There are only a handful of old school Japanese horror films that I consider "lost classics" films that are difficult to find but are nonetheless essential to watch for any fan of classic horror: Ghost Story of the Snow Witch (1968) Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees (1975) Kuroneko (1968) The Ghost-Cat Cursed Pond (1968) Demon Pond (1979)
Well, it's time to add another one to this list: The Haunted Castle (1969)!
This starts off in a very similar fashion to many other Japanese horror films from the 1950s and 1960s. It's set in the samurai era with a scumbag landlord who unjustifiably murders someone. Lord Tangonokami Nabeshime of Saga Prefecture takes interest in a blind monk's sister (Sayo), who he wishes to be his concubine. After the monk kindly refuses his request, the Lord invites him to play a game of Go, which they've done in the past, but this time the Lord murders the monk after coercing a minor discord between the two. A chamberlain is then sent to Sayo, delivering a message that her land is forfeit and that she is banished. The girl is not pleased, so she feeds her blood to a black cat and transforms it into a murderous ghost cat that reaps vengeance upon the murderer's family.
Hot damn this movie rocks! First and foremost, it's much darker and briskly paced than most of the J-horror flicks that I've seen from the 50s and 60s. Virtually the entire film takes place at night and the hauntings are practically non-stop. This provides for some thrilling viewing, especially when the chamberlain attempts to take defensive strategies against the supernatural threat. The ghost cat's human form is surprisingly nasty and vicious, and the execution of the horror sequences is top notch (at times body doubles are used to "transport" the ghost from one side of the screen to another, causing panic to its victims). The atmosphere and tone are eerie from start to finish.
This is a lost classic, and a must watch for fans of old school horror. Here's a short clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbqU4MPTCTE
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