Scene 37: With Aaron now chained to a wall, he narrates from the future again. He informs us that he felt like he was buried alive and that the silence was deafening at first (we don't get to share in this however, because there is a helluva lot of noise going on), but then there were little sounds from the darkness surrounding him, like the dungeon had its own voice (nice thought, but the sound of the dungeon is deafeningly loud ruining the creep factor that could have been well played here).
After some time, Aaron becomes aware of a Giggle of Madness coming from the door to the "bridal suite". A decrepit arm reaches through the door bars to fiddle with the latch on the door.
Commentary: Nice try at mood, but the fridge logic quickly ruins it. Why is the doorway covered in cobwebs? How is The Countess getting food and water to be kept alive, if no one is breaking the plane of the webbing across her door? Does leprosy grant immunity to starvation and dehydration? Not to mention, where is her sanitary facilities? Isn't she freezing to death in this dank hole wearing only a wedding gown? Wouldn't pneumonia be a constant companion being locked down in this sort of environment?
I like the set and the gruesome horror of it all, it's very EC Comics, but this really would have worked better if she'd been locked in a tower room or at least there had been indications that she wandered the hallways at night and then returned to her 'suite' at daybreak. And, lose the nonsensical cobwebs of creepiness where they can't logically exist.
But anyway, Aaron assures us that he begged that she'd be unable to reach the latch of the door as she continues to giggle maniacally.
Commentary: Except Russ isn't looking all that horrified, alas. Acting fail.
For a moment there is relief as The Countess' diseased arm withdraws. But only for a moment. She reaches back through and finds the latch holding the door shut....
Our Countess De Sade is ever so happy to have her 'husband' on her wedding night and slides up to put the horny moves upon Aaron.
Commentary: There we go, Russ! Now, this is the fear and revulsion that we should be seeing. But then, oh god, he ruins it with the most pathetic... uh... scream? yell? cry? call? squall? ... of horror, ever. It was downright laughably embarrassing and took me right out of the moment.
Scene 38: Meanwhile, Cassandra, The Count and Mantis are upstairs where she sees to Mantis' arm injury with a hot iron. The Count remains coldly detached and mocking of her distress. Cassandra wordlessly cauterizes Mantis' arm injury (rather than say, lunge it into The Count's eye). She then watches despairingly as Mantis drags out the corpse of My Hero, The Captain with The Count following.
Scene 39: What The Count failed to do, however, is keep watch of the key to Aaron's cuffs. Cassandra snatches these up from a desk in the room and heads back to the chapel.
Scene 40: Below, The Countess is still loving up to Aaron who isn't really feeling it. As Aaron speechlessly tries to put space between he and the desperately unfortunate Countess, Cassandra arrives in the catacombs. She summons The Countess to her, as the woman remembers Cassie as her nurse. When she embraces her, Cassandra jabs a dagger into the shambling woman.
Cassie joins Fallon against the wall, and has a brief breakdown over killing The Countess. She did so because with her intent to escape now, there would be no one to take care of the woman. She finds Aaron with his hair greying over the horror he suffered.
Commentary: Ouch, Helen. You were doing relatively well, but this acting is really awkward. Let's quickly get out of this scene before it degrades any further. Ugh, and Russ is swerving back into bad, too. Please, please get out of this setting before things get much worse....
Aaron drama-queens about whether he might not have lost his sanity already. They make their escape.
Scene 41: Aaron and Cassandra run out into the Isle in the horribly-done-day-for-night moonlit night. Where exactly they're escaping too is another question entirely. One can only assume she means to lead them to where the supplies are dropped off, but like she said, the ship bringing the tea and tobacco to the Isle could be weeks away. This plan doesn't seem like much of one.
Fallon thinks they'll have until real-daylight to rest, but Cassandra knows better.
Scene 42: And, she proves to be correct as The Count, Mantis and the Killer Dogs are on their trail. Using a stream, they're able to evade the search for the night.
Scene 43: The following day, The Count continues to get closer to the fleeing Cassandra/Aaron incompetent duo.
Scene 44: As Mantis is being led by the Killer Dogs, he trips and falls. The Count commands him to get up, but Mantis claims he can't go another step. The Count, pissed at being defied again, tells him he is of no further use ... rather shortsightedly, but he is insane. He shoots him.
Mantis doesn't immediately die, but is able to confirm his loyalty to The Count before expiring (unfortunately, it included dialog).
The Count backs away from his handiwork, apparently in a bit of shock at what he'd just done to his manservant. He manages to back toward a small rise, where Aaron is waiting to confront him. They have a back and forth fist fight/wrestling match over The Count's rifle.
Commentary: And unfortunately, the music here is stock-adventure which makes the so-so fight scene look lamer than it actually is.
The Count beams Aaron in the head with a rock, but Fallon is able to grab up the rifle. The Count grabs another rock, and so gets shot dead.
Cassandra comes out of the bushes as soon as the fight is over. Our duo wander off, exhausted, but alive.
Scene 45: Back at the castle, out on the balcony, silver-haired Aaron narrates that they impatiently awaited for the presumed supply ship to arrive so they could leave the Isle. He and Cassandra have hooked up. He lets us know in passing that Ann did not survive her water torture.
Commentary: This was a really dumb throwaway for Ann. "Chinese Water Torture", even icy water, is not lethal as shown Ann enduring. It's actual purpose was to drive a victim insane and would take an extended period of time. Even then, it was less about the water dripping on the forehead then about the victim being utterly immobilized that could drive someone mad. The water drip itself was little more than an irritant added to the real torture of the restricting equipment (this was MythBusted, where it was confirmed the water drip wasn't capable in itself of causing madness). For the purposes of this story, Ann simply wasn't left in the dungeon anywhere long enough to have died. It would have been better if Aaron had reported that Ann was summarily executed by The Count before he came after them (and would've been consistent with Aaron's being a completely ineffectual hero).
Aaron goes on to tell us that a year had passed before the supply ship had arrived, putting paid to Cassandra's claim that they could have survived on the beach and waited for rescue.
Commentary: This scene is filmed a bit weirdly with the camera angle. It is deliberate, so it is half-clever, but half-clumsy. I can't decide if I'm happy with how the scene was directed, or if I think it is too obvious that a twist ending is coming.
Also, the music is again intrusive and generic.
Cassandra seems less excited with their imminent rescue than Fallon, but allows herself to be dragged off to meet the landing party at the beach. Since we already know that Aaron is going to be exiled alone here, we know they can't leave for some reason.
Scene 46: Narrator-Aaron tells us all about his sense of excitement and his ignoring Cassandra's sudden lack of enthusiasm at greeting the ship come with supplies. He raced down to the beach, she reluctantly was dragged behind by the hand with him.
At a hillside overlooking the ocean, three men arrive in a rowboat. They take one look at the greeting Aaron and the head of the party whispers in horror: "lepers". The men retreat to Fallon's puzzlement and grave disappointment.
Commentary: Also? There doesn't seem to be any supplies. Mayhaps, this was just a scouting mission and not the supply ship expected?
Scene 47: Aaron watches them retreat, confused at the charge of carrying the leprosy. But Cassandra now admits that she'd noticed the signs that they'd been infected some time ago by the pallor of their skin. (Why does Cassandra keep calling Aaron, "Fallon"?? Did somebody forget that this is his last name?)
We pan from Cassandra falling into Aaron's arms with an apology for not mentioning it to him when she first began to see the symptoms to the row boat fleeing in panic from the Isle (and the dude on the left doesn't know how to row a boat... too much splashing).
Scene 48: We fade back into present-Aaron writing his memoirs at the desk in the otherwise abandoned Castle De Sade with its never-ending peel of thunder and lightning. He narrates that it has been years since they've seen anyone else and he is tortured by the loneliness. We further find out that Cassandra, though alive, is quite deranged in the same way that The Countess had lost her mind. Aaron is convinced that it has become time to put her away, as The Count had his wife.
He holds out his hand to her, and then leads her to the sarcophagus in the chapel room....
Commentary: Okay, I have to admit that I didn't see this dark ending coming and I liked it!
The Good: The set design was nicely done and I enjoyed the scenes where the actors were, once indoors.
I really liked The Captain, and thought he'd make a much better protaganist than Aaron Fallon. Not only was he a stronger character, but Lee was a stronger actor than Russ (though he still has problems, which is why Lee himself isn't listed here).
I really enjoyed trying to puzzle out the ambiguity between the Mantis character and his feelings/relationship with The Count. It was the most interesting relationship in the picture.
I also really liked the horror behind The Countess' existence on The Isle and the way that Cassandra ends up living the exact same way in the end. The dark ending was surprising to me, and I enjoyed it wrapping up with such a despairing, downer ending.
The Bad: Right off, we have to ding the movie for the special effects. You can glide over these things in low budget movies, if it is filmed in such a way as to not rub your face in the lack of budget to pull it off. This film doesn't do that. The model estate, the model ship, the "lightning", the day-for-night is all front and center on screen much too long to ignore.
The narration. Only do this in small doses to emphasize a particular point. There is much too much of it on display, and it is often overly-dramatic in word while being overly droning in delivery. The combination is deadly to the horrific tone that it is supposed to be relaying.
The insertion of the Apparition of Insanity was entirely random and wasn't needed to make us think the Count was off his rocker. William was doing that just fine, thank you. Especially since the Apparition wasn't made a recurring presence that would have justified the time spent on it.
Russ Harvey cannot do "aristocratic". He simply can't.
Maurice cannot deliver dialog. He simply can't.
Other Thoughts: Throughout this movie, I found myself just starting to get lost in the story and then they'd pull out some atrocious line delivery or extra hammy narration and it kept undercutting me. I actually think that this tale is very well crafted, the performers aren't too bad in their roles (except for that "The Bad" entry -- sorry!) and it ends on a nicely black tone, but the execution kept getting in the way of things. The performances of the leads also kept swerving from slightly off, to relatively good, to painful at random which also kept dragging down the somber mood that was capturing me. I still think it has been too harshly judged by the IMDB scorers, though. The gyrations of the performances is what is keeping Helen and Lee from being listed under "The Good", because I largely found them to be enjoyable.
For the same erratic unevenness, I can't place the scripting in either "The Good" or the "The Bad". Some of the dialog is nicely written, but then you'd get some real howlers as well, especially in the beginning when the script is trying to hide that The Count is crazy and the castle has dark secrets in the catacombs.
Music is in the exact same boat: There were times when I really liked the soundtrack, and then my love was jabbed in the kidneys by some horrible choices.
The Score: I really like the general story, but there are just too many things dragging the entire enterprise down. Another instance in which I'd like to score it higher than I really can. While I still believe that IMDB's 2.4 out of 10 is too harsh, I cannot give it more than:
2.5 out of 5 stars (but I'm only giving it a 4 on IMDB, myself)
Next up: review of "Angel & Faith" issue 1.