Terror Creatures from the Grave
Director: Mike Reeves

Director: Massimo Pupillo

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

The She Beast The She Beast (La Sorella di Satana, 1966) would seem mainly to be a hideously disfigured woman persecuted as a witch, though the story additionally references the lore of Dracula for little or no reason. The film has been recycled under a number of English titles including Revenge of the Blood Beast, Satan's Sister & Sister of Satan.

An elderly aristocrat (John Karlsen) apparently lives in a rootcellar in Transylvania after Roumania's communist government took his mansion away from him.

In his hole in the ground he has a nice little layout with his bed & desk & chair, some personal possessions including human skulls, & the research materials about witch hunting in the 1700s, which we are shown by flashback through a mouldering book the old gent is reading.

In that bygone time, a hideously deformed woman was chased down & captured by torch- & pitchfork-weilding peasants, led by a priest. She screams animalistically as they bind her, drive an iron spike through her body, & lower her into the lake on a dunking stool.

The She BeastShe curses their descendants with the promise of her return, & presto-magicko, we're back in the root cellar with the aristocratic hermit putting his musty book away amidst his collection of geegaws & skulls.

English tourists, a couple, happen into the vicinity by Volkswagon. Barbara Steele as Veronica wears a Jaqueline Kennedy hat & sunglasses to hide her beautifully enormous eyes.

They stay in a run-down seedy hotel run by a vile commy (Mel Wells) who sneaks up to their window to watch the young married couple gettin' it on.

The geezer who lives in a potato cellar introduces himself as Count van Helsing, & offers Veronica a garlic clove to wear as necklace, though she passes on the opportunity. He tells them the local lore of the witch Vadella, & explains his role as guardian against her return.

The She BeastAs the couple leaves town their car careens into a lake. The husband Philip (Ian Ogilvy) is injured; Veronica is killed. When they find Veronica's corpse, she appears to be old & rotten.

Soon thereafter the Count reveals that the guy's wife may not be dead & that it might not be too late to save her. He brings Philip into the root cellar to fetch for him a protective cross, for Vadella is about to return to semi-life as the icky corpse, intent on causing mischief & terror.

I can imagine how the ridiculous "witch" make up was created. It looks as though someone took some soiled toilet paper wet from the toilet bowl, & threw it at Barbara Steele's stunt-double's head from across the room, then let it dry into lumpy smelly papier mache.

To get his wife back, the living corpse has to be captured & put on the dunking stool at the place of Vadella's death two hundred years before, which is the same spot the car crashed into the lake. This turns out to be a sort of exorcism that permits a happy ending

Or is it?

Not a big winner this one, no, but it has its moments & is by many a schlock fan regarded as a crap classic. To me it's merely a failure. The presence of Barbara Steele & the slight laugh-value of the bad witch make-up gives it marginal interest.

Terror Creatures from the Grave What appears to be an infant's hand presses against the outside of a smudged upper story window.

The room's frightened occupant grabs coat & hat & flees into what appears to be a Victorian city street, rushes to a stable where he attempts to saddle a horse that tramples him to the ground & crushes his face.

Cut to a roadster speeding along a country road & arriving at a run down villa. Terror Creature from the Grave; aka, Cemetery of the Living Dead (5 tomkbe per un medium, 1965) is now in full sway.

As cheapo films go, it's a promising beginning, with fairly decent black & white cinematography. The pending "nightmare of diabolical happenings!" alleges to have been "inspired by Edgar Allan Poe" though referencing nothing of Poe's at any point in the tale.

Terror Creatures from the GraveUnfortunately the halfway-atmospheric beginning is not sustained, & it's all downhill from here, though for Barbara Steele fans it's a must-see no matter how awful.

We're about to be treated to such characters as the daughter (Mirella Maravidi) of a mad phyisician who preserves her late father's collection of human arms that still writhe with pain, & most delectibly the spooky-eyed dark-haired Cleo played by the legendary horror queen Barbara Steele.

Cleo's the widow of Hieronomous Hauf, the aforementioned mad physician. Attorney Albert Kovak (Walter Brandi) brings a letter to her, purportedly from Dr. Hauf, & it seems authentic though he's a year dead. The widow says, "I'm sure it's just a joke in very bad taste."

The letter conveys Dr. Hauf's last wishes & disposition of his property. The confused tale that unfolds is thoroughly occult.

Terror Creatures from the GraveThe "castle" was in medieval times a plague hospital with physicians no better than Hauf, causing rather than curing plague.

Vengence from beyond the grave requires the plague victims to rise from teh grave & for Dr. Hauf's enemies to be disfigured & killed.

If not for the presence of Barbara Steele it wouldn't have much going for it, but she's enough. Director Massimo Pupillo was sufficiently ashamed of Terror Creature from the Grave that he allowed producer Ralph Zuckor to put his name on it as director. But really it takes no more forgiveness than most eurotrash horror of the era.

The usual public domain copies in circulation are pretty muddy, spoiling the occasionally moody cinematography. But a sharp print was available, struck from the UK release which was titled Cemetery of the Living Dead. It may still be available from Something Weird Video, who strikes copies one at a time as ordered.

That version included the titty-shot & a couple other moments missing from the US release. It's much to be preferred, since if we have to suffer through this bad movie for the sake of Barbara Steele's presence, we should at least see her clearly.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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