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Francis' (John Kerr) sister Elizabeth (Barbara Steele) has died at her
husband Nicholas Medina's (Vincent Price) castle under mysterious
circumstances ... and now Francis pays Medina a visit and is hell-bent to
find out what happened. To his surprise, the Medinas' family Doctor Leon
(Anthony Carbone) tells him that his sister died of fright, when she one
day visited the torture dungeon that belonged to Nicholas' long-dead
father Sebastian (also Vincent Price). Somehow the story doesn't click
though for Francis, and he soon begins to suspect Nicholas of having
murdered her, since Nicholas is now an emotional wreck who seems to be
guilt-ridden since his wife's death, and he claims to having heard her
What Francis then finds out though is even more unsettling: As a child,
Nicholas (then played by Larry Turner) watched his father torturing his
uncle Bartholome (Charles Victor) to death and and entombing his mother
(Mary Menzies) alive because they were cheating on him ... and now
Nicholas thinks that he has entombed his wife alive as well (though not on
purpose). The only thing to prove Nicholas wrong, Doctor Leon figures, is
to open the tomb and show him his wife was quite dead at her burial ...
but of course she wasn't, in the tomb lies Elizabeth's partly decomposed
corpse in a position as if she desperately tried to make her way out ...
which leaves Nicholas devastated ...
That night, Elizabeth voice calls for Nicholas and lures him down to
her tomb. And out of the tomb comes - Elizabeth (in flesh and blood and
not decomposed at all), and she hunts him through the castle until he
falls down the stairs to the torture dungeon, presumably dead. Enter
Doctor Leon, the lover and accomplice of Elizabeth who helped her fake her
own death and drive Nicholas insane. The two engage in a kiss ... but
Nicholas isn't yet dead, only quite mad, and all of a sudden he assumes
the identity of his father and once again uses torture to avenge himself
on his wife and her lover: First he throws doc Leon into a pit, then he
gags Elizabeth and locks her inside an iron maiden.
Then enter Francis, who doesn't understand the situation one bit, but
before he knows it he is strapped to a rack, above which a pendulum with a
blade mounted to its end is swinging, being lowered towards Francis' body
with every swing.
Thank god just before Francis can be cut up Nicholas sister Catherine
(Luana Anders) and butler Maximilian (Patrick Westwood) arrive, overcome
Nicholas, throw him into the pit (just next to Doc Leon) and free Francis.
Then they leave the torture dungeon and swear to never enter it again.
All's well that ends well ?
Well, not for poor, bitchy Elizabeth, who is still caught in the iron
maiden, not yet dead, but since probably nobody will ever enter the
torture dungeon again and she is believed to be dead in the first place,
chances are that she will never again get out.
What can I say ?
Most of Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe adaptations are
pretty good, and this is one of the better ones at that, a very stylish,
atmospheric chiller with a few quite effective plottwists (especially the
ending, when the camera closes in on doomed Elizabeth's/Barbara Steele's
eyes inside the iron maiden), solid performances by all of the involved
(with as usual Vincent Price dominating every scene he's in) and the usual
impressive sets and great camerawork. In all honesty, the film has very
little to do with the Edgar Allan Poe-story it is based on, but what the
heck, it's good horror entertainment.