aka CASTLE OF THE WALKING DEAD
(West Germany - 1967; 1969 US release)
Directed by Harald Reinl. Written by Manfred R. Kohler. Cast: Lex Barker, Karin Dor, Christopher Lee, Karl Lange, Vladimir Medar, Christiane Rucker, Dieter Eppler. (Unrated, 80 mins)
Edgar Allan Poe was all the rage in the 1960s thanks to a series of Roger Corman/Vincent Price collaborations from American International Pictures that began with 1960's THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER and ended with 1964's THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (Corman made eight Poe films in all, seven with Price--Ray Milland starred in 1962's THE PREMATURE BURIAL). The Corman/Price partnership had run its course by 1965 as Corman moved on to other drive-in genres with counterculture films like THE WILD ANGELS (1966) and the Jack Nicholson-scripted THE TRIP (1967), but was still enough in the public consciousness that when Price starred in Michael Reeves' WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968), the film was retitled THE CONQUEROR WORM by AIP in the US to make it appear to be part of the Price/Poe series. AIP continued producing other Poe adaptations, but most of these, such as THE OBLONG BOX (1969) and MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE (1971), both directed by Gordon Hessler, paled in comparison to the Corman/Price glory days. Elsewhere, British studios Hammer and Amicus were releasing a slew of gothic horrors of their own and Mario Bava was making trailblazing Italian horror films like BLACK SUNDAY (1960) and BLACK SABBATH (1963) that were very much in line with Corman and Hammer and the like, but with the Maestro's own unique, matte-painted nightmare visions propelling them along.
THE FORGER OF LONDON (1961), THE STRANGLER OF BLACKMOOR CASTLE (1963), and ROOM 13 (1964), most of which starred his then-wife, German actress Karin Dor. Reinl also helmed a few entries in the updated DR. MABUSE series reboot in the early '60s after Fritz Lang revived the Weimar-era character for 1960's THE 1,000 EYES OF DR. MABUSE . When the krimi became passe, Reinl moved on to a series of WINNETOU westerns based on the works of Karl May, and it wasn't until 1967 that he decided to belatedly get in on the Poe/Hammer/Bava action with a film that's been released under several titles, the most well-known being the beautifully lurid TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM.
MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND. It wasn't until it was sold in a TV syndication package that it was rechristened TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM and that's the title that's stuck, though it was also released on VHS as CASTLE OF THE WALKING DEAD, and may have been shown as BLOOD OF THE VIRGINS in some parts of the US.
Original German trailer
NIGHT OF THE BLOOD MONSTER for its 1972 US release on the grindhouse circuit). Lee's in the first two minutes of SADISM and then doesn't reappear for another hour.
|Barker in his TARZAN days with Cheetah|
|Reinl and Dor in a 1963 photo|
TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM has been represented inadequately on US home video. There were several VHS editions under both the SADISM title and CASTLE OF THE WALKING DEAD. The best, and it's still problematic, is probably the Legend House DVD that was released in 2008, which paired the film with Joe D'Amato's bonkers DEATH SMILES ON A MURDERER (1973). Legend House's discontinued DVD is gray-market at best and non-anamorphic but at least presents the film in its correct 1.66:1 aspect ratio, unlike a previous Retromedia release, which grouped a cropped, 1.33:1 SADISM with three other random titles (1973's CLAW OF TERROR, 1974's BLACK MAMBA, and 1984's MOVIE HOUSE MASSACRE, aka BLOOD THEATRE) for a package titled SUPER CHILLER BLOOD-O-RAMA. It's surprising that a film with such a strong cult following still hasn't been ideally represented on DVD, but if you come across it (probably at a ridiculous price--used copies start at $32.50 online), the Legend House DVD, while neither perfect nor legit, is easily the best bet, and there's a commentary with American Cinematheque programmer and former Flesh Eaters frontman Chris D. The impressive visuals would probably benefit from a proper HD restoration, provided the elements for such a thing exist.