Gruesome Galleries: 1965’s BLOODY PIT OF HORROR

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SHOCK lays some love on and spills some shots from 1965’s Italian trash classic BLOODY PIT OF HORROR.

Italian director Massimo Pupillo helmed more than his share of exploitation product during his peak period in the 1960s, including the DJANGO sorta-sequel DJANGO KILLS SOFTLY and the Barbara Steele vehicle TERROR CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE. But  it’s his 1965 mind-bender IL BOIA SCARLOTTO, known widely under its English title BLOODY PIT OF HORROR, that will forever define his professional identity.

And with good reason.

Pupillo’s berserk, histrionic candy-colored meltdown of S&M-informed violence and pulp-fiction psychodrama is one of the most beloved slabs of Eurotrash ever lensed; a campy, outrageous and inventive work of delirium that, over 50 years after its release, still has the power to make jaws drop and eyeballs bulge.

The film stars the late Mickey Hargitay, former Mr. Universe (and former Mae West boy toy) who, via his wife and muse Jayne Mansfield, sired actress Mariska Hargitay, who would later go on to great success on TV’s LAW AND ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT.  But Hargitay’s star shone brightest in European horror and exploitation. Outside of his maniacal turn in BLOODY PIT OF HORROR, Hargitay also made memorable appearances in the awesome 1971 Mel Welles/Roger Corman Italo-shocker LADY FRANKENSTEIN, the peplum REVENGE OF THE GLADIATORS and a pair of the “Ringo” Spaghetti oaters, among many others.

And yet no other screen role would come close to his scenery chewing tour-de-force that is his turn as The Crimson Executioner, a performance whose only match might be Nicolas Cage’s freak-out in 1988’s VAMPIRE’S KISS. In fact, if anyone ever remakes BLOODY PIT OF HORROR (something I’ve long wanted to do), Cage would be the obvious choice…

The film does indeed see Hargitay playing The Crimson Executioner, or at least a sociopath who thinks he is that very same fiend. In fact he’s really a dude named Travis Anderson, a faded actor who, after the roles dried up and his career took a dive, has cocooned himself up in his massive mansion, where he has slowly, surely lost his mind.

Already obsessed with kinky torture devices that he stocks in his basement cellar (his ‘Pit’), when a troupe of cheesecake photographers and their comely models come calling looking for a place to shoot, Travis fully completely goes bananas, takes his shirt off, oils up, dons the red tights and cowl and announces to the universe that he is now “The Crimson Executioner”, a sadist and murderer who had been put to death a century or more prior. (and whose Iron Maiden demise we witness in the BLACK SUNDAY-esque pre-credits sequence).

Over the next hour, Hargitay subjects his guests to berserk torments, pre-SAW death-traps that have to be seen to be believed. Our favorite is the now-legendary bit where a poor lass in ensnared in a massive wire web, with a poison-loaded mechanical spider wiggling toward her. When actor Walter Brandi (aka Walter Brandt, himself a  noted producer who worked on KING OF KONG ISLAND and THE DEVIL’S WEDDING NIGHT and many more) tries to rescue her, arrows shoot out from behind the web to halt his heroism.

It’s a lovely, funny and perverse set-piece, as much Ian Fleming as it is Marquis De Sade.

In fact, the US distributor saw that De Sade connection too and tried to sell the film as being based on the scribblings of the Marquis, which it is of course, not.  But one thinks that if De Sade had lived to see this film, he would have approved.

A legion of American youngsters saw the film in the ’60s on a double bill with Pupillo’s aforementioned TERROR CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE, in a slightly cut version that shaved some of the more graphic material, a dash of nudity and some extra exposition (those Italians love to talk). Years later, due to the US distributor going belly up, BLOODY PIT (and TERROR CREATURES) were thought to be in the public domain, with dozens of fledgling video imprints then trotting out the same battered print in budget releases that ended up in dump bins across the continent.

Thankfully, Frank Henenlotter and Mike Vraney found the original negative as part of their infamous Movielab raid and released a beautiful DVD version of the film via their Something Weird Video and Image Entertainment deal the 90s. You can hear all about that awesome search and rescue mission here.

They even threw in some extra scenes cut from the US print as well as wealth of related esoterica. See if you can find that now OOP release somewhere. It’s magnificent.

But no matter how you see BLOODY PIT OF HORROR, in whatever cut, its an essential watch; a truly crazed bit of terrifically tacky, lurid, homoerotic horror that stands alone. And my God…you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Hargitay strut and whip women and scream during the frantic climax…

Groove on our Gruesome Gallery below and see some sanguinary stills from this gem.

 

 

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