THE MONSTER OF THE OPERA (1961) Reviews and overview


The Monster of the Opera – original title: Il mostro dell’opera – is a 1961 Italian horror supernatural film directed by Renato Polselli (Black Magic Rites; Mania; Delirium) from a screenplay co-written with Ernesto Gastaldi. The movie stars Marco Mariani, Giuseppe Addobbati and Barbara Hawards.

The film had a troubled production and remained unreleased until 1964.

Initially conceived as a sequel of Polselli’s The Vampire and the Ballerina (1960), the film had the working title “Il vampiro dell’opera” (“The Vampire of the Opera”), but because of a perceived diminishing interest in vampire films, it was released with mostro (“monster”) replacing vampiro (“vampire”).

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“It builds on everything that made The Vampire and the Ballerina a fun time but is progressive in a sense with certain erotic and expressionistic elements that in contrast to its old-fashioned, classic look makes it feel ahead of its time […] Part gothic Italian horror, part Italian comedy, and part erotic madness, Il mostro dell’opera feels like a seed to Polselli’s characteristic mania style…” At the Mansion of Madness

“The movie brims with style; it’s full of bizarre camera angles and weird touches (the vampire threatens people with a big pitchfork), but the overall effect is one of consummate silliness, and I suspect that knowing what the characters were saying would make it all that much dumber.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

” … Polselli’s real interest is in the hints of lesbianism among the dancers […] and in S&M stylings of Stefano’s alternate reality, in which a bunch of barely clad harpies are chained to a wall amid swathes of ground fog and try to get their plastic fangs into the heroine. Polselli also goes for broke in a ridiculously extended scene of the company dancing insanely under Stefano’s baleful influence.” Jonathan Rigby, Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema

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“When tension building has to give way to delivering shocks in the film’s second half, Polselli seems to lose interest and allows the movie to degenerate into a routine sexploitation effort.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“The erotic overtones of the vampire myth are delineated in a rather crude, awkward fashion. Not surprisingly, Polselli soon switched to sexploitation features which he directed under the pseudonym of Ralph Brown.” Lawrence McCallum, Italian Horror Films of the 1960s

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Slaughter is a masterpiece of the genre, while Ballerina and Playgirls feature some silly shenanigans involving girls dancing, prancing, and fleeing in see-through nightgowns but also some stylish shots and creepy atmosphere – but this one offers very little in the entertainment department and is an overall goofy and frivolous effort.” Joseph Brando

Offline reading:

Bizarre Cinema! Horror all’italiana 1957 – 1979 – contains a chapter on an interview with Renato Polselli

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Cast and characters:

  • Marco Mariani [as Marc Marian] … Sandro – Death Smiles at Murder; Frankenstein ’80Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the KeyWhat Have You Done to Solange?; Slaughter Hotel; Tomb of Torture
  • Giuseppe Addobbati [as John McDouglas] … Stefano – The Cat’s Victims; The SexorcistKill, Baby… Kill!; Nightmare Castle
  • Barbara Hawards … Giulia
  • Alberto Archetti [as Albert Archet] … Achille – Mill of the Stone Women 
  • Carla Cavalli … Aurora
  • Aldo Nicodemi … Aldo
  • Jody Excell … Yvette
  • Milena Vukotic … Carlotta – The House of the Yellow Carpet; Black Journal; Blood for Dracula; Spirits of the Dead
  • Olga Jala
  • Maureen Verrich
  • Elyane Pade
  • Renato Montalbano … Tony