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We open up with a mysterious motorcyclist pursuing a muscle car on a curvy highway. The driver looks arrogant and doesn’t seem to want to let the biker pass him. They both soon stop to pick up a beautiful hitchhiker. She chooses the car for obvious reasons but Captain Arragonto immediately gets a case of the happy hands on her bare leg, which she removes. Soon, at a rest stop, we meet the cyclist; Fred and the beautiful hitchhiker, Laura. He approaches her and she invites him to sit. She explains that she may have chosen poorly and decides to try riding with him.
Awe the seventies; everyone was so much more free spirited. After a brief confrontation with Mr. Porter (the arrogant would be rapist), the couple head out on the open road. They stop off at a pub for some food. While looking at a map they decide to drive on in spite of the approaching darkness and rolling fog.
After getting lost in the fog, the new couple tries to flag down a passing Rolls Royce. The car almost runs Fred over and certainly doesn’t bother to stop. They catch a glimpse of the license plate before it disappears into the fog.
The set up is quite complicated. Though we are following the couple on the motorcycle we are introduced to an older couple with ties to a financial plot, a rich woman with a traumatic past and of course Mr. Porter.
They all eventually find their way to the mansion, where truths are revealed, past explored and people turn up dead. Is it the reincarnated witch, the zombies in the grave yard, one of the wandering group or their kind hostess?
Miss Clinton, the owner of the mansion gives several conflicting stories and has the prerequisite old portrait on the wall that resembles her greatly but supposedly is not her. She opens her doors to the travellers and invites them into her madness…or gets lost in theirs.
So how are the characters? They are an eclectic bunch to say the least. Fred (the motorcyclist) as played by Andres Resino is a rouge charmer. A nice enough guy, but with an edge and a self assuredness.
Anna Lisa Nardi is drop dead gorgeous as Laura the hitchhiker. She is fun and comes off as believable even when she says cheesy lines like “I going with you, I trust you” after five minutes…like I said, awe the seventies.
Analia Gade as Elsa the heiress is given the most back-story which may through you until the end. She plays it on the edge better than any actress I’ve seen from the era except maybe Leslie Anne Warren.
Mr. Porter, the resident jerk, is played by Francisco Fantasia (really!) I can’t ever imagine him doing anything else. Genre fav Evelyn Stewart is fun and sometimes frightening as Miss Clinton, who may be a vampire and a witch (!) she seems to savor every line and brings an understated sensuality to her bedroom scenes with Analia Gade
Finally the Tremont’s. They have their own issues as the older couple who arrive by happenstance. Mr. Tremont is kind of the straight man in this whole ordeal and does well though actor Eduardo Fajardo is used to more active roles. Yelena Samarina is good as Mrs. Tremont lending a believable vulnerability to this wacky tale.
The set design is atmospheric in an Old Dark House kind of way and the score is dynamic. I love a good, creepy foggy cemetery and this film does not disappoint. Likewise with the mansion, it is homey and warm and cold and spooky all at the same time. The scenery is pleasant and really set the road picture mood before turning that on its ear.
The plot is front heavy with back story and you may get lost if you’re not paying attention. Even if you do get lost you’ll be caught up at the end. There are hangings, burning bodies and even people shot! Creepy dead people floating through the halls and appearing in bed with you like a scene out of The Haunted Mansion!
This is a hard film to talk about because of how it’s put together but I hope you will be intrigued enough to check this one out. You can get it pretty cheap from Amazon or if you really want to treat yourself, order a beautiful widescreen copy subtitled in English from one of the collector sites specializing in rare and out of print horror.
Murder Mansion came out in 1972 from an Italian/Spanish coproduction deal and directed by Francisco Lara Polop. It is often referred to as a Scooby doo mystery and I don’t want to say why but that sentiment is not totally without merit. It is a witch’s cauldron of horror themes, part Haunted house, mystery, Giallo, and supernatural thriller, this film is not gonna change cinema, but it is a fun time at the movies.