Almost two months ago, I was midway through my annual horror movie marathon, one I intended to conclude on Halloween of 2021. Life suddenly got in the way and I had more pressing matters to attend to. I fully intended to pick things back up when I had the chance, but the opportunity never arose before Halloween came and went. Now, as the year rapidly rushes toward a conclusion, I have a little more time to spare on frivolities like watching movies of questionable quality every night. Hating to leave a project unfinished, it’s back to the streaming channels to wrap this up before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.
We pick things up with Mill of the Stone Women (1960). This one is an Italian production directed by Giorgio Ferroni, whose work I’m utterly unfamiliar with. The film concerns journalist Hans von Arnim who comes to the home of Professor Gregorius Wahl, an art instructor and proprietor of a sort-of clockwork Grand Guignol. He creates stone statues of infamous or tragic women (Joan of Arc and Cleopatra, for example) and displays them on a conveyor belt powered by the windmill he lives in—hence the movie’s title. Sharing residence with Professor Wahl is his daughter, Elfie, and the family physician, Dr. Bohlem. Living in a nearby village is Liselotte, Han’s childhood sweetheart. From the get go, we twig that not all is right with either Elfie or the good Doctor, and Professor Wahl is acting pretty sketchy too. Before we know it, Elfie is making passes at Hans, ones he’s initially receptive to despite the presence of Liselotte. Hans eventually realizes his childhood sweetheart is more deserving of his affections than Elfie, a move which results in tragedy. The film then kicks into high gear and we’re left wondering if we’re dealing with a ghost story, a psychological thriller, or a hybrid of the two.
Mill of the Stone Women was shot in Holland and makes good use of the landscape. Canals and windmills help set the film and we’re only missing some tulips for the Netherlands’ trifecta. The version I saw was subtitled, rather than dubbed, so we’re left to judge the merits of the actors on their performances and not influenced by the talents of voice actors overdubbing them. The film feels like a proto-giallo at times, especially during a sequence when Hans is experiencing a nervous breakdown. The lighting is very giallo with garish greens splashing across the sets.
Ferroni is no Brava or Argento, but has a steady film making hand. The movie, as one that is set inside a windmill is wont to do, ends in an inferno and we’re treated to the destruction of the clockwork models as they melt in the heat. “Wait,” I hear you cry, “weren’t those stone statues?” You’ll have to watch the movie and discover what was really happening in the Professor’s studio late in the night. I give it a solid 2 ½ skulls out of 5. It’s a decent film with some good moments, but unlikely to serve as more than an evening’s diversion.