(Il Plenilunio delle Vergini)
Director – Paul Solvay [Luigi Batzella], Screenplay – Alan M. Harris & Ralph Zucker, Dialogue Adaptation – Ralph Zucker, From the Story The Brides of Countess Dracula by Ian Danby & Ralph Zucker, Photography – Michael Holloway, Music – Vasil Kojucharov, Art Direction – Brian Caldwell. Production Company – Virginia Films.
Mark Damon (Franz Schiller/Karl Schiller), Sara Bay (Countess Dolingen de Vries), Esmeralda Barros (Lara), Francesca Romana Davila (Tanya), Ciro Papas (The Vampire Monster), Alexander Getty (The Mysterious Man)
Franz Schiller is interested in tracing the legendary Ring of the Niebelungs, the possessor of which is reputed to be able to control minds. He travels to Castle Dracula in Transylvania in search of the ring. There he is greeted by the castle’s current owner Countess Dolingen de Vries who suggests that he stay the night. As Franz joins the countess in bed, she turns into a vampire. Immediately after, Franz’s twin brother Karl arrives in search of him. He is welcomed by the countess who claims that Franz has departed. As Karl searches the castle, he discovers that the countess and her coven of devil worshippers are planning an occult ceremony in which the countess will marry Franz.
Hammer Films had created a major horror revival in the UK in the late 1950s, continuing throughout the 1960s and well into the 1970s. During this time, they produced a series of lush horror films in period surroundings and gave new life to classic horror themes. Others built on top of this during this period, most notably Roger Corman with his series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations beginning with The House of Usher (1960). The continental horror film also grew out of this, popularised by Italian director Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (1960). French, Italian, Spanish and occasionally German filmmakers followed in Bava’s footsteps, creating a body of films that were often much more floridly Gothic and contained far more erotic content that the Hammer films. (A listing of these can be found in the below Theme link entitled Continental Gothic).
The Devil’s Wedding Night is a vampire film. It is fairly standard for the vampire films that were being put out during the Continental Gothic cycle – it is not a lot different from Jess Franco films like Vampyros Lesbos (1970) or The Daughter of Dracula (1972). Luigi Batzella gives it a certain degree of erotic content, although this is still tamer that most of the output that came from Franco.
One of the more amusing things is that this is also a vampire film that has made the attempt to appropriate something of the early 1970s occult cycle that came about after the successes of Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Exorcist (1973). This is most evident when it comes to the English-language title The Devil’s Wedding Night, which clearly sets out to sell it as a Devil worship film rather than a vampire film. (The original Italian title translates as Full Moon of the Virgins).
The titular wedding night is accompanied by a coven of hooded figures who sacrifice a half-dozen girls who are stripped nude (naturally). One amusing reference is when Mark Damon places on the protective amulet and says it is of Pazuzu – an obscure Mesopotamian god that nobody knew about until it was popularised by The Exorcist that came out earlier the same year.
Director Luigi Batzella made various action, spaghetti westerns and erotic films during the 1960s and 70s. His only other ventures into genre material was the erotic horror Nude for Satan (1974) and the Nazisploitation film S.S. Hell Camp (1977). The IMDB also makes claim that some of the film was uncreditedly directed by Joe d’Amato, a director with a length career in Italian exploitation cinema, in particular known for numerous erotic and porn films.
For the occasion, the Italians have imported American actor Mark Damon, who was considered a young handsome lead at the time but more importantly had played the lead in The House of Usher. Damon for the only time in his career writes the screenplay under the name Alan M. Harris. Damon later became a Hollywood producer with films such as The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986), 9½ Weeks (1986), Short Circuit (1986), The Lost Boys (1987), The Jungle Book (1994), Monster (2003), Lone Survivor (2013) and The Hurricane Heist (2018), among others. Lead actress Sara Bay (in actuality Italian actress Rosalba Neri) appeared in a good many exploitation films of this period including The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969), 99 Women (1969), The Cold Blooded Beast (1971), Lady Frankenstein (1971) and The Demon Lover (1972).