SLAUGHTER HOTEL (1971) Blu-ray
Director: Fernando Di Leo
Raro Video USA

Director Fernando Di Leo was no stranger to violence with the Italian western and crime films he had helmed, and the horrific SLAUGHTER HOTEL relies on this, and more so on sex as its entire reason for being. It's a shining example of ultra gratuitous sleaze carrying a giallo of the most uncomplicated kind, albeit with an international cast. Originally released in Europe as "The Beast Kills in Cold Blood and "The Cold-Blooded Beast" (the actual on-screen Italian title reads, “La bestia uccide a sangue freddo”), it was unleashed to U.S. drive-ins and grindhouses in 1973 (by AIP offshoot Hallmark, who also released MARK OF THE DEVIL) in various truncated versions and played as both SLAUGHTER HOTEL (ballyhooing the horror) and ASYLUM EROTICA (ballyhooing the sex). The U.S. ad campaign also attempted to cash in on real-life Illinois serial killer Richard Speck (who murdered eight student nurses in 1966) with taglines like, "The Slasher Massacre of Eight Innocent Nurses!"

The "hotel" of the title is actually a fancy mental health clinic which actually looks more like a castle resort furnished with medieval torture devices (including various hatchets, a crossbow and an iron maiden; very convenient for a psychotic murderer). All of the inhabitants are attractive, wealthy women (who like to play cricket and chess for leisure), some with homicidal tendencies, and some who just lean towards the perverse side. Rosalba Neri (aka Sara Bay, THE DEVIL’S WEDDING NIGHT) plays a confirmed nymphomaniac named Anne with an incestial history, being forced to take a cold shower (on her doctor’s expert advise), and later seducing the macho gardener (John Ely/Giangiacomo Elia, SHOOT THE LIVING AND PRAY FOR THE DEAD) as well as attempting to do likewise to the film's murdering phantom! As expected, Neri does an ample amount of nudity here, probably more than in any of her other genre movies.

The murderer is a hooded figure who leers at the women in their various states of bedroom lesbianism or masturbation. Beautiful Cheryl Hume (Margaret Lee, THE BLOODY JUDGE) is a married business owner who flirts with the sympathetic Dr. Clay (a longhaired Klaus Kinski, who previously starred with Lee in CIRCUS OF FEAR, FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS and FIVE FOR HELL). Despite his star billing, Kinski doesn't do much but smoke cigarettes and act calmly, and has his voice dubbed by another actor. Lee’s character is presented as a comparatively normal inmate, but is still seen writhing in her bed with her clothes off. Another doctor is played by character favorite (and an actor who always played characters much older than his actual age) John Karlsen (TERROR IN THE CRYPT, THE SHE BEAST) and Monica Strebel (THE BIG GUNDOWN) plays a red-headed nurse sexually fascinated with an inmate played by Jane Garret, allowing for some of the film's softcore bits and voyeuristic padding. For a giallo, the film pretty much reveals its killer early on (or at least limits it to two possibilities) and the climax is bloody, maniacal and straight to the point. With a very European-sounding and multi-faceted score by Silvano Spadaccino, SLAUGHTER HOTEL is meaningless Euro trash that fans seem to sit on the fence on about, but it definitely contains all the sensational ingredients to warrant such a reputation, and it absolutely has “guilty pleasure” written all over it.

SLAUGHTER HOTEL is one of those films that has various video versions from different countries, some containing less sex and violence, but a racier cut is definitely presented here as "digitally restored". Raro’s transfer comes from the original 35mm negative and is presented in 1080p in the film’s original 2.35:1 Techniscope aspect ratio. The picture is a clean and pretty one, with a bright color palette and vibrant hues. Detail is sharp, grain is minimal and fleshtones are healthy, with black levels also being impressive, only appearing a bit crushed during the opening minutes. The DTS-HD master audio comes in both English (the language most of the actors appear to be speaking) and Italian. Both are post dubbed, but are clean tracks with no noticeable distortion. You’ll notice the sound dropping three times for a matter of seconds on the English track, the last time during a very violent murder scene (if you remember Media Blasters’ DVD of this title, it had audio sync issues in the same spot). According to Raro’s Facebook page, “this matter this was an editorial decision, not a mistake: the longer exclusive uncut version of this movie, that we have released, has no audio in some very short segments of the English dubbed version-not due to a technical problem, but because we used a master that had scenes that were never used in previous releases and/or screenings. But, in order to give you access to this rare and longer uncut version, we left some short silent scenes in the English dubbed version.” Optional English subtitles are also included.

Extras include two subtitled featurettes carried over from a decade-old Italian release of the film. “Lady Frankenstein’s Memoirs” (18:26) is an interview with actress Rosalba Neri, as she discusses her career in films, her various movies of an erotic nature, and the difficulties of shooting scenes in the nude. She discusses such titles she appeared in as AMUCK and LADY FRANKENSTEIN (though nothing on SLAUGHTER HOTEL) and co-stars such as Barbara Bouchet and Farley Granger. “Asylum of Fear” (14:23) contains interviews with director Di Leo (who passed away in 2003) and actress Neri (from the same session as "Lady Frankenstein's Memoirs") both discussing SLAUGHTER HOTEL. Di Leo says he realized the subject matter was absurd while writing it and basically slams his directorial job on the film (the word “shabby” is mentioned a few times). About Kinski, Neri says he was difficult because he was “unpredictable and weird”. French writer/film festival organizer Olivier Père is on hand to discuss the differences between the French and Italian versions of the film, stating that the French version added sexual bits which made it “absurd” (in France, the film was retitled, “The Insatiable Erotic Dolls of Dr Hitchcock”). Composer Silvano Spadaccino is also interviewed briefly, saying he wrote the score in one night. A segment of deleted scenes (2:13) comes from a rare 35mm negative print of a French version of the movie, and significantly features an extended greenhouse lovemaking scene of Anne (a totally nude Neri) and the gardener and a bit of tongue frolicking between Strebel and Garret. An insert booklet is also included with liner notes by Chris Alexander. (George R. Reis)