Originally released as La Mansion de la Niebla (Spanish for “The Mansion in the Fog”), 1972’s Murder Mansion (a.k.a. Maniac Mansion) is a Spanish/Italian production, and thus the film mixes facets of the “Old Dark House” genre with facets of the giallo genre. The version of the movie that I watched came from the collection Classic Drive-In Series Horror, one the DVDs from the Let the Nightmare Begin Horror ultimate collectors edition (50 movies). It is unfortunate that this movie is poorly dubbed in English and that some of the gore and nudity have been excised, given that the complete version (and in Spanish) is available (check out the video in this article for the definitive version).
Manic Mansion is a complicated thriller, but those willing to stick with the mystery will find the climax intriguing enough. The story centers on what appears to be a unrelated cast of characters, all of whom eventually wind up at a mysterious, fog-lined mansion, where they meet Miss Clinton (Ida Galli as Evelin Stewart), who looks like an old portrait hanging in one of the mansion’s walls (clue!).
It turns out that the bulk of the characters are related to the plot, and an ancillary character has manipulated them all into coming to the mansion, where he plans to set off a chain of events that will ensure that he gets revenge. There are some red herrings along the way, and the plot becomes quite convoluted from the onset, but the ending helps piece things together, although there are some last-minute twists that up the horror factor a bit.
Although convoluted, Murder Mansion is worth the effort, as it effectively blends numerous horror genres effectively. The cast is uniformly good, even those who relish the chewing of scenery. Indeed, Eduardo Farjardo (Mr. Tremont) won best supporting actor in 1972 from the National Syndicate of Spectacle. The women are natural beauties (something that modern horror films have lost)—I mean, there are Ingrid Garbo (Count Dracula’s Great Love), Analia Gade (Exorcism’s Daughter), and Lisa Leonardi (The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail)—and everyone holds their own.
Directors Francisco Lara Polop and Pedro Lazaga are solid directors who understand the elements of various horror genres. They have assembled a dark, creepy, and well-shot film. The color palate comes directly from Italian horror, with muted blacks blending with bright reds. The mansion set is creepy, as are the scenes in the vast underground that spreads from the house’s basement. And of course there is an eerie cemetery.
Horror elements range from a creepy family legend involving witchcraft and vampirism, hanging corpses (or is it a mannequin?), a bodiless head, and of course a deceased Contessa and her zombie-like chauffer/assistant. Throw in some madness, a body count that goes way up at the film’s climax, and some well-executed twists along the way, and you’ve got a pretty good movie.
The editing of this movie is very good, but in this truncated version key scenes are missing. Another quibble is the dubbing, as I have seen the film in its original Spanish, and it is a much better movie.
Fans of Eurohorror (particularly those into Spanish and Italian fare) owe themselves a peek at Murder Mansion. The blending of gothic and giallo will leave most satisfied and some impressed. Fans of more bloody fare may not find this one to their liking, but anyone who enjoys a good (albeit convoluted) mystery and twists will definitely get a kick out of Murder Mansion.