Sunday, November 21, 2021

Review: Mill of The Stone Women (1960)

I'd never heard of this early 1960 Italian horror film, so thanks to Arrow for digging it out from whatever vaults it had been languishing in!  It's actually a pretty decent film overall, nicely shot and with some good performances and intrigue to get you wondering.

Wiki informs me that this was the first Italian film to be shot in colour, and the third locally based horror film to be released in August 1960 (after Black Sunday and Atom Age Vampire) ... not sure what relevance any of that has though.

The plot concerns a writer, Hans (Pierre Brice), who heads to a remote mill to meet art professor and sculptor Professor Gregorious Wahl (Herbert A E B√∂hme). Wahl has created a strange and macabre carousel in the mill, on which statues of murderers and corpses process ... Wahl's daughter, Elfie (Scilla Gabel), has a mysterious sickness and must never become excited, but Wahl and her physician Dr Loren Bohlem (Wolfgang Preiss) are conducting experiments on local girls to try and find a cure - these experiments render the unfortunate girls into stone, whereby Wahl incorporates them into his carousel.

There are touches of other films in here, and the most obvious is House of Wax (1953) where Vincent Price plays the mad scientist preserving girls by dipping them in wax. There is a dreamlike sensibility to the film, enhanced by the cinematography, and that Hans is drugged part way through and experiences several hallucinations ... I found this similar to films like The Tomb of Ligiea and other Corman titles where the characters experience dream-like episodes in the course of the film.

Overall, it's quite complex, with a twisty turny plot which leaves the viewer guessing, and characters whose motivations are never quite to be trusted. I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected to, and will probably return to it at some point for another viewing.

The Arrow release is over two disks and has a wealth of alternate versions and extras:

  • New 2K restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films
  • 1080p Blu-ray™ presentations of four different versions of the film: the original 96-minute Italian and English export versions, the 90-minute French version, containing exclusive footage, and the 95-minute US version, containing alternate dubbing, re-ordered scenes and added visual effects
  • Limited edition packaging with reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Roberto Curti, an in-depth comparison of the different versions by Brad Stevens, and a selection of contemporary reviews
  • Fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais
  • Six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproduction artcards

Disc 1:

  • Restored original lossless mono Italian and English soundtracks
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • New audio commentary by Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark
  • Mill of the Stone Women & The Gothic Body, a new visual essay on the trope of the wax/statue woman in Gothic horror by author and critic Kat Ellinger
  • Turned to Stone, a newly edited featurette containing archival interviews with actress Liana Orfei and film historian Fabio Melelli
  • A Little Chat with Dr. Mabuse, an archival interview with actor Wolfgang Preiss
  • Rare opening titles from the UK release, re-titled “Drops of Blood”
  • German opening titles
  • US and German theatrical trailers
  • Image galleries

Disc 2:

  • Restored original lossless mono French soundtrack for the French version
  • Restored original lossless mono English soundtrack for the US version
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the French soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack

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