‘Night of the Blood Monster’ 4K Review: Witches, Torture, And Christopher Lee

Night of the Blood Monsters

Filmmaker Jess Franco is a name commonly associated with Euro-sleaze and low-budget lascivious affairs, but after seeing a handful of Franco titles that connection kinda belies his directorial abilities. For example, this film, Night of the Blood Monster (1970), also known as The Bloody Judge (a superior and more apt title), finds Franco purveying his trademark prurient interests while also staging big battle sequences and shooting in lush locations. True, there isn’t much to the story but Franco has an ace up his sleeve: the legendary Christopher Lee, a man of such presence on screen he can make nearly any material imminently watchable.

Lee portrays a real-life person, George “The Hanging Judge” Jeffreys, though the film (as is often the case) bears little resemblance to historical fact. Here, Jeffreys is a man obsessed with power and his own sexual interests, with much of his stead behind the bench used to sentence accused witches to torture and/or death.

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In 17th century England Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys (Christopher Lee) resides over numerous witch trials, often sentencing the accused to be tortured or burned alive. One such unlucky woman is Alicia (Margaret Lee) whose sister, Mary (Maria Rohm), has come to visit Jeffreys to plead for her life… to no avail. But now Mary finds herself in Jeffreys’ gaze, forced to pleasure him and eventually forced into the dungeons, where women are held in squalid conditions. The witch trials are temporarily placed on hold during a great rebellion, with the king’s men taking up arms against local revolutionaries. Large battles commence and political upheaval in the land is imminent, but Jeffreys, full of hubris, remains unfazed in his position as the mediator of law.

Story details seem nebulous in this one, with double-crosses and politically motivated backstabbing present alongside witches burned at the stake and women being subjected to the kind of torture you’d expect to find in an S&M film. Still, I enjoyed Night of the Blood Monster (that title makes it sound like a creature feature) because Franco had a real eye for visual resplendence. The European locations are gorgeous with palatial estates, thickly wooded forests, and coastal communities. Action scenes are strongly choreographed, too, with a battle taking place between men with sabers on horses and resistance fighters in a forest that features dozens of players. Cannons are shot off, with explosions occurring all around while men fight each other to the death. Franco must have been given a sizeable budget for this film because the action looks far from cheap.

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I have a real soft spot for campy B-movies from the ‘60s and ‘70s and this is one of those features that scratch the itch. Christopher Lee is a name associated with horror and he can elevate any film in the genre. His filmography is so vast I can’t begin to claim I’ve even seen most of his output but I can say there are no clear examples of him phoning in a performance. As Jeffreys, he’s so regal and commanding, yet also diabolical and a true scoundrel based on his actions. Jeffreys is consumed with power yet when questioned on his ability to commute a sentence or pardon an offender he always defers to the judicial process, taking the blame off his shoulders. Lee plays him with thinly veiled vitriol and a sharp tongue, lest anyone suggest his methods are barbaric or inhumane.

But they are, as evidenced by how the women in the dungeons are treated. Given Franco’s affinity I expected more sadistic sexuality and lesbianism, though both are very much on display. Women are kept in shackles, strapped to the rack and stretched until their bones crack, sliced with knives, and in one of the more memorable scenes Mary is made to lick the blood off a woman who has just been carved up by a stereotypical-looking dungeon master.

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Still, in a film that runs for 103 minutes, this doesn’t feature endless, mindless torment on the level of something like Ilsa, She Wolf of the S.S. (1975), or other sexploitation titles of the ‘70s. So I guess Franco deserves a modicum of credit for restraint? All I can say is the visual trappings, period-era clothing, sumptuous locations, and Lee at the helm sucked me in for the entire running time and I was kept entertained.  

Do you know what else helped? The picture is flat-out gorgeous. Despite the back cover stating the 2.35:1 2160p Dolby Vision-enhanced picture was cobbled together from “various European vault elements” you’d never know it in action. The only variance in picture quality pops up when pieces taken from a German print appear and the image looks slightly rough, though these scenes are mostly in the dank dungeon. On the whole the picture is lush, vibrant, and richly saturated; visually robust. The detailing on ornate costumes, tapestries, and textures is sharp. A healthy film grain structure is evident. Blue Underground is a label that rarely, if ever, disappoints when it comes to 4K picture quality and this is yet another example of their strengths in that department.

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Audio comes in the form of a single English DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono track, which is clean and free from hissing and pops. Bruno Nicolai’s score is dramatic and classical. The main theme starts off with trumpeting horns before segueing into serene stringed instruments. Nicolai can always be counted on to deliver something rousing and this is no exception. There are also some cool organ cues since Jeffreys likes to play one at various points in the film. Note that some scenes are in German with English subtitles due to the print elements described in the video section. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, and French.

4K Bonus Features:

There are three audio commentary tracks, all with film historians: the first, with Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson; the second, with Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw; the third, with David Flint and Adrian Smith.

Blu-ray Bonus Features:

The same audio commentaries can also be found here.

“Bloody Jess: Interview with director Jess Franco and star Christopher Lee” (SD, 25:10) – intercut chats with Lee and Franco cover the film material, with Lee discussing the real-life figure and Franco covering the genesis and shooting of the production.

“Judgement Day: Interview with Stephen Thrower” (HD, 33:32) – The film historian discusses Franco’s filmography, the making of this film, and Franco’s recurring themes.

“In the Shadows: Interview with filmmaker Alan Birkshaw and Stephen Thrower on Harry Alan Towers” (HD, 24:15) – the two men discuss the lengthy career and ambitions of the producer.

Deleted & alternate scenes are available; six of the former, one of the latter.

A U.S. trailer (HD, 0:56), U.S. combo trailer (HD, 1:53), and U.S. combo TV spot (HD, 0:34) are included.

Still Galleries are available for Posters, Advertising Materials, Lobby Cards, B&W Stills, Color Stills, and Video & Soundtrack releases.

Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary #1 with Film Historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson
  • Audio Commentary #2 with Film Historians Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw
  • Audio Commentary #3 with Film Historians David Flint and Adrian Smith
  • Bloody Jess – Interviews with Director Jess Franco and Star Christopher Lee
  • Judgment Day – Interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of “Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco”
  • In The Shadows – Interviews with Filmmaker Alan Birkinshaw and Author Stephen Thrower on Harry Alan Towers
  • Deleted and Alternate Scenes
  • Trailers and TV Spot
  • Still Galleries
  • Audio: English (1.0 DTS-HD MA)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Français, Español
  • Limited Edition embossed slipcover and reversible sleeve with alternate artwork [First Pressing Only]
  • Night of the Blood Monster
  • Special Features


Blue Underground not only does fantastic work on home video but their output isn’t relegated to only popular titles. Giving a feature like this the royal treatment hopefully exposes the film to those looking to expand their cinematic tastes.



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