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Monday, April 19, 2010

THE EMBALMER: Murdering Madman In Venice

By Steve D. Stones

The Embalmer originally played on a double-bill in drive-ins in 1966 with the Barbara Steele film The She Beast. It was later put on a triple bill in the early 1970s with the Ted V. Mikels classic The Corpse Grinders and The Undertaker & His Pals. The Sinister Cinema DVD print of The Embalmer contains an interesting trailer for the triple bill encouraging movie patrons to sign a certificate of assurance guaranteeing to be of healthy and sound mind, and to not hold the theatre management liable for any heart conditions suffered while viewing The Embalmer. This was a clever gimmick to draw patrons into the theatre. A nurse was also on attendance to take the blood pressure of movie patrons.

A maniac dressed in a hooded monk’s robe and skull mask (similar to the mask used by The Crimson Ghost in the 1947 serial) is kidnapping young beautiful girls, draining their blood and injecting them with a serum to preserve their beauty forever. He puts their bodies on display in glass cases in his underground hideout in the catacombs under the city of Venice in Italy.

A young newspaper reporter is determined to solve the case of the missing girls. He helps a tour group find their hotel, and later guides them around the city. He falls in love with the leader of the tour group named Maureen.

Meanwhile, The Embalmer is busy kidnapping and drowning young girls by pulling them into a canal above the catacombs. He seems to have a taste for brunettes. An archaeologist discovers the Embalmer’s hideout. The Embalmer kills him and places his body in a coffin used as a stage prop for a local music club. Patrons at the music club are horrified when they witness the corpse of the archaeologist fall out of the upright coffin during a performance.

One of the girls from the tour group becomes the Embalmer’s next victim. Maureen is determined to find the girl. She enters the apartment of the hotel manager and discovers a secret passage to the catacombs through the fireplace. She discovers the Embalmer’s hideout in the catacombs. He chases after her as the young reporter hears her screams and comes to her rescue. The Embalmer and the reporter struggle in a fight. The reporter is able to remove the skull mask of the Embalmer to discover he is the hotel manager.

What I find so clever about this film is that the mask and identity of the Embalmer is not shown to the audience until the end of the film when Maureen discovers his hideout. Up until this point in the film, we only see the backside of the Embalmer as he hovers over his victims to inject them with a serum. Many clever point of view shots are shown of the Embalmers legs as he is walking to sneak up on his victims. This helps to build up tension and suspense.

Since The Embalmer is an Italian horror film, it is dubbed in English for American audiences. However, this does not distract from the film in any way. Both Alpha Video (oldies.com) and Sinister Cinema sell The Embalmer on DVD. Both prints seem to be of equal quality, and likely come from the same source material. I recommend that you view The Embalmer together with another Italian horror classic, such as Castle of Blood or Terror Creatures From The Grave. Enjoy!

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