Mill of the Stone Women: Limited Edition (Blu-ray Review)
Release Date(s)1960 (December 14, 2021)
Studio(s)Galatea/Parade Releasing (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A
Mill of the Stone Women (aka Il mulino delle donne di pietra) is an Italian Gothic horror film that mostly deep-seated fans of the genre have come to appreciate since its initial theatrical release in August of 1960. It didn’t make it overseas until January of 1963 and released in the UK under the title Drops of Blood on a double bill with Confess Dr. Corda. It did well abroad, and even outgrossed classics like Mario Bava’s Black Sunday at the Italian box office, but it was still seen as a disappointment financially.
Today, many critics consider the film to be a forerunner to Psycho, which was released after Mill of the Stone Women in Italy. In fact, multiple comparisons to other films can be made, including the original House of Wax, films produced at Hammer Studios, and films like I Vampiri and Eyes Without a Face. Regardless of the influences that it bears, it’s a remarkably effective thriller with a familiar premise, but executed quite well. According to Tim Lucas, it may also have been worked on by Mario Bava which, due to the filmmaker’s need for secrecy when it came to doing reshoots for his friends, is likely never to be confirmed. In any case, it bears all the hallmarks of what fans of Italian horror cinema look for, including haunting images with striking uses of color and lighting. Performances are generally strong across the board, including Pierre Brice as Hans, Scilla Gabel as Elfie, and Herbert Bohme as Professor Wahl, the latter of whom could have made a Lionel Atwill type of career out of playing villains if he wanted to. An excellent and undervalued Italian Gothic, Mill of the Stone Women deserves far more praise than it currently receives.
Hans (Brice) is newly-arrived in the sleepy village of Veeze where he’s come to work for the local sculptor and instructor Professor Wahl (Bohme). Upon his arrival, he meets Wahl’s beautiful daughter Elfie (Gabel), who is suffering from a medical condition in which she can’t be overly excited or she could possibly die. As Brice settles in and meets with his old friend Ralf (Marco Guglielmi) and former flame Liselotte (Dany Carrel), Elfie begins making advances towards Hans, whom she claims to be in love with. Despite his caring for Liselotte, Hans gives into Elfie, which later causes her untimely death, or so it seems. Under the care of Dr. Loren Bohlem (Wolfgang Preiss) and the strict supervision of her father, Elfie later reappears alive and well. As Hans begins to question his own sanity, he and his friends wonder what Professor Wahl is up to and what his famous musical carousel of wax figures have to do with it.
Mill of the Stone Women was shot by director of photography Pier Ludovico Pavoni on 35 mm film, finished photochemically, and framed at the 1.66:1 aspect ratio for its theatrical release. Arrow Video brings the film to Blu-ray for the first time in the US in a Limited Edition release that includes the Italian and English Export versions of the film, as well the French and US versions, the latter of which are presented on a separate disc. All of these versions were prepared using a new 2K scan and restoration of the original 35 mm camera negative with additional 35 mm intermediary elements for the English Export version’s opening titles. Additional previously-scanned material was provided to Arrow Video by Subkultur Entertainment via LSP Medien to finish and conform the French and US versions of the film.
Because of the various sources used, each presentation of the film is imperfect, especially during the credits and scene transitions where the image is notably weaker with drab colors, softer images, and leftover scratches and speckling. But the majority of the footage taken from the original camera negative is quite good. Grain is a little busy at times, but never appears artificial or tampered with digitally. Colors are a little uneven, specifically skin tones which can range from orange to pink, but swatches of purple, yellow, and pink from lighting gels are bold, as are greens for grass and red for blood. Brief moments of color breathing are also evident, but infrequent. Blacks are not totally deep or solid, sometimes appearing a bit blue, but nothing appears unnatural to the source. The image is mostly stable and clean, outside of the alternate footage used to complete each version. As most of these issues are minor, the good definitely outweighs the bad as Mill of the Stone Women has never looked better on home video.
Audio is provided in for each version in English, Italian and French mono LPCM with optional English subtitles. Each of the four tracks have been newly-restored. While dialogue is expectedly loose against the picture, each track has its own distinct aural personality. The Italian version is clean with good support for the score, though as per usual with many Italian tracks of the era, the dubbing is flat. The English Export version features light hiss and a couple of minor dropouts and thumps along the way, none of which are obvious. The quality of the dubbing is also not as flat as its predecessor. The French version features a bit of hiss and crackle throughout, but it’s never overly intrusive. The dubbing is very good, mostly fitting each scene’s environment well without sounding out of place. The US version is more evenly tempered with hiss that ranges from minor to obvious in some scenes. The dubbing is decent and the score is more prominent.
Arrow Video includes all four versions of Mill of the Stone Women on two Blu-ray discs, the Italian and English Export versions achieved via seamless branching. The following versions and extras are included on each disc:
DISC ONE: ITALIAN AND ENGLISH EXPORT VERSIONS
- Italian Version of the Film (HD – 95:36)
- English Export Version of the Film (HD – 95:37)
- Audio Commentary on the English Export Version by Tim Lucas
- Mill of the Stone Women & The Gothic Body (HD – 24:10)
- Turned to Stone (HD – 27:07)
- A Little Chat with Dr. Mabuse (Upscaled HD – 15:52)
- Alternate Opening Titles: UK Drops of Blood Titles (Upscaled SD – 1:30)
- Alternate Opening Titles: German Titles (HD – 2:43)
- US Theatrical Trailer (Upscaled SD – 2:02)
- German Theatrical Trailer (HD – 3:19)
- Posters Gallery (HD – 11 in all)
- Stills and Lobby Cards Gallery (HD – 77 in all)
- German Pressbook Gallery (HD – 14 in all)
- US Pressbook Gallery (HD – 19 in all)
DISC TWO: FRENCH AND US VERSIONS
- French Version of the Film (HD – 89:51)
- US Version of the Film (HD – 94:29)
In total, there are about seven different versions of this film that have been released in various territories, if not more. Three other versions, including the German, UK, and an extended US version, are absent from this release. Truth be told, the differences in running times are mostly minuscule. The main story and how it unfolds is exactly the same every time, but with little alterations. They’re too numerous to cover in one review, but here are a few notable differences.
The Italian and English Export versions are mostly identical outside of their intended languages and credits, though they feature Italian language inserts for Elfie’s letter to Hans. The French version is the shortest by making trims throughout, such as Hans witnessing the carousel of wax figures for the first time, and later walking by the dock in Veeze after his contemplative moment on the bridge (the latter of which is present in all four versions, contrary to other sources). This version also uses French inserts for Elfie’s letter to Hans, as well as Ralf’s drawing which he shows to Annelore to make her laugh.
The US version is perhaps the most curious. It uses an exclusive English insert for Elfie’s letter to Hans and different transitions during Hans’ hallucination. It also removes the footage of Liselotte’s nipple popping out during the finale, and adds in an establishing shot of the Academy of Fine Arts building where Annelore models for sketches. The largest addition is a very misogynistic opening narration during Hans’ initial arrival, which is entirely unnecessary and incorrect to Hans as a character. “Trouble began with a woman. Here in the country village of Veeze outside Amsterdam, Holland, you're about to meet a young man, a writer, who would deny that obvious truth. For he is naive; he respects, he loves women. He is about to change his mind.” Yikes.
As for the extras, film historian and author Tim Lucas provides another well-researched audio commentary, delving deeply into the film’s cast and crew, going off on tangents about various things within the film, and detailing the film’s place within Italian Gothic horror history. In Mill of the Stone Women & The Gothic Body, author and critic Kat Ellinger offers a visual essay, examining the film’s place within Gothic horror cinema, as well as its many influences. Turned to Stone is a re-edited version of the same interview included on the French Artus Films Blu-ray release of the film, featuring actress Liana Orfei and film historian Fabio Melleli. A Little Chat with Dr. Mabuse features an archival interview with actor Wolfgang Preiss, who portrays Dr. Bohelm in the film. Next are two sets of opening titles, the UK version featuring the film under the title Drops of Blood, and the German version. Last are two trailers for the film and four still galleries containing a total of 121 images of posters, lobby cards, promotional stills, a magazine cover, and the German and US pressbooks.
The two discs sit in a clear amaray case featuring 6 lobby card reproductions. Reversible artwork features new art by Adam Rabalais on the front and art used for the Belgian theatrical poster for the film on the reverse. Alongside it is a double-sided poster featuring the same new artwork on one side and the original US theatrical poster artwork on the other, as well as a 60-page insert booklet featuring cast and crew information, the essays Blood from Stone: Giorgio Ferroni’s Mille of the Stone Women by Roberto Curti and Multiple Mills: The Many Versions of Mill of the Stone Women by Brad Stevens, a set of contemporary reviews for the film, and restoration information. Everything is housed within sturdy cardboard packaging featuring the same new artwork.
Another excellent release from Arrow Video, the Limited Edition double disc Blu-ray of Mill of the Stone Women is an essential purchase for fans of the genre. Highly recommended!
- Tim Salmons
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