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Blood Spattered Bride, The Print E-mail
Tuesday, 23 May 2000

The Blood Spattered Bride

Anchor Bay
MPAA rating: Unrated
starring: Simon Andreu, Maribel Martin, Alexandra Bastedo, Dean Selmier, Rosa Rodriguez, Monsterrat Julia, Angel Lombarte
release year: 1972
film rating: Three and a half stars (Four if you love horror)
sound/picture: Three stars
reviewed by: Bill Warren

Although Dracula is hands-down the most frequently-filmed vampire story, J. Sheridan Le Fanu's "Carmilla" has been the source of a surprising number of horror movies. Dreyer's 'Vampyr' is allegedly based on the story; 'Blood and Roses,' 'Crypt of Terror,' 'The Vampire Lovers' (and its sequels) and the TV movie actually called 'Carmilla' all have the Le Fanu novella as their basis. And so does 'The Blood Spattered Bride,' an unexpectedly intelligent and psychologically rich Spanish thriller, written and directed by Vicente Aranda. Until the awkward, incomplete-feeling ending, it's sexy, scary and smart.

Susan (Maribel Martin), still in her bridal gown, is traveling with her husband (Simon Andreu, whose role name is never given) to his large, old estate. At a hotel, she briefly glimpses a hooded woman (Alexandra Bastedo) in a nearby car; the woman seems to be watching her. Briefly alone in her hotel room, Susan has a short, brutal fantasy of a man leaping out of the wardrobe and raping her.

At the estate, she's befriended by beautiful Carol (Rosa Rodriguez), who's about 14. Again and again, Susan catches glimpses of the hooded woman, now dressed in white. Wondering why all the portraits of her husband's woman ancestors are exiled to the basement, she learns of Mircalla Karstein, who murdered her husband 200 years before. Eventually, Susan realizes that the woman she keeps seeing is Mircalla herself.
She has a horrible/attractive dream of being bitten on the throat by a white-clad Mircalla (when the light comes on, a black figure swiftly disappears), who leaves behind a white-handled dagger. Then Susan has a nightmare of very gorily stabbing her husband to death. Understandably, he hides the dagger, but dreams keep revealing its location to Susan.

When he buries it at the beach, he finds a naked woman buried in the sand, breathing through a snorkel. She claims her name is Carmilla, and that she was SCUBA-diving off the coast, but became disoriented. But we recognize her as Mircalla....

Too easily dismissed as yet another vampire movie with lesbian overtones (though this one is more like a lesbian movie with vampire overtones), 'The Blood Spattered Bride' is actually something far more complex and interesting. Brides, of course, are traditionally (if rarely) spattered with the blood of their broken hymen; blood and sex are thereby not only tied together, but linked too with marriage itself, the wedding night in particular.

Susan is both intensely attracted by sex -- even rough, sadomasochistic sex -- and deeply repelled by it. Near the end, she says she hates her husband and herself ever since he touched her body. It's made quite clear at the beginning that she is a virgin; the figure that erupts from the hotel wardrobe is a manifestation of her fears of the loss of her virginity. But she's also looking, hoping, for thrills; almost her first line is "I want to go on driving a 90 miles an hour."

Mircalla/Carmilla arrives; no figure could be more in tune with Susan's powerful but confused feelings about sex than a lesbian vampire. It's almost as if her own intense emotions have conjured up this figure from the dark past of her husband's family, but eventually Susan, and we, realize Mircalla is real.

The husband loves Susan, but he's also domineering, and has a tendency toward rough sex himself. Their first few weeks together are great -- Susan still likes sex at this point -- but gradually as their desires for stronger sex increase, she's repelled by his desires and her own. She locks herself in a pigeon coop to force him to break it open and ravish her -- but she's disgusted when he wants oral sex from her. It's not surprising that the husband becomes increasingly puzzled by Susan's behavior, nor that he feels increasingly threatened by her, Mircalla and even Carol.

'The Blood Spattered Bride' is strong stuff; the gore scenes are extremely vivid and bloody; there's plenty of frontal nudity (with an evident body double for Maribel Martin), and there's a disturbing shot of a fox evidently really being killed. The dagger is equated with the penis, and there's a castration by shotgun.

Technically, the disc is below Anchor Bay's usual standards. They were forced to use a dubbed print rather than the preferred subtitled version, and as with a lot of dubbed movies, the sound is both overemphatic and inadequate. Seagulls sound like squeaky toys, and frogs sound even stranger. Only a couple of tracks were used, and the background noises are often too loud. But director Vicente Aranda, virtually unknown in the United States, still uses what sound is available to him in an imaginative fashion.

The dialog is probably fairly directly translated from the Spanish, and grows increasingly flamboyant as the film itself veers away from realism to a more baroque approach. (The shot of Mircalla/Carmilla in the sand is nearly surrealistic, worthy of Luis Buñuel.) Susan refers to "the rapture of my vast death," and in a very explicit statement of the virginal-blood theme, she mentions the "realization of my violated virgin's shuddering sense of horror." Of course, almost all virgins end up "violated;" it takes a twisted one to go the route Susan does. It's significant that Mircalla has not appeared for 200 years; obviously there were lots of other husbands and wives in this time. It's the intensity of Susan's desires and her fears that conjure up Mircalla.

'The Blood Spattered Bride' ('La Novia Ensangrentada' in Spain) may have a grotesquely gruesome title, and writer-director Aranda doesn't seem to have been able to find an appropriate ending -- it mostly just stops -- but it's a good, unusual example of Eurohorror.

If you liked this movie, you might also enjoy; Black Sunday, Deep Red, The Vampire Lovers

more details
sound format:
Dolby digital mono
aspect ratio(s):
letterboxed (enhanced for 16X9)
special features: standard extras: trailer, scene selections
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Kenwood DV-403
receiver: Kenwood VR-407
main speakers: Paradigm Atom
center speaker: Paradigm CC-170
rear speakers: Paradigm ADP-70
subwoofer: Paradigm PDR-10
monitor: 36-inch Sony XBR

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