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Frank's Movie Log

My life at the movies.

The Bloody Judge

(Il trono di fuoco)
1970 | ItalyWest GermanySpainLiechtenstein | 84 min | More...
A still from The Bloody Judge (1970)
D: 2 stars (out of 5)
on Sat Aug 02, 2014

The extras on The Bloody Judge DVD are more interesting than the feature film.

The story takes place in England during the final days of King James II. Christopher Lee plays George Jeffreys, an infamous judge who meted out death sentences to suppress the burgeoning rebellion. These sham trials became known as the Bloody Assizes.

In the aforementioned DVD extras, Lee describes Jeffreys as a Jekyll-and-Hyde figure: a brilliant legal mind but also a merciless executioner. Had the film focused on this dichotomy, it might have worked.

Instead, the film revolves around a fictitious love triangle. Jeffreys obsesses over Mary, a young peasant girl. Mary’s lover, Harry, is part of the rebellion. Jeffreys longs to arrest Harry, but Harry’s father is a political ally of Jeffreys. Instead, Jeffreys arrests Mary. Harry frees her. Jeffreys captures them both. They escape. Then the revolution happens.

There’s also a blind oracle who may be psychic, and a man dressed like Boris Karloff in The Tower of London, torturing a semi-nude woman covered in Technicolor blood.

This mess of disparate plot-points has its roots in money. The production had multiple financiers, and each wanted a different film. One wanted a horror movie. Another wanted a historical drama. Yet another wanted an exploitation picture. The filmmakers tried to please everyone. At least no one wanted a comedy.

This compromise results in a string of overlong, exposition-leaden scenes interrupted by occasional bits of exploitation. Things pick up when the revolution gets underway, but not enough to recapture our interest. I can forgive stiff dialogue, convoluted plotting, gratuitous nudity and violence. I can’t forgive boring.

Compounding matters, Lee and director Jesús Franco disagreed on how to portray Jeffreys. Lee wanted historical accuracy. Franco wanted something more “dynamic.” I don’t know what Franco meant by “dynamic” and, judging by his performance, Lee didn’t either.

Consider how Lee shifts his weight and looks uncomfortable whenever he sits down. In the DVD extras, Lee explains that Jeffreys suffered from kidney stones. Lee was a fine actor, but without script help, kidney stones is an impossible charade.

The financing amalgam also explains the myriad of alternate titles. In the United States it was Night of the Blood Monster and Witch Killer of Broadmoor. There’s no Broadmoor in the film. Granted, there’s no Blood Monster either, but why Broadmoor? That’s one question the DVD extras couldn’t answer.

Viewing History

    Watched on
    Sat Aug 02, 2014 via DVD