Originally released in 1965 under the Italian title Il Boia Scarlatto (translated as “The Crimson Executioner”), Bloody Pit of Horror was loosely inspired by the writings of the Marquis de Sade. The movie was directed by Massimo Pupillo, who also made films such as Terror-Creatures from the Grave (starring Barbara Steele) and The Revenge of Lady Morgan.
The story is straightforward and has no real twists. It begins with the capture and punishment of “The Crimson Executioner,” a character inspired by the Marquis de Sade. The Crimson Executioner is punished by being placed inside an iron maiden, which is to remain forever sealed in his elaborate mansion.
Many years later, a shady magazine editor, his crew, and a group of models stumble upon a majestic mansion. When no one answers the door, the editor asks a crew member to break in. Once inside, the group begins to set up some torture/titillation scenes designed to sell the many books under the editor’s belt. As the group is working, members run into several burly guards. The group is then taken to meet the current owner of the house, one Travis Anderson (Mickey Hargitay), a retired actor obsessed with sculpting his own body to perfection.
It turns out the Travis has become obsessed—perhaps even possessed—by The Crimson Avenger. Travis then spends the bulk of the movie tormenting the models and crew members by staging over-the-top tortures, including the use of hot implements, cold water, stretching devices like the rack, and the usual whips and chains. Travis takes particular glee in punishing ex-flamed Edith (Luisa Baratto under the name Louise Barret). Standing in his way is Rick (Walter Brandi), who despite his best efforts always seems to be on the short end of the stick when it comes to rescuing his comrades.
If viewed as camp, Bloody Pit of Horror is a delirious delight, from Mickey Hargitay hilarious getup and performance as The Crimson Executioner to the silly torture implements to the Scooby-Doo antics of Rick trying to rescue everyone else. There’s very little blood or gore on display, but expect some skimpy costumes (and hints of nudity), plenty of cheesecake (both male and female), and a creepy sort of weirdness that prevails throughout the proceedings (watch for the giant spider sequence).
Horror fans looking for some insight into the writings or life story of the Marquis de Sade should avoid this movie outright, as there is little here regarding either. However, there are hints of the BDSM subculture throughout, making it an interesting film to sit through.
Close listeners to dialogue will find this movie filled with a sexual subtext few would dare in the 1960s. Here’s a sampling:
“Gosh, I’m stiff from that long ride.”
-Nancy (said with a smile, of course)
“The Crimson Executioner invented the torture if icy water for creatures like you!”
-Travis as The Crimson Executioner (torturing a girl, naturally)
“My body. . . my pure body . . . has been contaminated.”
-Travis as The Crimson Executioner (as he dies)
There are also some hilarious lines that are not easily forgotten. Here is one supreme example:
“What’s this? What’s that strange shadow near the frame of the door? That almost looks like a man’s head.”
“Yes, it does. That’s exactly what I thought, but it just can’t be. Still, it does look like a man’s head, with a hood on it.”
Fans of cheesy horror served straight will love Bloody Pit of Horror. Hardcore fans of horror looking for a scare should look elsewhere.
Bloody Pit of Horror can be purchased as a standalone item or on anthologies, such as Classic Drive-In Series Horror, one the DVDs from the Let the Nightmare Begin Horror ultimate collectors edition (50 movies).