Mill of the Stone Women

09/17/2020 05:59

Film: Mill of the Stone Women (Il mulino delle donne di pietra)

Year: 1960

Director: Giorgio Ferroni

Writer: Louis Sauvat and Pieter van Weigen

Starring: Pierre Brice, Scilla Gabel and Wolfgang Preiss



This is another movie that I never heard about until I was going through Letterboxd to find movies from 1960. Since I needed this for my Journey Through the Aughts segment on Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Podcast, I was trying to find one that would pair up with the 2020 release as well. This one isn’t great there, but it has some things I can correlate. I really just went off the title though. The synopsis here is in 19th century Holland, a professor of fine arts and an unlicensed surgeon run a secret lab. They also use their victims as macabre art.

I will admit that I did clean up the synopsis a bit as it is a bit spoiler heavy. The name of the movie does give a bit away though. We do start this off with Hans von Arnim (Pierre Brice) as he comes to a small village outside of Amsterdam, Holland. He was sent their by his boss to work with Prof. Gregorius Wahl (Herbert A.E. Böhme). Prof. Wahl lives and works in a windmill where he has an exhibit to show statues of famous deaths throughout the ages. The windmill has been rigged to make his statues move through for the audience as well. Hans thinks he is just there to introduce himself, but he is put to work immediately. He also only has 5 days to complete it and the ferry leaves every day at 7 pm. He isn’t to stay in the mill after that.

Prof. Wahl is also a teacher of art at a nearby college. In his class is Liselotte Kornheim (Dany Carrel) and Ralf (Marco Guglielmi). It appears that Liselotte grew up with Hans and she’s excited he is coming to town. Ralf also knows him, but he has his sights set on the model of their drawing class, Annelore (Liana Orfei).

Something I left out was the first day that Hans is there, he catches a glimpse of Prof Wahl’s beautiful daughter Elfie (Scilla Gabel). She seems to have a medical condition which is why a Dr. Loren Bohlem (Wolfgang Preiss) is staying in the mill as well. We see that he loves her, but it is not reciprocated. Elfie falls for Hans though. She asks him to come back to the mill after everyone goes to sleep to profess her love. She even gives him a key to sneak back in. It is during this that he realizes he has loved Liselotte after all of these years. This angers Elfie when she sees it.

As I stated though, she has a medical condition and her father warns him that she cannot be upset. We see what happens when she does, as Hans thinks he sees her die. He wanders the night trying to figure out what to do. When he returns to confess, Dr. Bohlem gives him a sedative and Hans has wild hallucinations. The question then becomes, did Elfie really die or is there something much more sinister going on here?

Now like I said in the opening of this, I never heard of this movie. I was intrigued by the title and seeing that this is based off of a short story. There is an interesting little idea that we’re playing with here that we see more of as the years go on. The title does feel a bit giallo-esque, even though this film pre-dates that genre from my understanding. It is a co-production from Italy, so that could be part of it since they do seem to have some of the best titles.

This could be considered a bit of a spoiler, but the sculptures in the windmill are actually people. I won’t give the way the reason they’re being killed, but the movie doesn’t really do that great in hiding most of its plot. I put together everything fairly early on. I will say that the statues are pretty eerie though. As I saying though, we’ve seen a similar plot device in House of Wax or Tourist Trap. It does feel the latter borrowed some elements for sure.

There is also this intriguing angle entangling many of the characters. Hans is interested in Elfie, but I think that’s just the mystery of the character. Elfie loves him, but that feels like due to her being isolated from everyone. She does have a rare condition that killed her mother so it is hard to fault her father from wanting to protect her. Dr. Bohlem is there to monitor her and keep her alive while trying to find a cure. He’s also fallen in love with her as she is beautiful. Liselotte has known Hans since they were children. The two of them realize they’re love, which creates the triangle with Elfie. The two women are jealous of each other. That then finally brings me to Prof Wahl. I’ve said I understand why he’s done what he has for Elfie, but he a bit of a maniac with how far he will go.

Since I’ve broken down the characters, I feel like I should shift over to the acting. Brice I think is pretty solid as the lead here. He is young and is trying to make a name for himself. There is the interesting angle of him descending into madness over what he’s done. He is drugged though so that adds a bit to it. Gabel is quite attractive. I like that she knows it, but she’s sheltered still so she is clingy. Preiss and Böhme are interesting as they’re almost mirrors of each other. They both want to help and save Elfie, but for different reasons. They will both go to great lengths as well. Carrel is also attractive. She helps to round this movie out with Orfei, Guglielmi and the rest of the cast.

Next I think should be the effects. For the most part we don’t get a lot of them, but that’s mostly due to this coming out in 1960. As I did say though, I really like how creepy they make the statues in this windmill. From the first time we see them I knew there was something off. It adds an eerie feel for sure. I also liked what they did with the cinematography when Hans is drugged. We don’t know what he is seeing as being real and what is not. They play making some things translucent, messing with the images to blur and colors that probably aren’t there. The ending sequence also does some cool things with the sculptures as well.

Now that’s all I really have to say about this movie. It has an interesting premise and ideas that feel like got borrowed by movies down the line. There just does seem to be a bit that is missing from it. It could be the version that I was watching as I did have to watch it on YouTube. The acting though was pretty solid and the complexity of the characters does add a lot. I thought the effects we got were good. The soundtrack has a creepy undercurrent to what we’re getting. What I watched was also a dub, but I’m planning to look into seeing the original way this was intended with subtitles. I don’t feel like this is great by any stretch, but does explore some interesting aspects. I’d rate this as an above average movie overall.


My Rating: 7.5 out of 10