1965 was a pretty good year in Italian cinema. Leone made For a Few Dollars More. Fellini made Juliet of the Spirits. And, erm, Dino Tavella made the cheapo black and white horror Il Mostro di Venezia, otherwise known as The Embalmer.
As you might expect from the title and the poster art, it would be wise not to expect anything too subtle. But if you want to see a skull-masked serial killer who dresses as a monk and preserves the bodies of his victims in a submerged monastery beneath the lagoon – well, you’ve come to the right place.
Sadly, however, it’s nowhere near as much fun as that might suggest. Yes, there are a number of nice location shots of Venice but the studio interiors are so obviously non-Venetian that the clash between the two is distracting. There’s also no getting away from the central problem of the film, namely that it shouldn’t be difficult to run away from a man in scuba-diving gear.
I don’t want to seem too harsh. This is a film made by an inexperienced cast and crew, evidently with very little money. And there are a few atmospheric shots of Venice by night which lift it a little. But I kept thinking that if they’d given Mario Bava the same money to make a film about an underground monastery in Venice he’d have made something fantastic and probably brought it in under budget as well.
None of the cast went on to much – indeed, for many of them, this is their only credit. As for poor Dino Tavella – well he directed just one other film, Una sporca guerra, and died a few years later. He was 49 years old.
So, do you need to see this? Well no, quite obviously not. The plot is ridiculous, the acting is nothing to write home about and the film feels a lot longer than its 83 minute running time. On the other hand, you do get to see a man in a wetsuit chasing a monk through St Mark’s Square and, for some, that might be enough. Caveat emptor!