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Retromedia presents
Monster of Venice (Il Mostro di Venezia, aka The Embalmer) (1965)

"We're missing a girl. A girl is missing."
- Maureen (Maureen Lidgard Brown)

Review By: Nate Meyers   
Published: September 13, 2005

Stars: Gin Mart, Maureen Lidgard Brown
Other Stars: Luciano Gasper, Francesco Bagarin, Alba Brotto, William Caruso, Viky del Castillo, Roberto Contero, Gaetano Dell'Era, Alcide Gazzotto, Antonio Grossi, Jack Judd, Carlo Russo, Paola Vaccari, Maria Rosa Vizzini, Pietro Walter
Director: Dino Tavella

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (macabre subject matter)
Run Time: 01h:17m:04s
Release Date: September 13, 2005
UPC: 014381232325
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

About the most perplexing thing concerning Dino Tavella's Il Mostro di Venezia is what to call it in English. Should it be Monster of Venice, which is the direct translation, or The Embalmer, the title assigned to it by US distributors when it crossed the Atlantic? Neither title does justice to this campy, schlocky movie. This is grade-A trash, something American horror has never quite equaled—and no, I'm not forgetting about the Sleepaway Camp movies.

To some, the most frightening image will be the presence of a crucifix in a government office, while others are more likely to be scared witless by the poor dubbing. Never have Italian actors looked as foolish as they do here, with American voiceovers robbing all credibility from the original performances—assuming there was any to begin with. The hammy acting and cheesy, wannabe-artsy filmmaking only add to the enjoyment of the movie. What's it about? I almost forgot to mention it, since the actual plot is incoherent and so poorly executed that those attempting to make sense of it will likely land themselves in the looney bin.

Beautiful Venetian women are being abducted by a killer decked out in full frogman gear (because nothing spells i-n-c-o-g-n-i-t-o like a grown man roaming the streets in awkward, noisy clothing) who takes them to an underground layer. Beneath the city, the killer thankfully explains his plan to the dead women—phew, for a moment I thought we might need to decipher something on our own. Obsessed with their beauty, he comes up with a "secret potion" enabling him to practice taxidermy. Above ground, the authorities are oblivious to the evil plot below, but newspaperman Andrea (Gin Mart) somehow figures it out despite having no evidence to allow for his conclusion. Andrea tries to convince the police, but they ignore him and now Andrea's new love, a schoolteacher leading a group of girls around the city, is at risk.

Aficionados of Italian horror cinema will note that Monster of Venice marks a turning point in the genre. What once was a collection of films devoted to putrefying Gothicism began to swing towards modernity. The use of rock music and a bizarrely jazz-oriented score meld modernism with the gothic, which is embodied in the vast labyrinth of the killer's catacombs. Aficionado or not, this is spectacular junk, and any attempt to intellectualize it as a genre film can only serve to rob it of its camp value.

Clichés permeate the movie, from the unbelievably red-hot student who is guaranteed to catch the killer's eye to the murderer's true identity belonging to some secondary character introduced early in the story and immediately disappearing from our sight. Does it really matter who the killer is? No, because the whole purpose of watching this movie is to sit back and enjoy its once scary fest of horrors. I could lament its shoddy black-and-white cinematography, gratuitous use of freeze frames, and otherwise dated bag of tricks, but the truth is all of these combine together to make me howl... with laughter.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: D


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: Although the film's OAR is 1.66:1, the movie is presented in 1.85:1 nonanamorphic widescreen. Purists will rightly be outraged at such a blatant desecration of the image, but it's hardly worth losing any sleep over. The picture is in very bad shape, with tons of grain, print defects, dirt, and scratches. The transfer has plenty of compression artifacts and detail is weak, as is contrast. Would you have it any other way?

Image Transfer Grade: D


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The audio isn't any better, crackling and hissing from start to finish. At times the dialogue is so over-mixed that it starts to distort. Likely, much of this can be attributed to the original dubbing. No Italian audio is available.

I want to be emphatic that I am giving this DVD bad grades purely on a technical level. I actually prefer the less than stellar mastering, because it feels more fitting to the movie.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Retromedia Website—a promo for the studio's website.
Extras Review: The film's original US trailer, referring to it as The Embalmer, is included in 1.66:1 widescreen. There's also a website ad for Retromedia, filled with all the glory of sounds and looks of bygone eras!

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Campy fun, Monster of Venice gets a bare-bones DVD and poor presentation, technically speaking. Still, Retromedia gives Italian horror fans a valued installment in their DVD library and the seeming flaws in the transfer actually make for a damned fine time.


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