by Steve Habrat
The trashy 1965 Italian giallo/exploitation horror film Bloody Pit of Horror makes a lot of promises with its gruesome title but misses the secret ingredient for a lasting exploitation classic. You’d think that the film, directed by Massimo Pupillo, would posses at least one nasty scene of torture or bloodletting that would back up the misleading title stamped across it. Well folks, Bloody Pit of Horror has no bloody pit of horror to speak of and frankly, not much of the red stuff at all. In fact, Bloody Pit of Horror is an artless work that is eye grabbing with it’s gaudy set pieces but off putting due to its poor dubbing, cheesy acting, and yawn inducing torture sequences. Shaved down to a measly hour and fourteen-minute runtime, the film is brief but that doesn’t make it painless. I can’t honestly say that anything really picks up when the violence erupts but it does become an unintentionally hilarious film set to a wailing jazz score.
Bloody Pit of Horror picks up with a group of sexy models and a photography crew on the prowl for the perfect gothic location to carry out a photo shoot for the covers of some trash horror novels. They stumble upon the secluded gothic castle in the countryside that they believe to be abandoned, deeming it the perfect place to stage their morbid photo shoot. It turns out that the castle belongs to a former actor named Travis Anderson (Played by Mickey Hargitay) who demands that they leave the castle. Just as the group is leaving, Travis recognizes one of the girls, Edith (Played by Luisa Baratto), who happens to be an ex-girlfriend. Upon learning this, he decides to let the uninvited guests stay for one evening and do their work. As the group explores the sprawling castle, one of the male models in the group is gruesomely killed and it seems that the murder was caught on camera. The group slowly learns that the castle is the home of a vengeful spirit known as The Crimson Executioner, who is accidentally unleashed and posses Travis. Travis begins donning the costume of The Crimson Executioner, rounding up members of the group, and placing them in elaborate torture devises.
Bloody Pit of Horror is only notable due to the madcap performance from Hargitay, an ex-Mr. Universe bodybuilder, who is so over-the-top, you have to see it to believe it. It doesn’t start out this way, as Hargitay is fairly controlled in the opening half-hour. Half the time, Bloody Pit of Horror seems like just a vehicle to showcase Hargitay’s tanned physique and juxtaposing it with a handful of gorgeous women known as “The Cover Girls”. This makes Bloody Pit of Horror come off like some bizarre fetish picture rather than a serious horror film (the girls emit orgasmic like sounds as they are tortured, none of their shrieks echoing with terror), which it boldly tries to be. Don’t fret, it’s not scary in the slightest, mostly due to how poorly the film has aged. There are several long, drawn out sequences where Travis babbles on about the importance of his physique as he oils himself up and flexes his pectoral muscles, Mind you, he does this all while he is trying to be menacing and intimidating. I half expected him to pick up some weights and start working out! Go ahead, I’ll wait while you laugh.
There is one scene in Bloody Pit of Horror that is somewhat inspired and memorable. A scene involving one of the models strapped to a giant spider-web as a giant fake spider slowly bobs towards her. The fake spider has venom in its fangs and if it reaches her, the fang will prick her and kill her. The room is guarded with several bow-and arrows that are rigged to shoot anyone who dares venture into the room and tries to aid the poor gal. One of the men attempts to try to navigate the room without triggering the traps to save the shrieking girl from certain death. It’s the only truly tense and arty moment that Bloody Pit of Horror has to offer. The rest of the film just sits stationary while the actors spout off ridiculous dialogue (“Only a CREEP would live here!”) and director Pupillo devises ways to strip the entire female cast of their clothing. He does this by creating elaborate torture devises that slowly rip away bras and cut up the girl’s chests.
Bloody Pit of Horror is a very colorful film, featuring eye-popping reds and greens for the viewer to marvel at (one of the very few things to marvel at, might I add). The cinematography is pretty good for a Z-grade picture, but I wish that the people behind the camera would have taken a few risks and given their work some movement and personality. It’s hard to believe the film operates in the same giallo genre as the work of Dario Argento (a director who wouldn’t emerge of the filmmaking scene until 1970), who danced with the camera every chance he got. Many of the grind house films of the time carried titles that made a lot of promises but never truly delivered on those promises and Bloody Pit of Horror happens to be one of those movies. As far as titles go, Bloody Pit of Horror ranks as one of the best, featuring a title that is infinitely better than the movie itself (The film has carried several titles over the years including The Crimson Executioner, The Scarlet Executioner, and Some Virgins for the Hangman, to name a few). There is one thing going for Bloody Pit of Horror—it acts as a cure for insomnia!
Bloody Pit of Horror is available on DVD.