. So, as per usual for ‘70s fare, the connubial sexual politics are particularly abhorrent to modern social mores.

This only makes the vampiric relationship(s) which pop up in the movie’s latter half so much more powerful. It’s as if Susan and Carol have rejected all that’s expected of them to follow what they feel to be true in their hearts. It is, once again, the horror genre conflating homosexuality with monsterism, but in Aranda’s film, the husband is looked up with such contempt that his overly-macho sense of masculinity isn’t something to which the viewer should aspire, but disdain.

If you’ve never seen The Blood Spattered Bride, it’s definitely worth your time. It’s a tight hour and a half, and watching the film is like floating through a dream filled with half-clad ladies drinking one another’s blood (your dreams may differ from those of your reviewer).

Blue Underground released this on DVD about ten years ago and, while it was restored from the original negative materials and is presented completely uncut and uncensored, the only extra on that disc was the US theatrical trailer. With Mondo Macabro’s new Blu-ray, you get a brand-new restoration and enough extras to occupy an entire weekend. 

The 4K restoration is from the original negative, along with three never-before-seen alternate scenes, and an alternate ending. For those looking for greater insight, there’s audio commentary by Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan from the Daughters of Darkness podcast, as well as an interview with Jonathan Rigby, author of the book Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema. Multiple trailers and radio spots round everything out.

To get into the behind-the-scenes, “I was there” meat of it, the Blu includes a two-part interview with actor Simon Andreu, along with an interview with cinematographer Fernando Arribas. Andreu’s first interview covers his work on The Blood Spattered Bride, with the second covering his career as a whole. The material regarding his work on Luciano Ercoli’s gialli, Death Walks at Midnight and Death Walks in High Heels, are especially cool. Arribas’ interview is interesting, but he rambles, and it’s nearly half an hour long.

All told, the package is flipping fantastic, and it’s well worth acquiring for those looking to expand their scope of European horror outside the usual UK and Italian suspects. 

The Blood Spattered Bride on Blu-ray direct from Mondo Macabro.

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek

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