Rossana Podestà, recently transplanted to husband Georges Rivière's Teutonic castle, hears moans of pain (or is it pleasure?) in the dark, wanders through the halls and into the medieval museum (i.e., torture chamber) in the basement. A basin lies by the foot of a golden Iron Maiden, blood dripping in -- Podestà pries it open so Antonio Margheriti can hurl the lenses at the perforated peepers of the body inside, a zoom more pungent than all the camera-springing in Stanley Kramer's own Nuremberg saga two years earlier. German angst is no less accentuated, though filtered through the pane of Italian Gothic lyricism, post-Nazi guilt providing baggage for every walk through creepy corridors while thunder cracks outside: when Aryan Rivière, referring to his wife's allegedly imaginary terrors, assures that, "as long as it doesn't show, we can pretend it isn't there," he could be talking about the Holocaust. Christopher Lee, scarred-up as the manor's "custodian," dedicatedly polishes the surgical cutlery, while Anny Degli Uberti does a desiccated Frau Danvers bit, hand-wringing and Cruella eyebrows and all; meanwhile, FBI agent Jim Dolen prowls the gardens, looking for clues to the whereabouts of war criminals. Could the black-hooded, black-gloved "Punisher," mysteriously putting the barbaric utensils to use, have anything to do with the plot? One maid is snatched up to have her face munched on by a rat, but the horrors here remain ingrown -- catacombs stashed under red carpeting, stock footage of Hitler and Co. followed by a b&w recreation of a Nazi Guinea pig's operating table perspective, then swiftly repeated by Margheriti in color for the unveiling of the chronic torturer (Mirko Valentin). Literally a skull's face, the Punisher is a nation's deformed past made (rotting) flesh, monstrous trauma weighting down as flames lick the castle built upon suppression of truth and denial of the sins of the Fatherland. With Lucille St. Simon, and Luigi Severini.
--- Fernando F. Croce