Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – Necrophagus (Graveyard of Horror; The Butcher of Binbrook) (1971)

My notes on Necrophagus (Graveyard of Horror; The Butcher of Binbrook) (1971)

This Spanish horror is incoherent, fragmentary, absurd, inconclusive and nonsensical – and those are its finer points.  Set (presumably) in England – in the environs of Binbrook Castle, country seat of the Earls of Binbrook – it uses interestingly barren, snowy Spanish locations to create a hinterland of dreamlike nowhere.  A.few cars and telephones suggest that it’s a contemporary setting, but folks talk (in the hollow Independent-International dub) and act as if it were a period gothic.  Odd attempts to evoke a British setting, like the bobby hats on the policemen, just make it all the weirder.

We get a lot of voice-over as Michael Sherrington (Bill Curran), younger brother of the Earl, returns to the castle after a spell .away .(he’s accused of seeing work as more important than his marriage, but we’re never told what his job is) and is annoyed because a) his wife Elizabeth (Inés Morales/Senny Green) has died after a caesarian section (their child is stillborn) and b) various people are reluctant to go into the mysterious, distressing circumstances … which means that weirdly it’s never confirmed one way or the other what happened ..  His crow-dressed mother-in-law (Maria Paz Madrid/Yocasta Grey) and two jealous sisters-in-law (Marisa Shiero, Titania Clement) – who all seem to be in love with him and out to sabotage the marriage – are no help.  Neither his his gloomy sister-in-law Lady Anne (Catharine Ellison), whose husband Sir Robert (top-billed John Clark, barely in the film) is missing.  The sinister, sexually exploitative Dr Lexter (Frank Braña, a spaghetti western regular) is mixed up in all this, and lives at the castle because he is assisting the Earl in a science project.

It’s pointed out that Michael never even asks about his brother – but the mystery of the film shifts from dead wife to missing brother, with an explanation that’s teased early on but only confirmed in the last ten minutes of monster action.  Michael, our seeming protagonist, disappears for a long spell, though his harmonica/whistle theme music (credited to Alfonso Santisteban) is heard perhaps to signal his presence or that Inspector Harrison (J.R. Clarke) has learned to whistle in order to irritate suspects.  Fowles (Victor Israel, regular Spanish horror goon) does a poor job of tending the local graveyard (of horror).  When Michael digs up Elizabeth’s coffin he finds it empty, but so are all the others.  Someone’s collecting skulls, masked/robed goons lurk and attack, a grave in a basement is breathing, a POV stalker lurches (with close-ups of scabby-make-up eyes), Michael’s niece Margaret (‘introducing’ Beatriz Elorrieta/Beatriz Lacy) serves as a menaceable sympathetic woman since all the other living female characters are shrewish.

It turns out that Sir Robert has been conducting an experiment on the origins of life and turned himself into a lizard/cactus person – sort of like a cross between the Hideous Sun Demon and the Beast of Blood Island – but underestimated the spells of homicidal fury which come on him from time to time.  He gets gunned down by the cops and Michael returns to the film – not sure why he was ever away – to gloom a bit, and cap Sir Robert’s voice-over memorandum explaining the experiment with his own narration about leaving Binbrook for good.  Written and directed by Miguel Madrid/Michael Skaife.  Very minor.


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