Since I recently mentioned Barbara Steele, the Queen of Italian horror films, it seems appropriate that today’s installment of Friday Cat Blogging should feature a kitty from one of her atmospheric 1960s efforts.
One of the most amusing kitty cameos in the history of horror cinema takes place in the atmospheric Italian melodrama, Castle of Blood (known as Danse Macabre in Europe and as Castle of Terror on U.S. television). The story follows Alan Foster (Georges Riviere), a young journalist who seeks an interview with Edgar Allan Poe (Sylvano Tranquilli) while the famous author is on a trip to London. Poe is in the company of a nobleman who wagers Foster that he cannot survive a night in the haunted ancestral mansion. Foster takes the wager. Upon his arrival at the titular castle, he endures the traditional spooky foreshadowing that sets the stage for the more overt horrors to come later in the evening. He enters the grounds through a squeaky gate, ducks away from dead branches that seem to grasp at his hat and cloak, and finally starts at the sight of a lurking cat. Introduced in extreme close-up, the cat’s eyes are suitable sinister, but seen in a few brief long shots, the feline seems rather miscast: far from threatening, the tiny kitten is adorable rather than ominous.
This introduction to the castle makes Foster look like a bit of a coward, whose avowed skepticism does little to bolster his courage for the looming night ahead. On the other hand, it also foreshadow the ending. Over the course of the gloomy – and ultimately fatal – evening, Foster will encounter several specters of the living dead and recoil in horror from their presence; however, he will also fall in love with the alluring Elisabeth Blackwood (played by the Queen of Italian Horror, Barbara Steele). In a deliriously romantic twist, he will fail to survive the night, but the final fadeout leaves no doubt that this is a happy ending, as his spirit will remain together with Elisabeth for eternity. As with the cat, what initially seemed frightening turns out to be inviting, even lovable.