THE CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1964) Reviews and Severin Blu-ray box set news

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The Castle of the Living Dead is being released on May 25th 2021 as part of The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee Collection.

The box-set includes:

Disc 1: The Castle of the Living Dead
New 4K scan from the Italian negative
Audio commentary by film historians Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth
Audio commentary by Kat Ellinger
Interview with producer Paul Maslansky
The Castle of The Mystery Man – Roberto Curti, author of Mavericks of Italian Cinema, on director Warren Kiefer

Disc 2: Challenge the Devil (aka Katarsis)
New 2K scan of the Italian negative
Interview with Roberto Curti, author of Mavericks of Italian Cinema
Interview with actor Giorgio Ardisson over two decades

Disc 3: Crypt of the Vampire aka Crypt of Horror
New 2K scan of a fine-grain 35mm master print

Disc 4: Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace
New 2K scan of the German negative
Audio commentary by film historians Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw

Discs 5 and 6: Theatre Macabre
Christopher Lee hosted this anthology television series originally produced by Film Polski (Knife in the Water, The Tin Drum) in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Boris Karloff’s Thriller. Lee delivers the intro and outro for each half-hour at his imposing and often cheeky best, while the tales themselves – adapted from stories by Poe, Dostoevsky, Ambrose Bierce, Robert Louis Stevenson and Oscar Wilde – are written and/or directed by filmmakers that include Andrzej Zulawski (Possession) and Andrzej Wajda (Man of Iron). Dubbed into English and featuring ‘additional dialogue’ by Jesse Lasky Jr. (7 Women from Hell) with new theme music by Ron Goodwin (Village of the Damned; Frenzy), it has remained largely unseen since its brief airing on American TV in 1971. These twenty-four surviving episodes have now been scanned in 2K from the original negatives
Disc Specs:
Runtime: 610 mins
Audio: English Mono / Closed captions
Region Free
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
New 2K scan of the original negatives
Promo with host Christopher Lee

Disc 7: Torture Chamber of Doctor Sadism aka Castle of the Walking Dead
New 4K scan of the original German negative
Audio commentary by film historians Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth
Audio interview with actress Karin Dor
Location featurette
German theatrical trailer
Teaser trailer
Die Schlangengrube – Die Burg des Grauens – German Super 8 digest short
Die Schlangengrube des Grafen Dracula – German Super 8 digest short
Poster gallery
Behind-the-scenes still gallery
Restoration Slideshow

Disc 8: Special Features:
Horror!!! – 1964 documentary short by with Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Roger Corman, and Roy Ashton (16 min)
Behind the Mask – New edit of unfinished 1991 documentary in which Christopher Lee remembers Boris Karloff (34 min)
1976 Belgian TV interview with Christopher Lee by Sélim Sasson (52 min)
1976 interview with Christoper Lee by Colin Grimshaw (16 min)
Audio interview with Christopher Lee, accompanied by stills from The Del Valle archive & video introduction with David Del Valle (20 min)
Interview with horror film historian Alan Frank (15 min)
The Crypt Keepers: Making of Crypt of the Vampire with writer Ernesto Gastaldi, assistant director Tonino Valerii, and film historian Fabio Melelli (34 min)
“O Sole Mio / It’s Now Or Never” & “She’ll Fall For Me” – Christopher Lee & Gary Curtis music videos with optional commentary by Gary Curtis
The Invincible Sir Christopher with filmmaker Philippe Mora Recalls
2001 Christopher Lee interview session outtakes (15 min)
2011 University College Dublin Q&A with Christopher Lee
Also included:

Castle of the Living Dead soundtrack CD composed by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino (Chimes at Midnight, Gorgo)

Christopher Lee: The Continental Connection: An 88-page booklet written by Lee biographer Jonathan Rigby (Euro Gothic).

Order via Severin Films

Meanwhile, here is our previous coverage of the film:


The Castle of the Living Dead is a 1964 Gothic horror film, an Italian/French co-production written and directed by American Warren Kiefer as Herbert Wise. Original Italian title: Il Castello dei morti vivi


The movie stars Christopher Lee as the sinister Count Drago who adds to his collection of embalmed corpses by murdering guests. Donald Sutherland made his film debut, in a triple role as both a police sergeant, a wizened witch and an old man.


The cast also features Philippe Leroy, Gaia Germani, Jacques Stany and horror genre regular Alan Collins (a.k.a. Luciano Pigozzi) as a troupe of travelling players who fall into the count’s clutches.

castle of the living dead

The film was shot in black-and-white, utilizing the Odescalchi Castle in Bracciano and the “Parco dei Mostri” in Bomarzo as principal locations.

Italian bureaucracy has led to much confusion over the director’s identity. Many sources claim that Warren Kiefer is a pseudonym for Lorenzo Sabatini, but Kiefer was actually an American novelist and aspiring director who moved to Italy in 1962, leaving behind his family and day job in public relations. He joined forces with fellow ex-patriot Paul Maslansky (Sugar Hill; Death Line; The She Beast) so they could take advantage of state subsidies and debut – as director and producer, respectively – on a low budget movie.


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Kiefer later claimed that Lorenzo Sabatini was a pseudonym inspired by a 16th-century painter: a necessary expedient because the project needed an Italian director to qualify for funding. The red tape meant that the Italian version eventually ended up with contradictory credits: “a film by Warren Kiefer” and “directed by Herbert Wise”. Herbert Wise is actually the anglicized pseudonym of Luciano Ricci. Kiefer is credited as director on all export prints, and Donald Sutherland named his son after him.

castle of the living dead dvd

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Future British director Michael Reeves (The She-Beast, The Sorcerers, Witchfinder General) was also part of the crew, but his contribution has apparently been grossly exaggerated over the years. Assistant director Frederick Muller has confirmed that Reeves only provided a handful of pick-up shots: nothing that would make a notable difference to the finished film.

Released by Tigon in the UK with The Blood Beast Terror


Castle of the Living Dead has a potentially interesting idea but is hamstrung by a muddled approach and sluggish pacing. Although the film is slow going at times, director Luciano Ricci is still able to build a modicum of atmosphere, especially during the scenes inside the titular castle. While the flick is drawn out a little too much and features more than it’s fair share of padding, Castle of the Living Dead remains worth a look for the performances alone.” The Video Vacuum

Antonio de Martino

“The cast is generally adequate, with Donald Sutherland providing most of the fun in his on-screen debut. He displays a skill for slapstick in his portrayal of the inept policeman, though it is mainly the makeup department that provides an effective characterization of the old woman. Christopher Lee’s typical restraint is refreshing as always.”Lawrence McCallum, Italian Horror Films of the 1960s

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“The scenes with Lee, the basement laboratory littered with the remnants of mummification research, and most of the story for that matter are presented unimaginatively. But from the appearance of Lee’s scythe-wielding servant (Valentin) and the energetic dwarf (de Martino) who protects the threatened heroine (Germani), the film shifts into a different gear, achieving some genuinely disturbing scenes…” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror


“Typical Continental Gothic melodrama, notable only for Lee’s performance and Donald Sutherland’s first screen appearance.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook

” …as the panda-eyed Drago, Lee is more than his usual frosty self. His delighted laughter and applause during the troupe’s command performance is truly manic, and at the end, when stabbed with his own embalming scalpel by a vengeful witch, he enjoys one of his most memorable screen deaths […] As for Donald Sutherland, his turn as a local policeman is an engaging echo of Kiefer’s original comic intentions…” Jonathan Rigby, Euro Gothic

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” …the premise is pretty cool (albeit kind of a let-down in light of the title), there are a few good performances that cut through the interference of the dubbing, and Castle of the Living Dead looks wonderful overall, despite obviously having been either shot on the shoddiest available film stock or processed by the most woefully inept development lab in Italy. No classic, but well worth a look.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting


“The direction is awkward and the pacing choppy. One out of every three scenes is useless. No pretty women, no mysterious music. The count has some personality; he’s a troubled and contemplative man who doesn’t mean (much) harm. But other than him, only the energetic long-haired dwarf is fun to watch.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

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” …standard Gothic fare, distinguished only by the presence of Christopher Lee as a mad Count.” Monthly Film Bulletin, 1968



In the UK, the film was released by Tigon Films, playing on a double-bill with Barbara Steele vehicle Terror Creatures from the Grave. Tigon re-released it as a support feature for The Blood Beast Terror.


The film was released in 1965 in the United States where it was distributed by The Woolner Brothers.



Cast and characters:

Christopher Lee … Count Drago
Gaia Germani … Laura (Hercules in the Haunted WorldDevil in the Brain)
Philippe Leroy … Eric (Naked Girl Killed in the Park)
Mirko Valentin … Sandro (The Virgin of Nuremberg)
Donald Sutherland … Sgt. Paul / The witch / The old man (Buffy the Vampire SlayerDon’t Look Now; Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors)
Antonio De Martino … Nick, the dwarf
Luciano Pigozzi … Dart (Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eyes; Baron BloodLycanthropus)
Luigi Bonos as Marc (Frankenstein ‘80The Evil Eye)
Ennio Antonelli … Gianni
Jacques Stany … Bruno (The Cat O’ Nine Tails)
Renato Terra Caizzi … Policeman

Filming locations:

Castello Orsini-Odescalchi and Bomarzo in Italy

il castello dei morti vivi




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We are grateful to Chilling Scenes of Dreadful Villany for some of the images above.

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Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema – book, 2016

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