The Loreley's Grasp:
Amando De Ossorio puts aside the galloping atmosphere and perceived misogyny of his Blind Dead series for this unusual love story with torn out hearts. Best known for shots of desiccated corpses searching for maidens to slowly kill while riding horses through the mist, Ossorio branches out with a bit of lyrical (bloody) heart and wink or two in the unusual The Loreley's Grasp. The movie will grasp you with its blend of old-fashioned horror, '70s-modern attitude and unexpected tenderness.
The Loreley is an ancient legend, a watery seductress that lures to their deaths sailors on the river Rhine. Opening fleshy shots reveal a luscious marrying lass quickly and gruesomely dispatched by the worst rubber-glove monster you've ever seen. As the local priest becomes bored eulogizing girl after girl torn from life too soon, the townsfolk and faculty at a nearby girls boarding school decide something must be done. Ignoring the indigent blind violinist's warnings, an Elvis-styled hunka-hunka hunky hunter is hired to patrol the boarding school and catch the wolf, or bear, or ... perhaps, the Loreley.
With obvious nods to The Bride of Frankenstein and other early women-in-nightgowns-in-peril horrors, Ossorio brings the Loreley gleefully cackling into the modern age. Hearts are torn from chests in blood-spurting vinyl violence, the hunter Sigurd sports tight velour trousers and an upturned collar, and the suspiciously old boarding-school girls all vie for attention from their windows at night. But Ossorio proves he's more up his sleeve than camp cruelty - itself delightfully done and perfectly paced - as Sigurd gets closer to his quarry.
There's never much mystery as to who the Loreley is, she's announced early and the gig is truly up 40-minutes in. But how can Sigurd stop her when his heart too, is torn, between the schoolmistress and perhaps even the Loreley herself? While still slightly tongue-in-cheek, a surprisingly tender love story develops, a story that culminates in grand gothic style in the Loreley's atmospheric underwater lair. Tony Kendall crafts Sigurd as a matinee idol with rifle, dashing and assured, he's the right man for whatever is happening. Lightly loose and a little lusty with the 'girls,' he switches to a man of action when the Loreley rustles the bushes at night, then develops deep, longing emotions while chasing the Loreley by day. Helga Line as the Loreley is icily implacable, a gorgeous creature unapologetic of her appetites, but yearning for something more.
If this doesn't sound like your average Euro-horror, terrifying exploitation machine, you're right. While containing all the necessary elements - nudity, gore and beautiful European settings - The Loreley's Grasp rises above its grubby brethren through wit and warmth.
This movie looks stellar in an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 ratio that has been mastered in High Definition from the original negative. Contrast is great in the well-lit night scenes, the flowing blood is bright red, and no compression artifacts are to be found. Some atmospheric shots of the Rhine at dusk or dawn look washed out, which is certainly more to do with shooting conditions than anything else. In general, this is a fantastic looking movie.
Dolby Digital English 2.0 Mono Audio and Castilian 2.0 Mono Audio are the available tracks, both sound great for mono, with everything (especially those screams) loud and clear. Purists should opt for the Castilian Audio for the best experience.
The option to listen to the Castilian Audio Track is listed as an extra, additionally, there is the U.S. Theatrical Trailer, and the inclusion of the Spanish Credits Sequences, (both opening and closing) which, while reinforcing this movie's Spanish origins, don't do much to enrich the viewing experience as an extra. A Stills Gallery has seven promotional stills, including a lobby card. Finally, a well-written and informative three-and-a-half page Liner Notes comes inside the keep-case, discussing the films three stars, the haunting score, and other tidbits about Ossorio's mien, process and working conditions. For a film so lovingly presented, a larger bounty of extras would have been nice.
Blind Dead impresario Ossorio brings us The Loreley's Grasp with some unconventional attributes. More of bleeding hearts romance than solely focused on ripping out bleeding hearts, Grasp has its moments of shrill horror and suspense, but these are superceded by a little knowing humor and a lot of love. You wouldn't think of shedding a wistful tear and wondering what-might-have-been with just any old chest-shredding monster on the chopping block, but that's what you get with The Loreley's Grasp. A few more extras would boost the rating, but for appreciators of '70s continental horror, and for other fright-film fanatics looking to branch out, this one is certainly Recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke
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