An archetypical Gothic thriller of the late 50’s/early 60’s, our story involves Muriel (played by Barbara Steele), a rich dame of the Arrowsmith family who is having an affair against her husband, Stephen (Paul Muller). When Stephen finds out about the affair, he tortures both of them to death, until finding out that Muriel has left all her belongings to her mentally unstable sister, Jenny (also played by Steele). With the help of his maid Solange (Helga Line), he sets out and marries Jenny. But soon things start going wrong, when Jenny starts acting strangely and homicidal against Stephen. Could it be that she’s being possessed by the spirit of Muriel, or is it all just a part of Jenny’s shattered psychosis?
This was one of the last gothic horror films that Barbara Steele acted in for Italian cinema, and I believe some of the steam is leaving. Like most of the films of the era, the cinematography and set design are top notch, and are the best part of the film by far. Although she’s the star, her presence and performance are nowhere near as mesmerizing as in Black Sunday or Castle Of Blood. Her best part is the first act when she’s still Muriel, but once she turns into Jenny she stops being interesting. She just doesn’t look very interesting as a blonde. Most of this I blame on director Mario Caiano, who does a very pedestrian job, just as he did with his western films such as My Name Is Shanghai Joe. His lackluster directing influences the rest of the cast as well, as lead villain Paul Muller is nowhere near as menacing as he should be. More interesting is Helga Line, who’s very attractive and has a tragic quality to her evil. Things pick up a bit in the third act, and the makeup effects start coming out, but it’s a little too late. It’s not a bad movie, but if you’re starting a Barbara Steele fixation, I hope this isn’t your first film.