DirectorFernando Di Leo
Release Date(s)1971 (December 9, 2014)
Studio(s)Raro Video USA
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: D+
- Audio Grade: C+
- Extras Grade: C
Slaughter Hotel has gone by many names over the years; the original Italian title La bestia uccide a sangue freddo, the original U.S. title Asylum Erotica, and the world-wide release title Cold Blooded Beast. But no matter what you call it, you’d certainly call it Euro trash, not that that’s a bad thing. It’s a movie that Quentin Tarantino has been holding up for years despite being cut up and distributed in different lengths with different amounts of content. So is all of this fuss really worth it? Well, yes and no.
I suppose your appreciation of this movie will depend greatly upon your personal tastes. It’s not a particularly good movie, but it is sort of fascinating to watch. It’s absolutely shameless when it comes to the amount of nudity it contains, with the violence kept at an absolute minimum until the movie’s final moments. It’s also a movie that contains a lot of different shots, which means that the editing never has an ironed out pace of any kind. Things just happen, sometimes very quickly and sometimes very slowly. It’s meant to be a movie about a deranged killer bumping off patients at an insane asylum for women one by one, but it can never manage to keep that at the forefront at all times. It’s basically about getting a bunch of women naked and having them be mostly out of their minds with sexual desire, more or less.
Now that’s not to say that Slaughter Hotel has no merit at all. It has a wonderful use of color, with some very distinctive hues that are used for effect. Even the shadows seem to have a lot of detail to them. The problem is that the frame oftentimes will rotate in different directions when you’re trying to focus on something, or it will switch to a slightly different angle and then back again. The point is to see through the mind of the killer as he sees things, but it doesn’t very effective. It just becomes a matter of wanting both the cameraman and the editor to linger on a shot a little longer. The movie is also heightened by the presence of Klaus Kinski and Rosalba Neri, two of Europe’s finest B movie exports. They’re reason enough to see it, although I didn’t know that when I first saw. When I first saw the movie it was in its heavily-edited U.S. form as Asylum Erotica. I received a copy of it when I was a lot younger and it came on a bootleg VHS titled LP video, which also came with two other movies: The Alien Dead and The Man Who Knew Too Much. Don’t ask me who gave it to me or where they go it because I have no idea. I’ve researched it and came up with nothing. But even then, in that terrible full screen, heavily-edited version, I still found it kind of fascinating, even though it wasn’t very good.
The point I’m trying to make is that Slaughter Hotel is niche cinema at best. It’s certainly not for everyone and it’s certainly not a well-made film, but it does have some value to it that a lot of movies like it that were being made at the time don’t really have. It’s worth a watch at the very least, and considering that we can now see it in its nearly complete form, I’d say seek it out. It’s not quite a giallo film, nor is it a softcore porno. It winds up somewhere in between, making it an all around odd duck of a movie.
Unfortunately, Raro Video’s treatment of Slaughter Hotel’s U.S. debut on Blu-ray is very disappointing. The transfer, like most of the company’s transfers, is a smeary, ugly mess. Grain is almost non-existent, although careful eyes can spot it as it does slightly pop up from time to time. The trouble is that the material used for this transfer looks to be of very fine quality, but unfortunately has had a lot of the visual detail erased out of it in an attempt to get rid of almost all of the film grain. It’s that blocky and smeared appearance that doesn’t do it any favors. It’s not the worst Raro Video transfer I’ve seen, but it’s certainly not good. On the plus side, the colors that I mentioned before are strong, and black levels can be quite deep at times. Contrast and brightness levels could also have seen some improvement. It also appears to have been artificially sharpened, which is certainly not a good thing. This had the potential to be a beautiful presentation but it’s simply marred by poor handling of the material. The audio presentations, of which there are both English and Italian 2.0 DTS-HD tracks, fare a bit better. It should be noted that some of the visual elements used for this presentation didn’t have their sound elements to accompany them, so there are some very minor moments when the sound drops out. It’s a small percentage, but it’s worthy of note. The audio that is presented is very acceptable, with clear dialogue (albeit overdubbed) and good use of score and sound effects. Nothing really stands out and there isn’t a whole of outstanding sound work, but it’s good enough for what it is without being aggressively bad like its visual counterpart. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them.
As for the extras on this disc, there’s a small amount for those who are interested. There’s a booklet with an essay on the film by Chris Alexander, an interview with Rosalba Neri entitled Lady Frankenstein’s Memoirs, an archival Asylum of Fear documentary, and a set of deleted scenes. The latter selection, which Raro Video prefaces by saying that they were sourced from a French 35mm uncut version of the film, actually look better than the main feature when it comes to image detail, which is just disappointing. Missing from the previous Media Blasters/Shriek Show DVD release of the film is a separate interview with director Fernando Di Leo, a still gallery, and the film’s trailer. There’s probably even more extra material out there on European releases of the movie as well that hasn’t been included here, but I can’t deny or confirm that either way.
So again, here we are with another disappointing release from Raro Video. Slaughter Hotel was one that I was waiting for a small time company to pick up, but I would rather a company like Vinegar Syndrome pick it up instead, which is a company that takes a little more care with their transfers. Or even Synapse Films or Olive Films for that matter. Despite the strong color palette, the transfer is just unacceptable, and I can’t say that I’d recommend this to either fans of it or anyone just interested in seeing it. Wait for a better presentation of the film to come along.
- Tim Salmons