Color, 1968, 89 mins. 6 secs.
Directed by Francois Legrand (Franz Antel)
Starring Teri Tordai, Jean Piat, Uschi Glas, Véronique Vendell, Marie-Ange Aniès, Karlheinz Fiege
Snappy Video (BD-R) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

Tower of Screaming Virgins

Tower of Screaming VirginsBoasting one of the all-time great exploitation titles is this very colorful German-French-Italian period swashbuckler laced with blood, torture, intrigue, and nudity. Lots and lots of nudity. Oh, and it's based on the play and novel La Tour de Nesle by Alexandre Dumas of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo fame, which had been filmed earlier several times including a pair of silent versions. That isn't the kind of material you'd normally expect to provide fodder for a lurid T&A melodrama, but that's exactly what you get here... and it's nuts.

Things start off in serious Edgar Wallace territory as a panicked man is cornered in the depths of a castle and nastily dispatched by a group of red-hooded assailants, who then take out a second captive with an arrow just for good measure. One of the murderers turns out to be a bare-breasted masked woman in a glittering sting outfit straight out of the Folies Bergère, and that's before the opening credits even roll! As it turns out, the premises is now notorious for this predatory masked vixen who dispatches her male conquests at night thanks to her loyal henchmen. War hero and king's swordsman Captain Buridan (Piat) gallops back home to find the castle is now a hotbed of intrigue thanks to gorgeous Queen Margaret of Burgondy (Sexy Susan Sins Again's Tordai) and sister-in-law Blanche (Edgar Wallace staple Glas, also seen in Seven Bloodstained Orchids), with various backstabbing advisors and chancellors all having some connection to the murderous scheme. Tower of Screaming Virgins

Tower of Screaming VirginsIncredibly, it's all based more or less on a real scandal in 14th century France! The mind reels, though the story is conspicuously short of screaming and, more significantly, virginity. The convoluted royal intrigue isn't impossible to follow but definitely takes a backseat to cheap thrills much of the time, incluing a langorous nude bubble bath scene and a wild finale that finds multiple swordfights occurring around the castle with women in various states of undress providing some unorthodox visual distraction. The sets and costumes don't really try too hard for realism in the traditional sense; they're all gaudy and colorful, not dissimilar from what Andy Milligan might have come up with had he been granted a decent budget. Good fun all around.

Released in U.S. theaters in 1971 by Maron Films (the folks who released Daughters of Darkness and Toys Are Not for Children) under its current notorious moniker, Tower of Screaming Virgins eventually turned up on VHS in the mid-'90s from Something Weird as part of its "Frank Henenlotter's Sexy Shockers from the Vault" series. The 2017 no-frills BD-R release from Snappy Video (a new video branch from the same folks behind the absolutely essential animation label Thunderbean) is touted as a scan of the two best 35mm prints available. Though some age-related imperfections are sometimes in evidence (the occasional scratch or bit of dirt), the colors in this are quite astounding and really, really intense. The effect is like a candy-colored fairy tale, which makes this quite a different viewing experience from what we've had in the past. A few scenes show some signs of color degradation where the whites have gone a kind of off-yellow, but it's mostly confined to the last act of the film and doesn't last all that long. The LPCM mono track features the familiar English dub, which is pretty well done and a few notches above average for its era.

Tower of Screaming Virgins Tower of Screaming Virgins Tower of Screaming Virgins Tower of Screaming Virgins Tower of Screaming Virgins

Reviewed on May 30, 2017.