Mill of the Stone Women

His workshop home to the beautiful and the grotesque, Hans van Arnim has been sent to the residence of the noted sculptor Professor Gregorious Wahl to examine his papers in preparation for the celebration of the centenary of the famous creation of his family, the Mill of the Stone Women, a carousel of wax figures depicting historical figures, Jeanne D’Arc, Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth, as famous for their deaths as their lives, the mechanism powered by the sails of the windmill atop the building.

While there, van Arnim glimpses sight of Professor Wahl’s reclusive daughter, Elfie; regardless of the warning that she carries the same affliction which killed her mother, that “any emotion or distress and her life will be in danger,” he obeys her plea for a secret assignation, but glimpsing the visit to the workshop the following morning by van Arnim’s dear friend, art student Liselotte Kornheim, Elfie becomes jealous, enraged when confronting him before collapsing, lifeless.

Released in the summer of 1960 in its homeland, Mill of the Stone Women (Il mulino delle donne di pietra, also known by the more pedestrian name Drops of Blood) is regarded as the first Italian horror movie to be shot in colour, the drab, foggy exteriors of the arrival of van Arnim (Pierre Brice) by canal giving way to a fantasia of colour and light within the mill itself, the workshop, the chamber of horrors and his guilt-driven hallucinations of Elfie (Scilla Gabel) in her tomb and luminously rising from the dead to haunt him.

Filmed in Holland and directed by Giorgio Ferroni, the titles attempt to add a literary aspect by crediting the source as a short story by the fictional Pieter van Weigen in his Flemish Tales, but the true inspirations are likely wide and varied, among them Frankenstein, Dracula and most specifically Andre DeToth’s House of Wax, itself a pioneering film as the first feature in full colour 3-D when it was released in 1953.

The promising opening scenes giving way to Gothic melodrama of forbidden romance, madness and a hereditary illness which hangs like a curse before veering into the unexpected territory of “mad science,” recalling the apparatus of The Man They Could Not Hang, urgency would best serve the needs Mill of the Stone Women prefers to digress, stuttering as the wind drops, though the macabre final scene of the horrors inevitably engulfed in flames is appropriately macabre and impressively orchestrated.

Presented on Blu-ray by Arrow Films as a 2K restoration from the original negatives, the two-disc set contains four versions of the film, the ninety-six minute original Italian cut and the corresponding English dub, a ninety minute French version and a ninety-five minute American release recut with additional effects, as well as a commentary, a video essay by Kat Ellinger discussing “the public’s morbid fascination with female victims” among other topics, and archive interviews.

Mill of the Stone Women will be released on Blu-ray by Arrow on Monday 29th November



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