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CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1964) **

 

A troupe of traveling performers are invited to put on a show for the mysterious Count Drago (Christopher Lee) at his remote castle.  Drago gets his kicks by stuffing animals and soon sets his sights on stuffing his visitors and adding them to his collection of taxidermed critters.  The actors start dropping like flies and it’s up to the pretty ingénue of the group to put a stop to the Count’s mischief. 

 

Castle of the Living Dead has a potentially interesting idea but is hamstrung by a muddled approach and sluggish pacing.  Although the film is slow going at times, director Luciano Ricci is still able to build a modicum of atmosphere, especially during the scenes inside the titular castle.  While the flick is drawn out a little TOO much and features more than it’s fair share of padding, Castle of the Living Dead remains worth a look for the performances alone. 

 

Lee is excellent as always and gives a mannered performance that balances charm and menace expertly.  Sporting a gauntly figure and a snappy goatee, Lee dominates every scene he’s in and is a real treat to watch.  It’s also fun spotting a young Donald Sutherland in a dual role as both a constable and an old witch.  Seeing his familiar features covered in make-up is a hoot and he was obviously having a blast. 

 

On the whole, the flick isn’t nearly as scary as a trip to Grandma’s but there is one scene that gives new meaning to the phrase “Dwarf Tossing” that has to be seen to be believed. 

 

Co-scripter Michael Reeves also did some uncredited directing and would later go on to helm the classic The Conqueror Worm shortly before his untimely death.   

 

Sutherland gets the best line of the movie when he advises Lee to “Send those gypsies packing!”

 

AKA:  Crypt of Horror.

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