Many of the films I’ve reviewed for this month’s descent into the darker regions of cinema at least welcome the benefit of general acceptance. They are, if horrible, known quantities in their horror and thus well-equipped to inform the viewer of their badness beforehand. Put simply, you know what you are getting into. Yet, deep down, any traversing adventurer of the medium secretly knows that the movies that are regularly trumpeted for their badness cannot truly take the cake, that the real depths of incompetence are almost certainly unknown to anyone but the form’s most cherished devotees. When you get down into it, we know that the films that are generally well-known to be the “worst movies ever” benefit from a certain functional quality that makes their badness understandable to the general public. It makes them actual movies, in other words, capable of being judged in relation to other movies and considered worse.
Even something like Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space has a certain basic fundamental existence that, if we are being honest, elevates it to a level above something that someone made with a bathroom and a dream. Put another way, discussions of the so-called “worst movies ever” generally focus on the singles, the greatest hits package of streamlined badness ready for devouring. To really get down into it, you need to seek out the deep album cuts. You need to seek out the works that don’t even seem like movies at all.
Largely, this feature is an attempt to explore some of the accepted “worst movies of all time” and judge how well they fit the criteria, and not to explore the deep cuts (we have other years for that). But allow me an indulgence, for I have seen my fair share of bad movies, and it is the rarest and most special of bad movie beasts that you discover for yourself. This is the sort where you just pop in a random DVD from a maxi-packed, bursting-with-content set of public domain horror films you purchased for roughly a dollar even though all the films are legally available online for free just because you like having physical copies of things and can’t be told otherwise despite the very real logical arguments against you. You, the consummate cinephile, have been there, and you know it. The sort of “just throw a bad movie on and let us see what we get” communal experience of seeing a film unawares with friends, not knowing a single thing about it excepting its title, and hoping for the best. And then getting something better. This is a bad movie deep cut, and this is Bloody Pit of Horror.
First: what a title, huh? If you are an Italian movie producer in the 1960s hoping to make back your shoestring budget on a B-level semi-famous strongman and a title, you could do a hell of a lot worse than “Bloody Pit of Horror”. From there, we are introduced to a stunningly anonymous and difficult to individualize crew of schlock book-cover photographers (a touch of meta-text for the movie called Bloody Pit of Horror? I am in love already). They are journeying to an abandoned Italian (let us say Italian) castle to use the location for its horrifying Gothic presence, including, presumably, a bloody pit of horror. It would seem the film is already stacking the deck, using the plot to tell us, essentially, “yes, our set design and cinematography are spooky and moody, or else why would the characters we wrote want to use it to photograph themselves all spooky like?”. Which is, at any rate, a remarkably loopy utilitarian gesture for a film that will soon prove to be all but utilitarian badness.
From there, the castle’s owner, a retired actor named Travis Anderson (Mickey Hargitay, the “name” of the cast) warns them about certain underground regions of the castle, only for the crew to not listen and accidentally release the dreaded Crimson Executioner, who possesses Anderson and gets to work dicing up the newly arrived meat in his slaughterhouse. I suppose, if you want to make a bad movie, keeping it as simple as “dude kills some people” is a relatively stable way to go, but Bloody Pit of Horror is anything but stable. Even when it isn’t failing as horror, its absolutely beguiling interpretation of the human condition is perplexing, to say the least. Mid-way through the film one of the men asks the female models to return to the depths of the caverns below the castle (after they have already “accidentally” caused the death of one of their party). They refuse, naturally, before the man offers to double their salary. One responds “my life is worth more than that”, to which the male responds “I’ll triple it”. Her response: a zippy, colorful “ok”, and that is that.
Through it all, Hargitay shines brightest, even more brightly than his abs, roiling around his lines with such stunted, childlike incompetence and a presentational glee to be in a movie for the first time. At some level, the role feels like a parody of the man’s brutish maledom, a parody that Hargitay probably felt was hagiography, for he plays it as such. His golden moment is his last, when he is – well, I cannot in good taste spoil the way he is undone by the film, but it involves a scarecrow hug and it is anti-genius. Either way, his response: a silvery, throaty, baritone “my perfect body!”, reliving his earlier nightmares of being “forced to retreat to this castle” because “mankind is made up of inferior creatures, spiritually and physically deformed, who would’ve corrupted the harmony of (his) perfect body”. We feel you Mickey. We feel you. Keep on living the dream until the bitter end.
It is the film’s scorching definition of horror material that really seals the deal though. The showpiece moment involves one of the most barbarically baroque traps ever conceived in a film: a giant spider’s web with a person attached in the middle, while a fake spider with a poisonous needle attached to it slowly moves toward the person. At the same time, the web extends off into the room and covers the floor such that anyone who tries to walk through the web to save the person risks tripping the wires and setting off a series of giant crossbows aimed right at the center of the room. There you go Crimson Executioner. You show them whose boss. Your perfect body. Your perfect mind.
Not that he really needs to do much to have his way with the photo crew. The de facto hero is comically inept, barely trying to save the day and failing ceremoniously every time. And who can blame him? He is blinded time and time again by the Crimson Executioner’s perfect body, always standing there and guarding the inner pathways to the human mind lying deep within the Executioner’s nexus of an inter-dimensional brain. Faced with this enemy, who could succeed? Certainly not the film, that much is for sure. It is an incandescent form of badness, and a bellowing shout of pure movie bliss.
So how good is it really?: 0/5 (it may just be the single worst film I have ever seen)
But how “good” is it?: 5/5 (you deserve it, Crimson Executioner you dog)