Although technically an international co-production, Giorgio Ferroni’s MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN (1960) officially qualifies as the first Italian horror film produced in colour. Ferroni’s landmark Italian Gothic boasts an impressive saturated colour signature, a style which was later picked up by Mario Bava when he made BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964). As a result, much like the later features by Bava, the film stands out stylistically for its bold painterly qualities, in this case layered in gorgeous fairy-tale Gothic artifice. While its impressive baroque set design – the highlight of which includes a macabre waxwork carousel – draws heavily from Grand Guignol tradition. This screening features the world premiere of Arrow Film’s new restoration of Ferroni’s much admired Eurocult classic.
Picking up the baton from Gothic romance-tinged mad science films such as MAD LOVE (1935) or HOUSE OF WAX (1953), MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN takes the Gothic staple “woman-into-wax” trope into unconventional territory. When Hans van Arnhim (Pierre Brice) visits Professor Wahl’s (Herbert E A Böhme) famous mill – a waxwork exhibit developed by the Professor’s father, which is now in need of restoration – and is curious about its workings, he quickly finds himself at the centre of a mystery involving several missing local girls. The Professor’s daughter Elfie (Scilla Gabel), a libinally charged young woman kept sheltered in the family home, presents further complications when she develops a crush on Hans, even though he is involved with another girl. Strange experiments, weird vampirism, and the dead coming back to life soon ensue in this remarkable early example of Italian Gothic turning it up to eleven. – Kat Ellinger
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