Antonio Margheriti

b. September 19, 1930, Rome, Italy
d. November 4, 2002, Viterbo, Italy

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Antonio Margheriti: Pastor of Perversion

Take any literary work you love very much. You will see that you love it because for you it is a particular form of sexuality or desire.

– Félix Guattari (1)

To know death…you have to fuck life…in the gall bladder.

Flesh for Frankenstein

The prelude quotes above represent to me both the revolutionary and pleasurable aspects of the work of Antonio Margheriti. Félix Guattari, in saying art is its own form of desire, points to the impossibility of transcribing desire verbatim from art to life. This means two things. Forms of art, for him literary (he has much the same to say for cinema however), are unique plateaus of affect which bear no reference to reality beyond the ways in which their phylic qualities, of technique and representation, reconfigure the reader/viewer into a knot of art and self. When we watch images, we are not translating them into their potential repetition in reality, which then annexes any sexuality shown in them to established patterns of desire. Rather, we are altering our trajectories of desire to fall into the vertiginous ecstasy of the impossible worlds, of cinema as image, saturation, sound and duration, or literarily as words with their own multiple meanings metaphorically and metonymically. Cinema elicits its own libidinal banding with the viewer and because this is not an established form of desire beyond being translated (usually through psychoanalysis) into sexualities in the ‘real’, the potential for us to desire differently through cinema is both an experiment in risk taking (what we desire and how we desire) and in reconfiguring the subject through desires alien to who we believe ourselves to be. Beyond the fact we may not really be the necrophiliacs, sadists, masochists or monsters in these films, which frequently show impossible situations anyway, there are de-signifying aspects of film that elicit desire – the movement of a hand, the sound of a sigh, the intensity of a colour or the rapture of a sound. This form of desire is what I have referred to frequently as ‘cinesexuality’. When Baron Frankenstein espouses the joys of gall bladder fucking, our pleasure is de-signified. First, one cannot fuck life in the gall bladder of a female zombie in the real; secondly, even if we could, the pleasure we take in his gall bladder fucking may not translate into our actual pleasure at the same. But most importantly, because the act is neither aggressive nor ugly, we take pleasure in the confused configuration of desire beyond gender and familiar sexual activities that is clinically named ‘perversion’. Those who know horror films know death, but not simply absence of life, here, in the horror of Margheriti’s worlds, absence of identifiable mappings of desire which resonate with real patterns of desire. This shows social cartographies of both acceptable and possible desire as arbitrary. To know death we must know the death of what we think we know of possible configurations of desire, pleasure, cinematic dialectics and the corporeo-cerebral incandescence perversion brings through the pleasures of horror cinema.

The category of great Italian horror director throws up a variety of names, each of which are adept at particular subgenres. Among others Dario Argento is renowned for his gialli and occult films, Mario Bava most celebrated for his gothic horrors, Lucio Fulci for his gore films, Riccardo Freda for films heady with atmosphere, Ruggero Deodato for his seminal cannibal films and Aristide Massaccesi for exploiting the intersections of sex and gore. However only radically underestimated Antonio Margheriti has managed to produce beautiful and fascinating films in each of these genres in a career spanning five decades.

Very little has been written on Margheriti’s work. Because he did not specialise in one or two subgenres of horror he is seen to be somewhat lacking commitment, hence specialisation, which has led to the mistaken belief that Margheriti is artisan of all but artist of none. Troy Howarth calls him “bargain basement” compared to Bava (2), the seminal Aurum encyclopaedia of Horror continually sees Margheriti as similar to but not as successful as Bava, Freda and even Argento. This opinion both fails to address his unique position as arguably the only director to make delirious and imaginative films in many subgenres and also highlights the habit of subjugating him to inevitable comparisons with those directors considered the expert in those particular subgenres. Such auteur isomorphism does not sit well for fans of Margheriti. His signature as an auteur is found in abstract evocations of styles and themes (particularly of perversion).

Before exploring these films I must make apology for what may appear a sporadic selection of films for analysis. While I have made every attempt to summarise most genres within which Margheriti worked, many of his films are difficult to find, and those that have been released are often released under innumerable title changes. I have therefore limited my discussion to those films I have seen. I have also devoted the greater part of the article to Margheriti’s horror films because his work is most prolific and successful in this genre and also because he has created magnificent examples of each subgenre of horror.

Wild, Wild Sci-Fi

Margheriti was, first and foremost, a working director. Like Fulci, his artistry could be said to be accidental rather than volitional. But low budgets and lack of freedom with project choices could not quell his cinematic talent. Margheriti began his career in the 1950s, jobbing for the studio Titanus, where he became interested in special effects and supernatural themes. His first major projects were Co-director of Legs of Gold (with Turi Vasile [1958]) and as special effects director on The Day the Earth Shook (1959). His early interest in special effects led to his first feature Space Men (1960) and a love affair with science fiction. Later, Margheriti resumed his special effects career, creating them for Sergio Leone (A Fistful of Dynamite, 1971) and Aldo Lada (The Humanoid,1979).

Margheriti’s science fiction films established and affirmed the two trajectories upon which his style travelled for the duration of his career – bizarre plots and lush, ripe visuals. Rather than confusing the viewer, his visuals launch them into a heterotopia outside of traditional cinematic referents of identification, logic and images whose intensities of colour, composition and contrasts are balanced rather than saturated. In these films Margheriti also introduces the perverse hero, redeemed because of rather than in spite of his or her perverse nature in a world where normalcy is often brutal, inelegant and unimaginative. Most of Margheriti’s early sci-fi plots resonate around the themes of wandering asteroids, aliens sending wandering asteroids or wandering rockets, and rockets which manage to wander on their own.

Space Men

Space Men concerns a journalist (Rick Van Nutter) who investigates a renegade rocket compelled by its electronic brain. This volitional machine theme was repeated in Battle of the Worlds (1961), where Claude Rains saves the world (and is blown up for his troubles) from rockets programmed to destroy the earth by their long-dead alien creators. Both Space Men and Battle are films which subjugate script for style, yet both also concern themselves with individuals’ perverse obsessions with machines, not because they wish to overcome them but because they cannot resist their allure. The power to subjugate is rarely a respected quality in Margheriti films. More celebrated is the propensity to identify with and be inspired by objects and acts considered deviate, inhuman or abnormal. This theme of seduction by perverse icons – here the sci-fi icon of the rocket or machine – is a theme which informs most of Margheriti’s films. Heroes of his sci-fi films are far from the icons of civilised humanity which populate many impending apocalypse redemption sci-fi films.

Margheriti also dealt with alien take-overs in War of the Planets (1965) and its sequel The Wild Wild Planet (1965), a film teeming with mutant mistake creatures from the lab of the mad scientist Dr Nurmi (Massimo Serato). Perhaps equal with Wild Wild World as the best of his early sci-fi films is The Snow Devils (1965), which again deals with a meteor inhabited by yeti-men on a collision course with Earth. The film is often considered a lesser entry into Margheriti’s gothic-sci-fis, however the plot is extraordinarily odd without being laughable, and the tragedy of the lost aliens whose destruction of Earth is a poignant mistake rather than malicious act is most pronounced here. Because the stories involve perverse fascination, Margheriti’s sci-fi worlds take on the qualities of worlds now defined by untoward desire rather than the traditional sci-fi them-versus-us scenario. We see the appeal of these worlds as the protagonists see them – highly coloured, organic looking alien worlds devoid of any futuristic angularity. Margheriti’s alien planets, and even the Earth in reference to these planets, take on a Lovecraftian atmosphere more horror or fantasy than sci-fi. Characters wander intimate sets evoking intricate landscapes estranged from the vast flat distances seen in many sci-fi films. When we do see outer space, Margheriti retains intimacy by placing generic star-screens behind actors floating about their bubbly, odd crafts. Far from being reducible to merely cheap looking, a peculiar reorientation of depth is created. Blow-up women, karate-expert alien bikini-girls, dwarves, disembodied sentient organs (specifically lungs) and op-art sets juxtaposed with environments which look as if they are being strangled by tentacles, are some of the ingeniously weird features of these films.

Other Genres, Evil and Savage

Margheriti returned briefly to the sci-fi genre later in his career, albeit in hybrid formats. Yor: Hunter from the Future (1983) combined sci-fi with peplum, a genre Margheriti flirted with in Hercules, Prisoner of Evil (1964), Devil of the Desert (1964) and Hercules against Karate (1983). Like the heroes plagued by perverse desires in the sci-fis, the peplum heroes of Hercules and Devil of the Desert are more interested in sex and drugs than fated heroism, and seem unperturbed by their human fallibility. The flawed hero reaches its zenith as evil savage in Yor. The two early films remain within the saturated, strange worlds of Margheriti’s sci-fis, while Yor evokes the gritty yet viscous modern world Margheriti later created for his modern horrors. Another sci-fi hybrid Margheriti made was Treasure Island in Outer Space (1987). While much of the lushness of the sci-fis has gone from this sci-fi world, the introduction of one of Margheriti’s other specialities – high gore – assures the viewer is confronted with the strange and the macabre. Margheriti’s gore is not the everyday gore of wounds and gashes, but gouged eyeballs and suppurating flesh, and all this in a remake of a children’s story set in outer space which pre-dates Disney’s insipid 2002 version by fifteen years.

A selection of other genres with which Margheriti flirted include the giallo (The Young, The Evil and the Savage, 1968, pre-dating Argento’s first giallo); soft-porn (1001 Nights of Pleasure,1972); the western (And God Said to Cain, 1969, and Take a Hard Ride, 1975, among others); the disaster movie (Tornado,1983); war (The Last Hunter, 1980, scripted by Dardano Sacchetti and starring David Warbeck); crime (among others, The Squeeze, 1978, with Lee Van Cleef); even 007 figlia (Bob Fleming…Mission Casablanca, 1966, scripted by Ernesto Gastaldi);and perhaps unsurprisingly for a director starting his career at the height of the Italian invented mondo genre, a mondo film (Go! Go! Go! World, 1964). Here is what I mean when I say Margheriti was a working director, who, unlike Bava and Argento but like Fulci and the above mentioned enormously important and talented scriptwriters Dardano Sacchetti (The Beyond, Margheriti’s own Cannibal Apocalypse, Demons, The Church and Bay of Blood) and Ernesto Gastaldi (The Whip and the Body for Bava, The Horrible Dr Hichcock [sic] for Freda, Torso for Sergio Martino and Margheriti’s The Virgin of Nuremberg), had little control over budget or production but had to work with what he was given. This is another reason why the majority of this article will focus unapologetically on the horror films because it is here, like Fulci, Sacchetti and Gastaldi, that Margheriti both created and elaborated the influential genre of Italian horror. In this field, Margheriti made the horror film shine as a black sun.

Castle of Blood: Seduction by Ambiguity

Castle of Blood

Margheriti’s foray into horror began with Castle of Blood (1964), the story of journalist Alan Foster (George Rivière) who wagers Edgar Allen Poe (Henry Krueger) cannot stay the night with him in the haunted Blackwood Castle (a nod to another writer of gothic horror, Algernon Blackwood). Poe exploits Foster’s pragmatic scepticism to win their bet so he can fritter the cash on alcohol. Foster is inundated with a series of theatrical scenarios played out before him by ghosts of the many murder victims, each of which seem to enact their own unique form of monstrous perversion. The first ghost Foster evokes, accidentally by playing the piano, is Elizabeth (Barbara Steele). She yearns for Foster in the manner of a succubus. She herself is not averse to perversion, having years earlier seduced and then recoiled at the responses of her sister-in-law Julia (Margaret Robsahm). After seducing Foster, Elizabeth is once more taken to the world of the dead via the repeat performance of her original murder by a musclebound redeemer of her incontinency. Foster also unwittingly evokes metaphysicist Carmus (Arturo Dominici), originally murdered by vampires. These ghosts seduce Foster, through promises of sex and occult knowledge, in order to drink his blood so as to be re-embodied. He realises this when he attempts to ‘save’ Elizabeth, upon which her face transforms into a skull. Fleeing, Foster is impaled by an iron gate, escaping his death at the hands of pleasure earlier for death of the kind of pragmatic nature befitting of his doubt at the film’s beginning. Poe finds him, takes his cash, and leaves him to whatever fate of evocation or reanimation the Castle’s atmosphere may have in store for him.

Margheriti’s first gothic horror established themes which emerge in all of his horror films, including the later gore films. The compulsion to perversion which inevitably destroys his characters (even the ones who are already dead!) may lead to their demise but allows Margheriti to avoid many of the cliches which resolve horror films and offer salvation to the viewer after immersing themselves in such worlds for two hours. These are intriguing and sympathetic characters in spite of their evil, not least because their pathologies refuse any of the established paradigms of perversion – sexual or epistemological. Even their monstrosity is ambiguous, the ghosts in Castle of Blood being variously and simultaneously ghosts, succubi, arcane magi and vampires. Elizabeth’s compulsion for sexual delirium both satisfies her and destroys her, while also situating her as object of desire for what she eventually considers an unpalatable perversion, seduction by a woman. However the scene between the two women is dream-like. It does not titillate or fetishise the act, but oscillates between the blonde, rather innocent seducer and the dark-haired, dark-hearted seduced who resists what she clearly wants, killing off her seducer and condemning herself to an active life in death. The perversions of Elizabeth, Julia and Carmus are matched, however, by Foster’s near pathological journalistic conviction in reality as superior to and irretrievably extricated from phantasy. This is precisely what allows him to be so easily consumed by Elizabeth’s sensual promise and Carmus’ promise of occult knowledge. Both are areas in which Foster should not dabble, both offer secret knowledges that he cannot see as forbidden because he can only see knowledge as rational and clear. Margheriti offers no good hero to temper the evil castle dwellers; characters are equally flawed and perverse albeit in different ways.

The extremity of the perversions in the film, supernatural perverse figures such as vampires and ghosts rubbing shoulders with more domestic perversions such as lesbianism and occultism, are represented ambiguously as neither wholly good nor bad, vengeful or vindicated (3). This blurring of conceptual binaries of the dark and the light are reflected in the chiaroscuro, and the blurring of boundaries between good and evil, perversion and pragmatism are seen in the lack of clear demarcation between bodies and sets, as black clothes recede the figures into the background and stark, angular faces (particularly Steele’s) seem to float with voluminous proprioceptivity from the screen independent of their integrated form. This is a film of blurred visions and amorphous morals and the visual style reflects this beautifully.

Castle of Blood was remade at the express request of the producers as Web of the Spider in 1970 with Klaus Kinski as Poe. They mistakenly believed the addition of colour and a name actor would make the film a success second time around, however the direction and performances in this film seem strained and tired and the addition of colour, which worked well for later Margheriti films, jars with the focus on atmosphere over affect which was the focus of the first film.

The Long Hair of Death: Of Vice and (Wicker) Men

The Long Hair of Death

Margheriti later exploited black and white as ambiguous rather than binary in his second Steele film The Long Hair of Death (1964). Count Humbolt (Giuliano Raffaelli) has put to death his wife Adele Karnstein as a result of an accusation by the Count’s son Kurt (Giorgio Ardisson) that she murdered Humbolt’s brother (but for which Kurt himself is responsible). Kurt’s pseudo-incestuous unrequited desire for his stepmother seems to be the motive for his accusation, She is burnt at the stake, her wild hair entangling with the cell of wicker by which she is surrounded. Adele’s daughter Helen (Steele) pleads with town patriarch Von Klage (Umberto Raho) for her mother’s life, upon which the keeper of the flock, protector of the town’s morality and prosperity, attempts to rape her as payment for mercy. Von Klage then murders her to prevent her reporting the rape. However vengeance resurrects her, her face quickening from a worm-riddled skull to a viscous visage in a sequence for which Steele’s face seems made. Witness to this, Rafferty is shocked to death, in a seduction parody of Steele’s beauty inducing petite morte, here as terror at her face brings ecstatic death. Helen’s sister Lizabeth (Halina Zalewska) is less driven by vengeance than her sister, wandering prostrate throughout the castle, all in white, she is a living ghost, while Steele is the dead active flesh, in an exchange where the living are dead and shadow is given form. Steele’s perverse obsession with vengeance is an odd form of paraphilia – because she looks so like her mother she has taken her own form as fetish object to exact her revenge, as if she is the living embodiment of her mother rather than herself acting for her mother. Margheriti juxtaposes her ‘perverse’ obsession with Kurt’s more normal yet more dreadful perversion – the murdering of women he loves to quell his vulnerability through illicit and non-reciprocated desire. His taking of the reanimated Lizabeth as a lover insinuates incest, indignity (he did, after all, kill the woman he loves, and only a fool would not recognise her as both herself and her mother in spite of Lizabeth’s claims she is “someone else”, the long lost relative she is calling “Mary”), and a kind of homicidal necrophilia, as Kurt relishes his new lover, resurrected corpse and his own victim.

The film’s comments on the inherent malevolence of pedagogic and powerful men as a result of their ‘normal’ proclivities demarcate their obsessions from the vindicated obsessions of Helen and Lizabeth’s loss of self. Perversions of vengeance are marked as superior to the emphatic hyper-heterosexuality of the men – their ‘normal’ heterosexual desires involve rape, forced marriage and dominance. Kurt points out that his wedding night rape of his new unwilling wife Lizabeth aroused him, as the more she trembled the more excited he became. This criticism of the brutality and aggression of ‘normal’ sexuality in favour of perversion is a theme Margheriti returned to in Flesh for Frankenstein and particularly Blood for Dracula.Far from helpless victim, however, Lizabeth insults and fights her husband verbally. There are no binaries of weak versus strong women, rather women who use a variety of strategies to repudiate traditional paradigms of power. Witches, resurrected ghosts and vengeful zombies are the sympathetic and heroic figures to the monstrosities of the traditional heroic figures of heterosexual men, patriarchs and landed gentry. Visually the film is stunning. The pointed executioner’s hoods solemnly marching under gothic pointed arches, Adele’s climbing of the cross at her execution, eyes wild in disbelief which makes her innocence look evil, and the wicker man at the film’s conclusion, are only some of the breathtaking, subtle moments which catch the viewer, immobilising us momentarily away from the horrors of the plot by stunning us with uncanny and accidentally beautiful (because they appear in a film of horrors, not in spite of Margheriti’s will) visual compositions.

The Virgin of Nuremberg: Perverse Punishments

You are interested in surgery aren’t you?

The Virgin of Nuremberg

The Virgin of Nuremberg

Gothic horror does not necessarily rely on atmospheric black and white cinematography to evoke claustrophobic and phantasmatic environs within the walls of castles which create worlds as alien as Margheriti’s sci-fi planets. The Virgin of Nuremberg (1963) is a garishly coloured film with a jazz score by Riz Ortolani, set in modern times. Far from detracting from the gothic sensibility however, this is one of Margheriti’s most accomplished films, elegantly combining the atmosphere of the early gothics with the gruesome acts and seductive pathos of cruelty seen in the later gore films. The Virgin of Nuremberg twists some of the more feminist (or rather, anti-male) sentiments of the earlier films to offer the viewer the delights of masochism and victimhood. Although the pathology of traditional heterosexuality does not return until Blood for Dracula, Virgin critiques another sanctioned form of social activity which shows perversion up as far more ethical and pleasurable than the ‘normal’ – war.

The story concerns a castle whose torture chamber museum’s use is renewed after three hundred years by The Punisher, a dreaded ancestor of Max Hunter (Georges Rivière). Max’s wife Mary (Rossana Podesta) spends much of the film seeking the truth behind the murder of women, the first body being found before the opening credits in the Virgin of Nuremberg of the title (the torture apparatus which is also known as the Iron Maiden), replete with bleeding sockets from eyes gouged out by the spikes. When Mary finally discovers The Punisher is indeed responsible for the murders she is made to witness a woman have her face eaten away by rats in a cage tied to her head. Mary seems the only protagonist interested in the secrets of the castle, an investigative drive usually ascribed to men. She is made to bear witness to the fruits of her curiosity but, worse still, the end reveals an even more horrifying secret – that The Punisher (Mirko Valentin) is actually Max’s Nazi father, Robert Hunter, thought dead in the war. His madness has been brought on as punishment for his betrayal of his fellow Nazis, who surgically removed all the skin and soft tissue of his face for his transgression (4). Thus The Punisher is first the punished, as the adept sadist must always first be the masochist. The Punisher was castle curator Erich’s (Christopher Lee, a deformed but, in an atypical role, sympathetic character) General (5). The final scene of The Punisher burning in a fire in the castle, cradled by Erich who desperately attempts to save him, is both homoerotic and intensely poignant. The Punisher has flashbacks, heartbroken and plagued from the trauma of having to send men to die in the war, pleading that they may go away and be together like in the old days, while Erich can only think of his beloved master. The Punisher is hooded for most of the film, and when his face is first revealed the image is a truly stunning one – his face is little more than a skull however Valentin’s incredible severe bone structure emphasises the make-up, creating a frighteningly convincing visage. Valentin, enormously underrated for his few powerful performances, could be described as the male version of Barbara Steele. His ugliness is fascinating, his face resonant with the angles of German Expressionism or cubism.

Margheriti enhances the elicitation of fascination for this face from the audience by showing us, at the film’s finale, the surgery which peeled away The Punisher’s flesh, as we see Valentin transformed in loving detail from an elegantly handsome man (in the kind of way that Steele is beautiful but strangely so), resplendent in fetishistic Nazi uniform, into skull face. The Punisher decries his torment and vindicates his own diabolic propensities by pointing out that progress has changed the way man expresses his evil, but the suffering and malevolence remains nonetheless. The Punisher’s attempted seduction of Mary by showing her another woman’s face being eaten by rats is only horrific when we do not know his own face. The genesis of Erich’s facial deformity up to this point is not clear, we know simply that he incurred it “during the war”. Erich faithfully polishes The Punisher’s surgical tools daily (clearly the homoerotics are beyond subtlety, but they are also of an odd kind, mixing the erotic with the epistemological so that knowledge and desire are intermingled, a theme which recurs often in Margheriti’s films), and thus we are not sure if Erich’s deformity was caused by his own hand or that of his master. Nonetheless the eroticisation of surgical instruments matches that of the torture instruments. Facial deformity in Virgin seems the first step toward archaic and profane desire, where the civilised face is more likely to signify monstrosity than the monstrous face. The Punisher’s project is one of launching his objects of desire onto a becoming-perverse – a trajectory of perversion which does not reach a point of being perverse, but focuses on acts and intensity over reified subjectivity – through torment and deformity, particularly of the face (remembering the eyes of his first victim).

I have, perhaps surprisingly, represented The Punisher as a charismatic and seductive character (elsewhere he has been described as gratuitously cruel). This is because The Punisher is a salient example of a Margheriti character whose attraction comes from his repudiation of established narratives of desire and of monolithic power structures which usually express their dominance in unethical ways. True, he tortures people, but his is a cruelty borne of what he himself calls “imagination” rather than the predictable cruelty of magnified everyday heterosexual masculinity (he says to Mary ”you thought I was going to ravish you. No, the fate I have in store for you is death!” – yet he does not kill her, despite at least four opportunities). The most seductive aspect of The Punisher’s character is his making acts of pleasure and pain, and of desire generally, enigmatic. “What will he do?” is the inexplicable and unanswerable question which pierces the masochistic disciple of horror film. The domestic and banal horrors of the many rapes and socially sanctioned oppressions Margheriti’s films show us (although not exploitatively) is that we know precisely what will happen. These forms of horror are expected and more horrifying for their common banality. The perverts of these films, such as The Punisher, delight us in the trembling of not knowing what will be done to these bodies, and the instigators are themselves examples of the tissue reconfigured and folded by surgery and torture into new expressions of both desire and the body itself made perverse. For this reason the skull-face of Virgin‘sThe Punisher stands as one of the most iconic monster faces of Italian gothic horror, equalling (but not imitating) Barbara Steele’s pierced face from Bava’s Black Sunday (1960).

Flesh for Frankenstein: Splanchnic Seduction

Flesh for Frankenstein

Margheriti continued his obsession with surgery, the interface of knowledge and desire, and the erotics of metamorphosed corporeality, in the outstanding Flesh for Frankenstein (1973). Much has been written on the ‘authentic’ director of this film. Most people agree that the larger part of the film was directed by Paul Morrissey, however for the sake of this article being about Margheriti and borne of my own personal conviction that aesthetically and in reference to the more subtle representation of perversions the film belongs more to Margheriti than Morrissey, I will analyse this and Blood for Dracula as Margheriti films. The heady mixture of sex and surgery, pleasure and science so emphatically expressed in Virgin in Flesh for Frankenstein becomes pornographic (I mean this in no way as derogatory, but as intense visceral pleasure in perversion for its own bizarre sake). Flesh sees the strange faced Udo Kier (heir apparent, then, to Steele and Valentin) as Baron Frankenstein, seeking to create a master race by creating a perfect female and male zombie piece by piece, and having them breed in order that they will give to him a species of perfect slaves (6). More interesting than his project however, is the deep sexualisation of his epistemological and medical adeptness. In the film’s highlight we see Frankenstein lovingly open the sutures on his female zombie’s abdomen and fondle the entrails (”spleens [sic], kidneys, liver, gall bladder!”) to his own climax. The dematerialisation of the proper function of these radically de-signified objects is enhanced by their being named. We hear “gall bladder”, and the laws of signifying ontology will describe form and function, i.e. “what is it for”. Here it is for pleasure, for the smell, the squelch, the tactition in the hands, the sliminess, the delicious texture. The offence and delight of this scene is found in the repudiation of the structure of the signified body. This means gender cannot be assigned because genitals do not orient desire. Even if one could call the Baron ‘heterosexual’ I don’t believe there is a word for an organ- or viscera-philiac. Fetishising the within is also problematic to signification because the body is read, particularly sexually, as a text based on form as surface rather than volume, or what is seen as self evident rather than what may be possible through visceral and surgical intervention. The body for Frankenstein must be transformed to be sexy, which adamantly repudiates the body as a spatially fixed entity which one either does or does not find sexually alluring. Frankenstein is not simply a necrophiliac. Like all of Margheriti’s perverts he is only and outstandingly radically a processually creative desiring body seeking to form perverse alliances.

It is less a question of an identity of being which would traverse regions, retaining its heterogeneous texture, than of an identical processual persistence…Thus one does not situate qualities or attributes as secondary in relation to being or substance: nor does one commence with being as a purely empty container of all the possible modalities of existing. [Being] will instead be deployed across multiple and polyphonic spatial and temporal envelopments. (7)

Frankenstein then crawls on top of her and, with hand masturbating her viscera, has intercourse with her. Far from being an aggressive form of molestation of a corpse unable to refuse, during her first entrail stimulation the female zombie (Dalila Di Lazzaro) awakes, rolls her eyes back in ecstasy and resumes her pleasurable slumber. While digitally masturbating the female zombie Frankenstein encourages Otto’s voyeurism, but when he is on top of her, he demands Otto turn around. Each assemblage of desire, characters, flesh and position is a unique situated folding of various flesh, looks, sounds, desires and pleasures. There are no patterns, neither of normality nor perversion, just a series of possibilities formed at each libidinal intensification. This makes naming Frankenstein ‘a necrophiliac’ as a simple containment of acts of desire through signification impossible. Frankenstein deploys his perverse desire and all of the knowledges he has – surgical and libidinal – in new forms to create ingenious configurations or processes of pleasure.

Flesh for Frankenstein

Frankenstein’s sister and wife Catherine (Monique Van Vooren), odd servant Otto (Arno Juerging) and the brutish, vulgar Nicholas (Joe Dallesandro) are all characters with their own particular perversions: Otto wants to be a surgical necrophiliac but doesn’t have the medical knowledge, and ‘breaks’ the nanny Olga (Lui Bosisio) and the female zombie (while fondling her he exposes her genitals, looks mildly interested, and then goes straight for the gall bladder); Catherine is a straightforward sex maniac, Dallesandro the same, however both want to dominate their love object and thus once again we have Margheriti’s comment on the compulsion to dominance and power over the object of affection traditional heterosexuality incurs. Even the Baron’s children with his wife/sister show inklings of the eroto-surgical perversion of their father, but at the film’s finale it is the female child (Nicoletta Elmi) who takes the helm.

The film is deliciously set, the people painfully beautiful, the perversion baroque and fascinating, and the special effects by Carlo Rambaldi are gruesome in bizarre ways. The pragmatic manner with which Kier and Juerging deal with the disembodied body parts and entrails repudiate the claims this movie is simply out to shock. Like The Punisher, Frankenstein and Otto show up the perversion in all obsession – from the ontological to the sexual – and emphasise Margheriti’s ethics of perversion which prevents people becoming embroiled in vulgar displays of power seemingly inherent in normal gender relations. Frankenstein and Otto’s relationship resembles what Erich and The Punisher would have had, if they had been ‘married’ a little longer and lost the bloom of their love, however the marriage between the Baron and his wife is entirely redundant. Catherine’s pleasure seeking via traditional means leads to her death at the hands of the disinterested male zombie (Srdjan Zelenovic, seeking to become a monk). Nicholas’ leads to him becoming the first experiment by the children. The Baron is killed by barge-pole through the gall bladder, and his death seems to afford him more pleasure than it probably should – particularly in his orgasmic death shudder. The film was shot in 3-D and in this format is a true delight, but even in 2-D this remains Margheriti’s tour de force and one of the greatest horror films ever made.

Blood for Dracula: Wirgins, Whores and Other Temptations

I am not one of you!

Blood for Dracula

Blood for Dracula

Directly after the shooting wrap lunch for Flesh for Frankenstein the three actors Juerging, Dallesandro and Kier got their haircut to begin shooting that day on the companion piece Blood for Dracula (1974). Dracula (Kier) leaves Romania to travel to Italy, because he needs the blood of a “wurgin” (Kier’s inability to pronounce many of his lines adds an other-worldly charm to the films) or he will die of thirst. He and his servant Anton (Juerging) travel to the villa of the decrepit bourgeois family the Di Fiores to meet their four daughters. The De Fiores’ manservant Mario (Dallesandro), a pseudo-Marxist, uses mock communism purely to gain power over the two sisters he beds, Rubinia (Stefania Cassini) and Sapphira (Dominique Darel), and the family for whom he works. In the course of these power struggles he rapes both sisters separately and then ends the film by raping the youngest daughter, the virgin Pearla (Silvia Dionisio, then Ruggero Deodato’s wife, whose mother was responsible for discovering the cinematically much-tortured Italo-horror actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice!). Dracula’s attempts to drink from the two deflowered girls results in copious vomiting, and his only option is to slurp Pearla’s pool of hymen blood from the villa floor. However, he discovers the eldest daughter Esmeralda (Milena Vukotic) is a virgin. Mario discovers Dracula’s vampirism, calling him a pervert, and chops off his arms and legs before staking him.

While I am loath to apply rudimentary Freudian metaphors to the film (these films owe more to perversion theory espoused by the likes of Félix Guattari and Jean-François Lyotard than Freud and psychoanalysis), Mario’s hyper-castration of Dracula is an auto-heterosexual response to Dracula’s continued seduction of the family’s women, enticing them to cheat on Mario because he offers them a form of sexuality which is beyond the sex they experience with Mario that inevitably turns into a power struggle and eventually rape. Castration is only relevant to those who believe in and are traumatised by it. Dracula continues to bite even without arms and legs, and only when he is staked does he die. “Castration is the basis for the anthropomorphic and molar representation of sexuality…The molecular unconscious on the other hand, knows nothing of castration because partial objects lack nothing and form free multiplicities as such…the multiple breaks never cease producing flows.” (8) Vampirism is associated with transformation and while Dracula’s bloodlust here resembles addiction, his grace and polite treatment of the girls leads to their submission to him after their initial shock at having this man clamp himself to their necks. Cunnilingual associations abound during the sucking and slurping Dracula performs on their necks, and he demands nothing in return, unlike Mario, however beyond sexual analogies this is an altogether other paradigm of desire that may or may not be limited to the sexual.

Blood for Dracula

Aesthetic desire is also transformed, as the girls who initially describe Dracula as pale and sick looking end up telling Mario that Dracula “was better than you”. Mario’s bulging muscles are associated with aggression, not strength, while Dracula’s wan emaciated figure and pale face, punctuated by almost transparent eyes, offers desire beyond stereotypes and established systems. He is feminine – the film begins with him painting his face with make-up to appear alive – but in excess of oscillations between the masculine and feminine, in repudiation of the continual either/or binarised power struggles between Mario and the women, Dracula makes the women “one of him”. He is beyond feminine, masculine and binaries altogether, his flesh intersecting intensities of need, emptiness, seething drive, beauty and pallor, artifice and enactment, seduction and grace. His sexuality is ebb and flow, not on and off, not sex and no-sex, not dominance and submission. “Desire has to manage as best it can. In fact, it deserts man’s body in order to emigrate to the side of the woman, or more precisely, to the becoming-woman side. What is essential here is not the object in question but the transformational movement.” (9) Vampirism is transformation through contagion, and desire through affiliation, not dominance, so binaries and boundaries are broken down and desire becomes an unpredictable free-floating continuum. Each woman’s different response to their infection shows however that contagion does not mean homogenisation but, like all of Margheriti’s perverse characters, each expresses perversion in their own way. Once again Margheriti aligns the viewer’s desires and sympathies with the monster. This is more than just a continuation of traditional ‘Dracula is sexy’ claims. Dracula, Baron Frankenstein, The Punisher and Margheriti’s other champions of perversion breed new formations of perversion. When we ‘catch’ these perversions, like the characters who catch them on screen, we are left with an indeterminate and non-reified form of perverse desire and pleasure. We do not become-pervert but are launched upon becomings of profane and infernal desires – diabolic because at the centre of their elicitation lies only a repudiation of established structures of gender, desire, power and sexuality.

The vampire analogy is an interesting one because it is so frequently associated with seduction (although I am easily seduced by The Punisher, Charles Bukowski in Cannibal Apocalypse, discussed below, and particularly Baron Frankenstein, I will admit that most horror aficionados find vampires more ‘sexy’ than other forms of monster). “If becoming…takes the form of a temptation, and of monsters aroused in the imagination by the demon, it is because it is accompanied, at its origin as in its undertaking, by a rupture within the central institutions that have established themselves or seek to be established.” (10) Mario desires to re-establish the old institution, but with himself at the top. His sexuality is that of force, not of temptation, remembering that the first strong woman, Eve, was punished for being tempted, a marked form of female disobedience against dominant patriarchy. To tempt is to elicit transgressive female desire, a form or seduction of becoming-woman. Dracula seeks to tempt, to infect, and thus to rupture as event without result. These girls have their heterosexuality ruptured and there is no new sexuality laid down to replace it, just a navigation of new proliferations of desire and thus inherently gender. “The obsessive element in temptation is what the religious fears. His aspirations to divine life [or the divinity of sexual dominance] are translated into the desire to die to himself; thenceforth everything perpetually changes before his eyes, each element continually transforming into its opposite.” (11) Considering the religious nature of the film, and the blasphemous unholiness of the vampire, the divine icons of the dominant male orients itself around the consistency of its affirmed subjectivity. Dying to oneself, losing and transforming oneself also explicitly describes the experience of the horror aficionado – to desire the undesirable, to take pleasure in the unpleasurable, to await what is unexpected and unpredictable and to be irretrievably altered by these affects.

Cannibal Apocalypse: Perversion by Contagion

Cannibal Apocalypse

Where Dracula offers contagion via a single carrier, Margheriti’s Cannibal Apocalypse (1980) is the closest he came to a zombie film (but more correctly a cannibal film). A group of Vietnam veterans discover during their tour of duty that they have been infected with a cannibal virus that makes them crave human flesh. Back in civilisation Norman Hopper (John Saxon) receives a phone call from his old Vietnam comrade Charles Bukowski (yes, you read that right), played by the wonderful Giovanni Lombardo Radice (aka John Morghen). Bukowski explains he has been having ‘problems’ and Hopper finds himself trying to sort out Bukowski’s tendency to eat passers by. The narrative of the film is rudimentary – Bukowski ends up in a hospital to be treated for viral cannibalism after a series of exploits involving a stand-off in a supermarket and an attempt to eat a girl in a cinema. The hospital workers become victim to the plague. Bukowski, Hopper and their other ‘Nam buddy Tom Thompson (Tony King) escape through the sewers only to be picked off one by one by the military. Only Hopper escapes and the final scene suggests he may have caught the very virus from which he was attempting to save his friends.

Apocalypse is populated by a series of archetypes of masculinity. Early in the film, the manic Bukowski saves a girl from being sexually hassled by a group of butch bikers; when holed up in the supermarket he is plagued by cowboy policemen of the calibre of the rednecks in Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968). Hopper, in a vaguely paedophilic scene, seduces the sixteen year old girl who lives next door to him. The cannibals Bukowski and Thompson, however, resist machismic compulsions. Theirs is a world of visceral drives which have ablated and replaced aggressive sexual drives seen in the bikers, the pedagogic sexual drive exhibited by Hopper and even the everyday sexuality we see when, in a movie theatre, a boy gropes his girlfriend’s breast. Bukowski, sitting behind them, reaches over and bites the girl’s breast area. (This male biting female scene was meant to be matched by a female biting male fellatio scene which Margheriti eventually did not film) (12). While a rudimentary reading may suggest a simple exchange of the sexual for the alimentary, it could be suggested Bukowski’s drives are beyond the sexual toward a form of polymorphous perverse drive which conflates desire with compulsion, hunger and orality or extension and connexion by mouth – he does, after all, eat both male and female bodies and bites a variety of body areas, not limiting himself to those areas appropriate for sexual metaphor nor those victims most suited to affirm a heterosexual dialectic. Bukowski is hungry for the whole body and to lose his own integrated self through consumption, which forges connexion rather than dominance, as the cannibal impulse does not bring death but breeds contagion, forming packs of polymorphous, non-gender specific, non-differentiated but nonetheless desiring characters. Contagion and acts of desire transform their victims rather than reiterate their sexuality and gender oppose the ordinary subjectification affirmed through established sexual acts. Viral cannibals (remembering these are not zombies with vacuous robotic drives but sentient beings who express their hunger in a variety of gross and subtle, ingenious and perverse ways) belong to the order occupied by other horror species: “Werewolves are bands, and vampires too, and these bands transform themselves into one another. But what exactly does this mean, the band as animal or pack? How can we conceive of a peopling, a propagation, a becoming that is without filiation or hereditary production? We oppose epidemic to filiation, peopling by contagion to sexual reproduction, sexual production.” (13)

While Bukowski looks weird and acts even weirder, he emphatically lacks the insipid aggressive or coercive aspects of masculine sexuality that Margheriti deliberately flags up in the bikers, in Hopper, and socially through patriarchal institutions such as the mental asylum and the police, to oppose Bukowski’s strange drives. Bukowski is a sympathetic character, which is why we are hopeful for his escape at the end, running through the sewers, an environ appropriate to a character now driven more by the alimentary than the sexual. In an extraordinary scene Bukowski has a hole blown in his abdomen through which the camera peers to see the military personnel running toward him with the bazooka with which they have killed him. While his transformation of bodies alters people, their transformation of his body kills him. This kind of extreme and fascinating gore is a Margheriti trait. We know that the violence in his films is going to be similarly perverse to the drives of those characters we most sympathise with – death is always intriguing and remarkable, inherently involving bizarre configurations of flesh. Although the film has been maligned by critics, who claim Margheriti disinherited his adeptness at the gothic by meddling in the vulgar genre of high-gore, the sympathies he evokes for perversion as at turns tragic pathology and strange alternative desire, the disdain with which he represents hyperreal examples of ‘normal’ male sexuality and the extraordinary versions of human flesh he presents for our pleasure, a pleasure which compels us into a world of perversion and desire beyond the palatable, are all continued thematically if not stylistically in this film. Margheriti’s use of Radice and gore brings him from the gothic worlds of Bava and Freda into a subgenre more often associated with Fulci, Umberto Lenzi and Deodato, yet he remains faithful to his perverse paradigms.

Towards a Perverse Cinephilia

Margheriti was one of the few directors against whom no actor had a bad word to say. By accounts he was a gracious, scholarly man who had a child-like enthusiasm for horror and fantasy films and special effects techniques. It would be presumptuous to suggest Margheriti presented themes which transformed notions of perversion and the non-normal from the denigrated or evil to the celebrated and ethical. However he emphasised the creativity and imagination of perversion over the mundane reality and often offensive nature of normalcy. This proclivity makes his work ripe for analysis for feminist film scholars and those interested in desire beyond psychoanalysis and heterosexual paradigms, both in reference to that represented and the ways in which we achieve pleasure from viewing horror films. Margheriti’s visuals drip with delicious viscosity, hallucinatory atmosphere and often poignant pathos. His narratives are not, as has been claimed, ridiculous, incoherent or weird. They can only be described as such if they are annexed to notions of acceptable or normal cinematic narrative structures and topics. Horror and sci-fi explicitly concern themselves with weird worlds where transgression is the norm, evil is both vindicated and seductive and good is often insipid or hypocritical. Freud claimed “No healthy person, it appears, can fail to make some addition that might be called perverse to the normal sexual aim.” (14) Margheriti not only added a cornucopia of perversions to cinematic pleasure, but repudiated the notion that perversion was a mere exploitative tool used to transgress normality in order to titillate. He situated us in a perverse world, deterritorialising us wholesale from acceptable or desirable referents of normalcy to make us creative viewers. To become immersed in Margheriti’s perverse worlds is to drown in the world of the possible and the unpredictable, gruesomely and deliciously so.

It may seem the work of a sick mind. Nevertheless I have worked in my own way for the benefit of humanity.

– Wild Wild Planet (15)

Antonio Margheriti

Filmography

All films are Italian unless otherwise stated

Space Men (1960) as Anthony Daisies

The Fall of Rome (I crollo di Roma) (1962)

Battle of the Worlds (Il pianeta degli uomini spenti) (1963)

The Virgin of Nuremberg (La vergine di Norimberga) (1963) as Anthony M. Dawson

The Golden Arrow (La freccia d’oro) (1964)

Castle of Blood (La danza macabra) (1964) as Anthony M. Dawson

Hercules, Prisoner of Evil (Ursus, il terrore dei kirghisi) (1964)

Go! Go! Go! World (Il pelo nel mondo) (1964)

The Long Hair of Death (I lunghi capelli della morte) (1964) as Anthony M. Dawson

Giants of Rome (I giganti di Roma) (1964)

Devil of the Desert (Anthar l’invincibile) (1964)

Wild, Wild Planet (I criminali della galassia) (1965) as Anthony M. Dawson

Bob Fleming… Mission Casablanca (A 077, sfida ai killers) (1966) as Anthony M. Dawson

War of the Planets (Diafanoidi portano la Morte) (1966) as Anthony M. Dawson

War Between the Planets (Il pianeta errante) (1966) as Anthony M. Dawson

Lightning Bolt (Operazione Goldman) (1967) as Anthony M. Dawson

La morte viene dal pianeta Aytin (1967) as Anthony M. Dawson

Dynamite Joe (Joe l’implacabile) (1968) as Anthony M. Dawson

School Girl Killer (Nude… si muore) (1968)

Vengeance (Joko invoca dio… e muori) (1968) as Anthony M. Dawson

I Love You (Io ti amo) (1968)

The Unnaturals (Contronatura) (1969) as Anthony M. Dawson

And God Said to Cain (E dio disse a Caino) (1969) as Anthony M. Dawson

Web of the Spider (Nella stretta morsa del ragno) (1970) as Anthony M. Dawson

Novelle galeotte d’amore (1972)

1001 Nights of Pleasure (Finalmente… le mille e una notte) (1972) as Anthony M. Dawson

Mr. Invisible (L’inafferrabile invincibile Mr. Invisibile) (1973) as Anthony M. Dawson

Hercules Against Karate (Schiaffoni e karate) (1973)

Cat’s Murdering Eye (La morte negli occhi del gatto) (1973) as Anthony M. Dawson

Flesh for Frankenstein! (Il mostro è in tavola…Barone Frankenstein) (1973) Direction credited to Anthony M. Dawson in Italian and Spanish versions, credited to Paul Morrissey in English language and French versions.

Blood for Dracula (Dracula cerca sangue di vergine… e morì di sete) (1974) Direction credited to Anthony M. Dawson in Italian and Spanish versions, credited to Paul Morrissey in English language and French versions.

Manone il ladrone (1974)

Blood Money (Là dove non batte il sole) (1974) as Anthony M. Dawson

Take a Hard Ride (La lunga cavalcata) (1975) as Anthony M. Dawson

Whisky and Ghosts (Fantasmas en el Oeste) (1976)

Anger in His Eyes (Con la rabbia agli occhi) (1976) as Anthony M. Dawson

The Squeeze (Controrapina) (1978) as Anthony M. Dawson

Killer Fish (Killer fish agguato sul fondo) (1979) as Anthony M. Dawson

The Last Hunter (L’ultimo cacciatore)(1980) as Anthony M. Dawson

Car Crash (1980)

Cannibal Apocalypse (Apocalypse domani) (1980) as Anthony M. Dawson

Tiger Joe (Fuga dall’archipelago maledetto) (1982)

Hunters of the Golden Cobra (I cacciatori del cobra d’oro) (1982) as Anthony M. Dawson

Yor, the Hunter from the Future (Il mondo di Yor) (1983) as Anthony M. Dawson

Tornado (1983)

Ark of the Sun God (I sopravvissuti della città morta) (1983) as Anthony M. Dawson

Code Name: Wild Geese (Arcobaleno selvaggio) (1984) as Anthony M. Dawson

Captain Yankee (La leggenda del rubino malese) (1985) as Anthony M. Dawson

Commando Leopard (Kommando Leopard) (West Germany, 1985) as Anthony M. Dawson

Treasure Island in Outer Space (L’isola del tesoro) (1987)

The Commander (Il triangolo della paura) (1988) as Anthony M. Dawson

Indio (1989)

Alien from the Deep (Alien degli abissi) (1989)

Indio 2 – The Revolt (Indio 2 – La rivolta) (1991) as Anthony M. Dawson

Cyberflic (Potenza virtuale) (1997) as Anthony M. Dawson

Genghis Khan (2004)

Select Bibliography

Tim Lucas, “Margheriti: The Third Man of Italian Fantasy”, Video Watchdog, issue 28, 1995.

Patricia MacCormack, “Masochistic Cinesexuality: The Many Deaths of Giovanni Lombardo Radice” and “Interview with Giovanni Lombardo Radice” in Ernest Mathijs and Xavier Mendik, Alternative Europe, London, Wallflower, 2004.

Patricia MacCormack, “Italian Perversions: Antonio Margheriti and Paul Morrissey’s Il Mostro e in Tavola…Barone Frankenstein! and Dracula Cerca Snague di Vergine e Mori di Sete”, Kinoeye,volume 3, issue 8, July 2003.

Patricia MacCormack, “Christopher Lee: His Italian Journeys into Perversion”, Senses of Cinema, Issue 24, January 2003.

Ricardo Morrochi and Stefano Piselli, Bizarre Cinema: Horror all’Italia 1957–1979, Firenze, Glittering Images, 1996.

Works Also Cited

Georges Bataille, Eroticism, trans. Mary Dalwood, London, Penguin, 2001.

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, trans. Robert Hurley, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1983.

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi, London, Athlone, 1987.

Sigmund Freud (1905), “Three Essays on Sexuality: I. The Sexual Aberrations. II. Infantile Sexuality. III. The Transformations of Puberty” in James Strachey (ed.), The Penguin Freud Library. Vol. 7, trans. James Strachey, London, Penguin Books, 1991.

Felix Guattari, Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm,trans. Paul Bains and Julian Pfanis,Powerhouse, Sydney, 1995.

Felix Guattari, Soft Subversions,trans David Sweet and Cheit Weiner, New York, Semiotext(e), 1996.

Phil Hardy (ed.), The Aurum Horror Encyclopaedia,London, Aurum, 1985.

Troy Howarth, The Haunted World of Mario Bava,Surrey, FAB Press, 2002.

Ernest Mathijs and Xavier Mendik, Alternative Europe: Eurotrash and Exploitation Cinema Since 1945, London, Wallflower, 2004.

Web Resources

Antonio Margheriti
The official Margheriti website, run by Antonio’s son, Edoardo Margheriti.

The Terror Trap
A synopsis of Margheriti’s film career, focusing on his gothic horrors.

Splatting Image
Interview conducted by Peter Blumenstock and Christian Kessler (in German) for the Splatting Image website.

Intervista a Antonio Margheriti
Interview for Fantahorror.com (in Italian).

Intervista con Antonio Margheriti
Another interview in Italian, this time by Federico Caddeo, for the Horrorcult website.

Antonio Margheriti – Club des Monstres
An overview of some of his better-known films (in French).

Click here to search for Antonio Margheriti DVDs, videos and books at

Endnotes

  1. Felix Guattari, Soft Subversions,trans David Sweet and Cheit Weiner, New York, Semiotext(e), 1996, p. 61.
  2. Troy Howarth, The Haunted World of Mario Bava,Surrey, FAB Press, 2002, p. 232.
  3. Phil Hardy claims “although aesthetically pleasing, his work never reaches the levels of disturbing perversity reached by Bava”. See Phil Hardy (ed.), The Aurum Horror Encyclopaedia,London, Aurum, 1985, p. 160. Presumably he is speaking particularly of the fetishism and sadomasochism of The Whip and the Body (1963) and the necrophilia of Lisa and the Devil (1972). These films, although beautiful, travel along firmly established trajectories of perversion. Margheriti’s perversions are always ambiguous, defined by phylic specificity rather than adherence to an established pathology. Margheriti’s perversions are also rarely seen as a flaw. Rather, traditional heterosexual roles are relegated to being problematic and offensive. These disturb, while perversion seduces, intrigues and elicits both desire and sympathy.
  4. The Punisher pre-dates Bava’s similar gothic German-castle-with-a-mad-torturer film Baron Blood by almost a decade. In it, Joseph Cotton loses his skin and must wear a false face as a result of being tortured by those he tortured in the Inquisition. Baron Blood is not a sympathetic character like The Punisher, and his cruelty is not vindicated, although he is still an intriguing character.
  5. The roles of Lord and servant played in the film by Valentin and Lee were reversed in the Michael Reeves/Luciano Ricci film of the following year Castle of the Living Dead. The dialectic of these two actors working together is marvellous, and they oscillate their roles beautifully. Castle of the Living Dead is a vastly underestimated film and makes a wonderful companion piece to Virgin when watched consecutively.
  6. Morrissey’s rudimentary comment on Nazism, Aryanism (although Frankenstein’s desire is to resurrect the Serbian ideals, which reach their zenith physiognomically in the nose (!) whatever that means) has been discussed elsewhere and because I believe this theme to belong more to Morrissey than Margheriti my focus will remain with themes of perversion rather than eugenic politics.
  7. Felix Guattari, Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm,trans. Paul Bains and Julian Pfanis,Powerhouse, Sydney, 1995, p. 109.
  8. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, trans. Robert Hurley, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1983, p. 244.
  9. Guattari, 1996, p. 37.
  10. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi, London, Athlone, 1987, p. 247.
  11. Georges Bataille, Eroticism, trans. Mary Dalwood, London, Penguin, 2001, p. 230.
  12. For more on this unfilmed scene and the cinema scene in general see MacCormack, Patricia, “Interview with Giovanni Lombardo Radice” in Ernest Mathijs and Xavier Mendik, Alternative Europe: Eurotrash and Exploitation Cinema Since 1945, London, Wallflower, 2004.
  13. Deleuze and Guattari, 1987, p. 241.
  14. Sigmund Freud (1905), “Three Essays on Sexuality: I. The Sexual Aberrations. II. Infantile Sexuality. III. The Transformations of Puberty” in James Strachey (ed.), The Penguin Freud Library. Vol. 7, trans. James Strachey, London, Penguin Books, 1991, p. 74.
  15. This choice of quote is shamelessly lifted from the Margheriti edition of Video Watchdog, but seemed particularly apt.

About The Author

Patricia MacCormack is lecturer in Communication and Film at Anglia Polytechnic University, Cambridge. Her PhD was awarded the Mollie Holman doctorate medal for best thesis. She has published on perversion, Continental philosophy, French feminism and Italian horror film. Her most recent work is on Cinesexuality, masochism and Becoming-Monster in Alternative Europe, Thirdspace and Suture. She is currently writing on Blanchot, Bataille and Cinecstasy.