200 years after being killed by the residents of Transylvania, a witch returns & inhabits the body of a newlywed bride.
— Angus Kohm (@AngusKohm) October 23, 2021
Barbara Steele was in a lot of horror films. I knew her name long before I’d ever seen her in anything, because I had an old Famous Monsters magazine which featured pictures from Black Sunday (1960). The movie looked scary, and I really wanted to see it. Unfortunately, this was years before home video became a thing, and there was simply no way to see an old movie unless it happened to come on TV late one night. Even after I was able to rent movies on Beta, Black Sunday was not one of the titles available at my local video stores. I finally bought a VHS copy years later, which was put out by Something Weird Video (?!). I guess there was no mainstream distributor for that movie at that time.
Meanwhile, I had read a few horror movie review books, and I knew that Barbara Steele was in a lot of other horror movies. Many of them had been made in Europe, and had similar sounding titles and descriptions. Many of them had been released under several different titles, in fact – perhaps trying to sound like their more successful brothers and sisters. The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962) was also known as The Terror of Dr. Hichcock, The Frightening Secret of Dr. Hichcock, Raptus (?!) and The Terrible Secret of Dr. Hichcock.
The Ghost (1963) was retitled to The Spectre, Le Spectre du professeur Hichcock, and Lo spettro de Dr. Hichcock.
One day I bought a cheap VHS tape in a bargain bin, because it had Barbara Steele’s name on it. I had never heard of the movie, but it had Hitchcock in the title. It turned out to be a movie that was better known under another title. It’s been so long now that I’ve forgotten which movie it was (and I lost that tape years ago).
After that experience I would always ask myself, upon coming across an unfamiliar Barbara Steele movie, have I already seen this movie? Do I in fact own this movie? Is this just a retitling of another, more famous, movie? It got to be very confusing, and I passed up more than a few VHS tapes and DVDs over the years.
Recently I came across a very nice Blu-ray edition of Revenge of the Blood Beast (1966), starring Barbara Steele, and I immediately asked myself the questions. I managed to figure out that the movie was also known as The She Beast, and that seemed really familiar to me. I could picture the old VHS box in my mind, and I was convinced that it was very similar to a movie called The Faceless Monster.
There’s also an unrelated movie called She Freak (1967), which might have been adding to my confusion. I wrote about that one not too long ago on another Friday night…
The She Beast: “The wife falls into a mountain lake and her life force reactivates a hideous old witch…”
This sounds a lot like the description of another Barbara Steel movie called An Angel for Satan (1966): “Steele is a beautiful tourist at a mountain village where she’s possessed by a vengeful spirit formerly housed in a statue found at the bottom of a lake.”
How many mountain-lake-evil-spirit-possession movies can there be?
I was convinced that I had probably seen Revenge of the Blood Beast before – and that I may even own a copy on VHS or DVD – but I was certain that I did not have the Blu-ray. So, I decided to pick it up (since it was on sale).
I was shocked to discover, last Friday night, that I had never seen Revenge of the Blood Beast under any title. Even more shocking, given the fact that this one tends to get more negative reviews than many other Barbara Steele movies, is that fact that I quite enjoyed it.
I had been afraid that it would be a somewhat confusing, mostly boring, lesser example of a Euro-horror film. It was more like a good old fashioned B monster movie. The kind of movie that I used to watch on Not Quite Classic Theatre all those years ago. It actually shares a lot of similar traits with one of my favourites B-movies from that era, Monster on the Campus (1958), which I wrote about just a few weeks ago. Both are about normal people transforming into murderous monsters when exposed to the right waterborne stimulus (in one case, a prehistoric fish, in the other, a dead witch at the bottom of a lake).
Revenge of the Blood Beast has a sense of humour, and moves along quite quickly. It’s never particularly confusing, and I was never bored. It rates lower on the IMDB than many of the other Barbara Steele movies. Black Sunday gets a 7.2, The Ghost rates 6.2, Castle of Blood scores 6.8, etc. Revenge of the Blood Beast only manages a 4.6. This would normally suggest a sub-par viewing experience, but I couldn’t have been more delighted. Perhaps my expectations had been sufficiently lowered by that 4.6 – and the bad reviews I had read, but I’ll never know for sure.
Revenge of the Blood Beast (1966) is a fine example of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that may not be the best of Barbara Steele’s oeuvre, but it’s an entertaining B-movie monster movie that I’m glad to have (finally!) seen. I will definitely be watching it again on a future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.