Ready for awesomeness? Las garras de Lorelei, better known over here as The Loreley’s Grasp or otherwise When The Screaming Stops, has pretty much everything: a girl’s school, a goofy swarthy and yet completely ineffectual hunter, a swamp creature that rips out human hearts in a very HG Lewis manner, angry mobs with torches, underwater cave castles, mad science — the only thing it doesn’t have is Paul Naschy! Our director Amando de Ossorio had finished his run of Blind Dead films just before The Loreley’s Grasp, and that same aesthetic is well in place here: gorgeous locations (the marshland swamp is particularly nice) and plenty of technicolor Gothic touches plus some really well-considered camerawork help keep a solid balance between slower atmospheric dread and the suprisingly fast-paced and gory murders. Tony Kendall plays Sigurd (those of you who know your Norse mythology will have a leg up here) and skips no opportunity to smirk, take off his shirt and show off his tightly-panted package while flirting with the jailbait students and patroling the six by six square feet of garden. While swimming in the swamp he first spies Helga Line’, whom you may know from any of a series of sword and sandal films or (more likely) roles in Horror Express, Horror Rises From The Tomb, and The Countess in The Vampires’ Night Orgy.
A small (Italian? Spanish? French? Does it matter?) town finds itself under siege by nighttime attacks where the victims’ hearts are torn out. The local girls’ school (with its 20-something students, but again, does it matter?) requests that Sigurd keep watch over them at night, which he does with the aforementioned smirking and flaunting of his package. Sigurd sees Lorelei in the marshes, and chases her, and when he finds her, she gives him a lot of evasive answers about who she is that should tip Sigurd off to the fact that she is the Lorelei of legend, who the townspeople are terrified of; the legend of Lorelei says that she eats peoples’ hearts every hundred years so as to be able to live. Sigurd totally ignores all the signs, and falls hard for Lorelei. At the same time, the stony headmistress is falling for Sigurd! What will happen!
There are some really nice de Ossorio touches in the film – particularly, a scientist who is testing a moonlight machine and a radioactive knife to use against Lorelei (and the subsequent trashing of his his laboratory is awesome, too), and Lorelei’s underwater castle, complete with skull-adorned bikini servants. He’s a director that makes the best of Technicolor, so Bava fans should find a lot to like, particularly when balanced with some of the more Gothic touches. Pedants might find the actual Loreley costume unconvincing, but that sort of thing doesn’t bug me, and the attacks go so fast you don’t have a lot of time to worry about that.
Fun fact: when the film was released in the United States as When the Screaming Stops, complimentary barf bags were given out at the theaters! I wouldn’t be surprised to see if David Friedman or Roger Corman had distributed the film, it’s such a great move. And so misrepresetative! The poster makes it seem like an early 80s slasher film, and while it’s not gonna satisfy the gorehounds there are definitely some bloody moments which remind me very much of the chest-molds-and-pig-hearts business in video nasty Madri Gras Massacre. There’s even a nice Blind Dead nod at the end! All things considered, it’s hard to think of a genre fan who wouldn’t like The Loreley’s Grasp; we both loved it, for sure.