Night of the Blood Monster [Blu-ray 4K]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Blue Underground
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (11th April 2024).
The Film

England, 1658: King James II sits on a shaky throne and any men who support William of Orange are traitors to the Crown and the women they love are witches in the eyes of Lord High Chief Justice Jeffries (Horror of Dracula's Christopher Lee) who has earned the nickname "The Bloody Judge" for his "inflexible form of justice." Case in point: when her rebel lover is murdered by King James men, Alicia Gray (Slaughter Hotel's Margaret Lee) – whose murdered father was also put to death for treason – is quickly condemned to the stake despite refusing to confess to witchcraft under the torture of chief inquisitor Jack Ketch (The Awful Dr. Orlof's Howard Vernon). Her sister Mary (Venus in Furs's Maria Rohm) pleads with Jeffries for her sister's life but in the end, all she can do is bribe the executioners to ensure Alicia a quick death.

When Jeffries visits the County of Wessex to root out traitors, he questions Lord Wessex (Die Screaming Marianne's Leo Genn) about the activities of his son Harry (Virgin Report's Hans Hass Jr.) whose college friends have come under suspicion. Although Wessex has the king's ear and can hold his own against Jeffries, he is caught off-guard when his valet Satchel (Cauldron of Blood's Milo Quesada) reveals in Jeffries' presence that Harry is carrying on with "wench" Mary. After an argument with his father, Harry plans to cross the border with Mary with the help of rebel friend Barnaby (Death Walks at Midnight's Peter Martell). Jeffries sends the ambitious Satchel to bring Mary to him for questioning, but she scars Satchel when he attempts to rape her and the servant swears allegiance to Jeffries in order to have his revenge on Mary and Harry. When Harry is caught, his father attempts to seek a pardon for his son but the judge is more tempted by the lengths Mary will go to free her lover. When news reaches Jeffries that the Duke of Monmouth's army will set foot on the English shores, he decides to expedite the trials and executions of over five hundred men and women.

A historical drama in the guise of a horror film thanks to some creative liberties with history undertaken by producer Harry Alan Towers (The Face of Fu Manch) under his "Peter Welbeck" screenwriting pseudonym for the story – with the scripted credited perhaps for co-production reasons to Anthony Scott Veitch who was credited with writing Towers' earlier Coast of Skeletons – Jess Franco's Night of the Blood Monster may be his most expensive, or at least most expensive-looking given Towers' way with securing co-production deals and seeking shooting locations that offered tax breaks; however, it really is not all that good. Hard to see at least in English-speaking countries after its censored U.S. release under a misleading title – on its own and then on the bottom half of a double bill with Hammer's Blood from the Mummy's Tomb – outside of the gray market until its official DVD release, the idea of Christopher Lee in a Jess Franco film about witch-hunting raises expectations that the film cannot meet in any of the multiple versions tailored to different markets and co-production demands. Franco pushes the envelope with his scenes of eroticism and some scenes of violence that are more grueling by implication than by red paint splashes, but this was always a film compromised by too many cooks who wanted alternately a horror film, an erotic film, or a historical drama. There does not seem to be a cut that reflects Franco's intentions so much as an integral assembly that reveals the film's patchwork construction.

The best dramatic scenes occur between Lee and Genn or between Lee and Rohm while other characters – like blind seer Mother Rosa (99 Women's Maria Schell) or fellow rebels Sally Gaunt (Nightmares Come at Night's Diana Lorys) and her lover Steven Truro (Vampyros Lesbos's Josι Martνnez Blanco) – relationships receive more or less attention usually to lesser effect in different versions – in the long version, Mary and Harry are depicted as already in love while in the Italian version he meets her when he rescues her from drowning herself after her sister is burnt at the stake – while an expensive action sequence involving canons, guns, and soldiers on horseback is just as disembodied from the scenes with the main cast as the scenes of torture and eroticism; literally so in the case of a sequence in which a "hand double" is employed for Lee to caress Mary's nude body in the scene in which she offers herself to Jeffries, the aftermath of which is only seen in most cuts. Jeffries is seen having nightmares about the tortures and executions he orders but apparently has never seen for himself – with Wexsex exclaiming to him "would that but once you had seen one of your own sentences carried out – and his fatal mistake is in not fleeing when learning of Monmouth's arrival because he believes that his position will remain the same no matter who is kin (which turns out to only apply to executioner Ketch). While the success of American International and Tigon's Witchfinder General/The Conqueror Worm and West Germany's Mark of the Devil no doubt inspired Night of the Blood Monster, the more delirious and transgressive Ken Russell film The Devils was the likely impetus for Franco to revisit the story with greater creative freedom and permissiveness in the nunsploitation take The Demons.


Shot in 1969 and tailored for different territories with alternate nude and violent takes as well as some expository sequences exclusive to different cuts, Night of the Blood Monster was released in Italy and Germany in 1970 and Spain in 1971 but in the United States until 1972 as the bottom half of a GP-rated double bill with Hammer's Blood from the Mummy's Tomb running eighty-two minutes with the "Blood Monster" title and a misleading advertising campaign, and in the United Kingdom in 1974 under the export title The Bloody Judge running even shorter at eighty-one minutes (although the shortest version was the West German cut which was the shortest at seventy-nine minutes but the most explicit). Apart from seventies and eighties television airings, the film was hard to come by on home video apart from an extremely rare rental cassette from a label called Gee Video with hand-drawn artwork and on the gray market from Keith Crocker's Cinefear from a panned-and-scanned 16mm print. More adventurous gray market buyers might have found the Dutch cassette which was shorter than the export version but longer than the domestic cut, or the French or German tapes which were not English-friendly but featured alternate nude and bloody takes not used for the English export version (more on that below).

In 2000, Redemption Films debuted the film on DVD in the U.K. under the title "The Bloody Judge" in a non-anamorphic transfer of the ninety-four minute export version export version (just under ninety minutes at PAL speed) which finally allowed fans to see the film on home video in scope but that was about it given the transfer and the covered takes of scenes shown fleshier elsewhere. In 2004, Blue Underground released the film under "The Bloody Judge" title on DVD as a box set exclusive in the The Christopher Lee Collection with the otherwise separately available editions of The Castle of Fu Manchu, The Blood of Fu Manchu, and Circus of Fear, with "The Bloody Judge" becoming separately available in 2016 when Blue Underground changed distributors. This DVD debuted an integral 103-minute version combining the English export version with alternate nude scenes that appeared in the German version – including an uncovered take of the barn lovemaking scene between Mary and Harry in which the English track matched up to the dialogue readings – along with a brief scene introducing the character of Sally Gaunt (Nightmares Come at Night's Diana Lorys) who figures into another major German version scene in which Mary is forced to lick the blood off another torture victim's body before being bathed by Sally who arms her with a knife, and a sequence in which a double for Lee's hand gropes her naked body. These scenes reverted to German with English subtitles.

Although their were DVD releases of the Spanish version, the Italian version, and the German version, the 103 minute integral cut was pretty much the standard in English-speaking territories including a subsequent U.K. DVD featuring an NTSC-to-PAL conversion and the subsequent limited edition five-disc German Blu-ray/DVD/CD soundtrack set that featured a new transfer of the German cut, an HD master of the integral cut (mislabeled as the "international version"), and a DVD of a different integral cut combining more material from different versions that would run 108 minutes at 24fps. The 103 minute integral cut would also turn up on Blu-ray in Australia in a double feature with Circus of Fear and in different special editions in France from Artus Films and the U.K. from 88 Films.

Blue Underground's 2160p24 HEVC 2.35:1 widescreen Dolby Vision HDR 4K UltraHD and 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen Blu-ray - also available in a Blu-ray-only edition - debuts a new 4K restoration of the 103 minute integral cut that largely shares in common with the previous HD master the more neutral color balance compared to the slightly yellower SD master. For the most part, the newer master show off the scope cinematography of Manuel Merino (Horror Rises from the Tomb) at its best and its worst. Blacks are bottomless, royal blues and a greater variety of shades of red pop off the screen, but some interior scenes are over lit with very electric light shadows and a few crew shadows (particularly disruptive during a dramatic scene in which Mother Rosa implores Mary and Harry to escape). Skin tones in scenes supposed to be lit by firelight can look very yellow – as in the sequence where Mary waits in the room at the inn where she has been brought by Satchel and the subsequent scene in front of another fireplace where the skin tones look more neutral – and highlights can run a little hot in both interiors and sunny exteriors. In some ways, the transfer is not unlike that of the 4K restoration of Eugenie… The Story of Her Journey into Perversion including the greater resolution making more apparent the falloff in sharpness at the edges of the frame in some shots.


The sole feature audio option is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono track in which the English dialogue of the barn lovemaking scene between Mary and Harry syncs up with the uncovered take incorporated here in place of the softer take originally used for the English version, while the aforementioned scenes from the German version revert to German with English subtitles. Lee and Genn dub themselves on the English version, and the track is generally very clean with slight variations in background noise between the English and German dubbing while the booming passages of the orchestral score by Bruno Nicolai (Count Dracula) has more presence than the canon explosions and gunfire. Optional English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are provided.


Extras start off with a trio of audio commentaries, two ported over from the 88 Films Blu-ray and one recorded exclusively for this release. The new track is an audio commentary by critics Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson who cover the multiple titles and versions, Towers' co-production dealings, and the ways the film plays fast and loose with history. They both admit to being bored by the film in its GP-rated version on television while also discussing the effect of the restored scenes including some unintentional levity in the torture scenes by Vernon and the added "beefcake" of the lake scene from the Italian version (included here in the deleted scenes).

The audio commentary by film historians Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw provide substantial historical background to the story, noting that Jeffries was focused on treason rather than witchcraft and that Jeffries acted within the letter of the law with the expectation that the men he condemned would be pardoned at the mercy of the Crown. They also discuss the even shorter British version of the film in relation to the restored scenes and more permissive versions.

As with Newman and Forshaw, the audio commentary by film historians David Flint and Adrian Smith covers the influences on the film as they would now fall under the folk horror banner while also noting that the supposed witches of the film would be pagans rather than Satan worshippers and protestant rather than Catholic as well as also mining the historical record of Jeffries to discuss why the film is not a history lesson.

Ported from Blue Underground's DVD is "Bloody Jess" (25:10), intercut interview in which Lee discusses his research into Jeffries and his Jekyll and Hyde personality as both brilliant lawyer and whore-monger with a sadistic streak – along with his insistence that he did not participate in or know of any of the salacious material – while Franco discusses how the co-production demands effected the film's construction and how he only disagreed with Lee who pressed for more historical accuracy.

"Judgement Day" (33:32) is a new interview with Stephen Thrower, author of "Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jess Franco" who gives a quick overview of the Franco/Towers collaborations of nine films between 1968 and 1969, the uncredited involvement of American International in the funding and its staggered theatrical release, suggesting that the late U.S. release was either the result of Towers' issues with his financiers or the difficulty of reshaping the film for the drive-in. He also discusses the dissonance between Franco's anti-establishment/anti-authoritarian stance and his sadistic voyeuristic fascination with scenes of torture and punishment which would carry over to his women-in-prison films. He also identifies various Portuguese and Spanish locations used in the film and their uses in other Franco films.

Ported from the 88 Films Blu-ray is "In The Shadows" (24:15) intercutting interviews with filmmaker Alan Birkinshaw and author Stephen Thrower on producer Towers. Birkinshaw's input is spread thin, covering the offer from Towers for him to direct the producer's third adaptation of Ten Little Indians followed by his two Poe gore films House of Usher and Masque of the Red Death during Towers' South African tax break period along with an intended adaption of "The Raven" with Klaus Kinski that fell through. Thrower discusses Towers beginnings in radio at age fifteen and already "presenting" programs at age sixteen for Radio Luxembourg, joining BBC radio during the war, and friction with the BBC as he wanted to produce programs independently and sell them to the network rather than working within it, cutting programs to vinyl and selling them to over a hundred and fifty radio stations during the peak of his radio career. He was on the ground floor of British television at ATV but a scandal in America in which he was charged with pimping scuttled his ability to produce programs in the U.S. or U.K. after jumping bail – Thrower surmises from rumors of Towers being involved in espionage that he it was unlikely he as a capitalist was actually a communist but may have been spying for the highest bidder – leading to him finding creative ways of organizing financing for motion pictures. Thrower also discusses Towers penchant for attaching literary or historical names to projects while often disregarding the sources, his various film series, and the talents he worked with behind and in front of the camera.

The disc also includes a selection of deleted and alternate scenes including:
- "Mary's Grief" (5:57, in Italian with optional English subtitles), the aforementioned first meeting scene between Mary and Harry only featured in the Italian cut. The version found on the Blue Underground DVD was of poor VHS quality while the version her presumably comes from the German Blu-ray set which featured an integral cut in SD. The quality is improved here but it still looks a bit like video and there are slight jerks in the image during pans and zooms.
- "Clothed Love Scene" (1:27), the alternate version of the barn love scene included in the English export version of the film;
- "Alternate Jeffreys' Nightmare" (0:55) seen in some versions of the film which superimposed Jeffries' sleeping face over some torture footage to partially obscure it (Lee is only seen bolting upright from the nightmare including the uncensored footage in the feature presentation).
- "Alternate Mary's Release from Dungeon" (1:34), a shorter version of Mary's release from the dungeon where she is not forced to lick blood off of another nude torture victim.
- "The Bloody Judge" Main Titles (2:06) is the title sequence as seen on the English export version as well as the Blue Underground and Redemption DVDs.
- "Der Hexentoter von Blackmoor" Main Titles (2:26, in German with optional English subtitles) as seen in the German version featuring the credits in a different font over a different background.
- Ending from the German Version (1:53, in German with optional English subtitles) which features a grislier fate for Jeffries than the export version.

Also included are the trailers and TV spot from the American release – including the U.S. theatrical trailer (0:56), a U.S. combo trailer with "Blood from the Mummy's Tomb" (1:53), and a U.S. combo TV spot with "Blood from the Mummy's Tomb" (0:34) – as well as six comprehensive still galleries.


The discs are housed with a reversible cover - with "The Bloody Judge" title on the inside - and the first pressing includes an embossed slipcover.


Night of the Blood Monster has no "blood monster" and it is only a horror movie, an erotic film, or a historical drama depending on which country you saw it in while the integral cut is a patchwork experience.


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