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  Mill of the Stone Women What's It All About, Elfie?
Year: 1960
Director: Giorgio Ferroni
Stars: Pierre Brice, Scilla Gabel, Wolfgang Preiss, Dany Carrel, Herbert Boehme, Lianna Orfei, Marco Guglielmi, Olga Solbelli, Alberto Archetti
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Hans von Arnim (Pierre Brice) is an art student who has been assigned to the windmill home of Professor Loren Bohlem (Herbert Boehme), not to create any artwork but to take care of the professor's papers, many of which are to do with the prized exhibit Hans' father created long ago. That being his collection of statues which depict various famous women of history, mostly as they were being martyred or otherwise executed; they are arranged on a carousel of sorts, which plays music as the figures spin around. But when Hans arrives at the mill, he is unsettled - for a start, who was that mysterious woman hiding from him?

That would be Elfie (Scilla Gabel), and she is the daughter of the professor, but he likes to keep her concealed for reasons which only gradually become apparent to Hans, and to us for that matter. Although a French-Italian co-production, this took place in Holland, hence the windmill vital to the plot presumably, and having been released in the same year as Mario Bava's game-changing Black Sunday it is often seen as that film's little brother as far as its impact went - most likely will not be aware of it, yet director Girorgio Ferroni's work here was recognisably of similar aims.

Mainly in the service of conjuring up a thick, morbid atmosphere where it seems as if the characters are having an effort to rouse themselves through the plot that courts dreamlike comparisons. There's not much zip to the proceedings, but after a while you recognise that maybe it didn't need it as Ferroni was evidently more interested in a captivating ambience than any splashy effects, and on that level this wasn't too bad. What really worked against it was the cast, who may look their parts but came across as lacking in charisma, even Wolfgang Preiss whose career took in playing a multitude of imperious Nazis and bad guys.

But if there's one thing in Mill of the Stone Women's favour, it was its visual quality, mostly gloomy and remisnicent of Hammer in its use of Eastmancolor, though actually what it comes across as is a predecessor to Carry On Screaming - the tone couldn't be more different, obviously, but the plot and visuals are comparable, offering another layer of oddity. Mostly this is a sombre trudge through Hans's uncovering of what was really going on in that windmill; you're likely to be way ahead of him by the stage where he's apparently suffering some kind of nightmare come to life as Elfie dies in his arms.

The reason for that is that they have struck up a relationship, yet the Professor tells Hans he is to be careful as Elfie cannot be trusted with strong emotion, and indeed if she becomes hysterical, which is likely, she may pass away. Hans believes that has happened, but in a surreal passage he sees her both die and end up in a kind of tomb, as the Professor and the doctor in his employ (Preiss) show up to admonish him. Hans has to let his art school chums in on what he thinks has happened, which turns out to be wrong - enforced blood transfusions are the order of the day, as is the dark secret of what those stone women actually are. Although Ferroni was patently in Hammer's debt, there are a few instances to mark this out as more Continental such as the brief appearance of one of the actresses' nipples, but mainly this was a respectful facsimile which went in its own direction by and by. Music by Carlo Innocenzi.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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