Ceremonia sangrienta (Blood Castle)
Today's movie is a bit peculiar. I'm not fond of it, but aside from two more recent film projects based on its subject (one of which I can't get my hands on and the other of which has not been released), it's one of the few films widely available that's actually centered on this person. And I don't think a discussion of vampires is complete without covering the very real Hungarian countess Elizabeth (or Erzsébet) Báthory.
Even if vampires were real, Countess Báthory would not qualify, as even the most sensational accounts of her life never accuse her of drinking or otherwise consuming anyone's blood, the most basic element of vampire lore. But her story is often compared to that of Vlad the Impaler, the also real personage on whom the character of Dracula was based. This was more a marketing phenomenon than anything else, as the the most famous myth about her life - that of her having bathed in the blood of virgins in order to retain her youth and beauty - emerged into the cultural consciousness about the same time as the vampire scares of 18th century Europe, and when vampire stories gained popularity in the 1970s, it was common to promote a work of fiction by linking it to the Dracula story. Hammer films would release a film based on Countess Báthory and the blood bathing myth in 1970, called Countess Dracula.
The real Erzsébet Báthory was born into the 16th century and died in the 17th, and she might be the most accomplished female serial killer of all time. Reports of how many women she tortured and killed range from the nearly 40 she was officially tried for to 650, the names of which were supposed to have been written in a diary by Erzsébet herself. Over 300 witnesses gave testimony of all manner of atrocities she committed against young women, some of which was likely hearsay, but many of which were corroborated several times over among the witnesses. The girls were reportedly beaten, over long periods of time, often to death. Their hands, and sometimes faces and genitals, were burned or otherwise mutilated. Some were stripped naked, wet down, and forced outdoors to freeze to death. Some had surgery performed on them, many times resulting in death. And they were supposedly starved and sexually abused.
To say she was a nasty piece of work is an understatement, to say the least, but there is little of actual fact that is really known about her. I'm sure some of these things, or perhaps others just as bad, must be true, otherwise she wouldn't have the reputation she does. The blood bath, at least, seems to be a complete invention, though. There is a story about her slapping a young girl so hard that the girl's blood flew onto her skin, and that she remarked that the skin that was touched by the blood looked younger or something. Who knows if that's even true? The blood bathing, though, is probably not. It captured people's imaginations, however, and it's a part of her persona to this day.
ANYWAY, the movie for today, Blood Castle, purports to be about a descendant of Erzsébet (also named Erzsébet), not the cruel Countess herself (shall I call her Erzsébet Prime?). There is a reference to "the other Erzsébet," which is the inspiration for the current Erzsébet bathing in the blood of three or four girls in the village. There IS a vampiric element to the story aside from this. A man is accused of being a vampire, and there is a rather hilarious scene in which the court interrogates his corpse (I mean, what the WHAT?!?!). Erzsébet's husband, thought to be dead, is also accused of being a vampire, but it turns out Erzsébet faked his death and was forcing him to bring girls to her. There is also a strange scene where a couple of girls collect the blood of a bird because it supposedly firms the breasts.
On the whole, this Erzsébet is more sympathetic than her predecessor. She feels guilt about what she's done and confesses to everything, leading to her being walled up in the castle where we see her rotting corpse some time later.