Mill Of The Stone Women

Mill Of The Stone Women

As regular readers will now, I've long been a fan of the output of Mondo Macabro (and it's long lamented predecessors Pagan and Eurotika), of late sadly it's looked like the long-standing love with the UK market is starting to dwindle. Not through any disinterest from founders Pete Tombs and Andy Starke in pleasing the British genre fan but due to the sad fact that the British market doesn't seem that interested in quality presentations of deliciously obscure genre movies.

A shame really but all is not lost as the Mondo Macabro team have slowly but assuredly been building a legion of loyal fans with their growing American Mondo Macabro catalogue (and all is not lost for the true British genre movie fan as Mondo Macabro realise that we're savvy enough to import reasonably hassle free their US titles). So whilst we can no longer walk into our local corporate megastore to get our Mondo fix we can still go online and wait on the settee for delights such as this latest Mondo Macabro gem land on the hallway floor! 'Mill of the Stone Women' is yet again another of those "where the hell did they find this cracker" releases from the Mondo Macabro teamů

A French/Italian co-production from 1960, 'Mill of the Stone Women' is a film that (once again) I had never seen let alone heard little about (outside of excited ramblings from hard core Euro genre fetishists online) and on viewing you soon wonder just why a film so accomplished and polished for the global genre market has not been in the spotlight before now?

As the film opens we meet a dandy young chap arriving at a somewhat bizarre windmill residence on the outskirts of Amsterdam, where he is charged to write a study on the somewhat unhinged artist who resides within. I say unhinged because this old boy is one seriously strange fruit. You see, within the windmill he has created an insane waxwork of sorts where locals can watch various scenarios of death formed in wax rotate round his madcap display. What the hapless paying punters don't realise though is that the old boy has been using corpses encased in wax to make his creations (this old chap must be smoking some seriously dubious blow!)

Now if you reckon that our young dandy will have enough on his plate with the Euro take on the classic House Of Wax scenario then think again. Very soon after settling into his work our hero soon meets the mad old boys daughter, a beautiful if somewhat mentally unbalanced lass, who has never been outdoors due to some worrying life threatening ailment so she (as you can imagine) swiftly falls in love with our luckless unintentional amour.

Things very soon go from bad to worse as the poor guy encounters all sorts of (welcome) Euro genre madness in a cavalcade of scares, gothic intensity and tripiness that should be welcomed with open arms by all.

'Mill of the Stone Women' is a real hidden gem in that it will please any fan of the classic Euro horror genre scene. In all honesty it's a bit like uncovering an unseen movie by the likes of Mario Bava, whilst horror fans rightly enjoy the safe complacency of many old school genre movies 'Mill of the Stone Women' delights in playing that role but every now and again pushing the boundaries of what then would have been 'acceptable' with some delightful moments of deranged fun (trippy hallucinations, sexual abandon and so on).

Director Giorgio Ferroni does an impressive job behind the camera, although perhaps not as grandiose as the aforementioned Bava but still solid and stylish throughout utilising a strong colour spectrum and pacing proceedings nicely enough that you'll never bore.

So another pleasant surprise viewing experience from Mondo Macabro but does the presentation here match the quality of the films enjoyment? Well, it's a stupid question I suppose as to date Mondo Macabro haven't yet once dropped the ball. The film print whilst not up to THX standards (well lets remember just obscure this title is) is strong, colourful and vibrant throughout. The anamorphic presentation is a wonder considering the age of the source material and kudos to Mondo Macabro for their welcome fine-tuning. Sure there is the odd scene of light graininess but it's so undistracting that it would only matter to the most anal of the DVD 'collector' brigade.

The audio though is where this presentation excels beyond necessity as not only do we get the old English audio dub but also the American variation and the French track also (with optional English subtitles). Now I'm sure some will be thinking 'so what' but this is in fact a lovely touch for those who end up (like myself) loving this movie and seeking the slimmest of reason to give it repeat viewing. You see each of the variant tracks has its own particular nuances in dialogue, music cues and so on which slightly changes the films ambience on each viewing. For example, the mad old sculptor is refined in the English variant whilst on the American track he takes on a more traditional insane Euro madman tone (you know, the sort you always used to hear in those old war movies), likewise the US and French music tracks lean slightly heavier on the gothic score whilst at times the English track plays more on the spooky atmosphere created by a silent ambience. Great stuff for the hard core fan but also probably makes for frustrating decision making for the casual first time viewer (who should probably plump for the default English track), either way it's all good viewing!

The extra features are up to the usual high standard we have come to expect from Mondo Macabro, thoroughly (as ever) entertaining and would be classed as definitive if not for the fact that the only thing missing from this package is the much loved home grown documentary feature. Of course many of the previously seen documentaries were built around the teams excellent TV series footage so perhaps Mondo Macabro are victims of their own success when folk start to get expectations for such material but that said what we do get is pretty much all you could ask for with such a title.

First off we get a great trailer for the movie (in honesty a trailer is all I ever truly want for when it comes to extra features) which like the film itself is in great shape all things considered. Next up though we are presented with three alternate/deleted scenes including the French opening titles, a variant of the spooked out trippy hallucination scene and interestingly a cut scene of two leads preparing to make a surprise visit to our hero working at the windmill of doom! Whilst none of these additional scenes are particularly ground breaking in the context of the main feature they're still very welcome additions. Rounding things off is the usual extensive stills gallery (where do they find this stuff!) and the always welcome biography pages written by the very knowledgeable Mondo Macabro head honcho Pete Tombs. I'm not the biggest of fans of the dreaded 'text' based DVD features but Pete Tombs work is always a delight to read (so much so in fact that I went out and purchased his excellent Mondo Macabro tome - essential reading and long overdue a reissue).

Sure we may be getting lazy in our expectations of the Mondo Macabro line, we expect to be delivered the best packages of the finest obscure movies and the (welcomingly) worrying thing is that Mondo Macabro keep delivering just that. 'Mill of the Stone Women' is a delightful 'trip' down Euro horror genre history, a simply essential viewing experience for fans of said genre and a welcome surprise for any fan of old school horror. Lovely stuff - keep 'em coming Mondo Macabro!

For ordering details visit the Mondo Macabro site by clicking here.

Review by Alan Simpson

Released by Mondo Macabro
Region All NTSC
Not Rated
Extras : see main review