He Watched It Sober.

Trust us. We won't let this happen to you.


Mill of the

Stone Women

a/k/a Il Mulino delle donne di pietra

a/k/a Drops of Blood a/k/a Icon

a/k/a The Horrible Mill Women

     "Weren't you afraid of thunder, too? No? Well, you were never alone like me, alone in this house -- bleak and dark as it is. Maybe you already knew Hans? You nestled close to him, didn't you? It must have been exciting, wonderfully exciting, to tremble as he embraced you. But now that's all going to change, Lisolette. Now Hans will belong to me; because you're not going to be here anymore; because your life will belong to me."

-- Elfie's one-sided chat with the captive Lisolette    




Gonzoid Cinema




Whoops! Can't believe the censors missed that one...


Watch it!



Sights &
Mill of the
Stone Women
  Giorgio Ferroni
 Galatea Film /
 Parade Releasing Corp.

Newspaper Ads

More Macabre

Eyes without a Face

Black Sunday

Mill of the Stone Women

Castle of Blood

Tombs of the Blind Dead

Baron Blood


Taking place in Holland just before the turn of the last century, our film opens with Hans von Arnam (Pierre Brice) boarding a ferry that will take him across the fog enshrouded canals to the windmill abode of Professor Gregorius Wahl, which also houses the eccentric artists' Carousel of Stone Women ... Kind of a screwed-up version of Walt Disney's It's a Small, Small World attraction, the Carousel is an intricate array of massive gears and pulleys that operate a macabre animated display of famous and infamous women -- and only women, he typed ominously -- posed at the moment of their demise: Joan of Arc at the stake; Marie Antoinette on the chopping block etc. etc.

Shows at 4:00 and 4:30, and 2:00 matinees on Saturdays. Senior Citizens half-price. Kids under five admitted for free.

The actual purpose of Arnam's visit is a little murky, but I believe he's there to write an article about this quirky landmark (-- and is Holland's tourist industry this desperate?). After meeting with Wahl (Wolfgang Preiss), who graciously offers all kinds of background material for the expose, Arnam gets to work, but as he tries to put pen to paper, he is constantly distracted by a beautiful girl, whom he keeps catching fleeting glimpses of ever since he arrived. This terminally shy girl is Elfie (Scillia Gabel), Wahl's daughter, and as Arnam tries to learn more about her, he is gently told "hands off" by Wahl, and then not-so-gently told "hands off" by Dr. Bolem (Herbert Böhme), her in-house physician. You see, Elfie has inherited a strange condition where any kind of emotional distress can prove lethal. The very same malady claimed Dr. Wahl's wife and that's why the girl can never leave the mill, and under no circumstances can Elfie be ... well, aroused.

Already trying to salvage a relationship with his current girlfriend, Lisolette Kornheim (Danny Carrel), things are getting pretty complicated for poor Arnam as he's completely smitten with the mysterious and fragile girl. And things get even more complicated when Elfie sneaks in a few visits with him; for it appears she's smitten, too, and they clandestinely arrange a late night rendezvous -- if you know what I mean, and I think you do. When Elfie survives this illicit encounter intact, it makes Arnam wonder if Wahl's story is a load of bull, and if Elfie's being held in the mill against her will. But before he can investigate further, however, Lisolette and his best friend, Raab (Marco Guglielmi), both art students of Wahl's at the local university, stop by for a visit. Here, Arnam realizes that Lisolette is the one he truly loves and wants to marry. But how does he break this news to Elfie?

Given the bad news during another one of her late night visits, this jilting definitely qualifies as emotional distress for Elfie ... Turning a deathly shade of pale, her condition rapidly deteriorates into spasm, then full seizure, and then total collapse. Arnam -- who really is kind of a turd of a hero -- panics, scoops her up, and takes the limp form back to her room. Laying her on the bed, he notices her face landed near a hand mirror -- that's not fogging up, meaning she's not breathing, which means Elfie is dead. Our "hero" panics, again, and then clears off the premises as fast as his feet will take him. 

Like I said, turd...

God bless the fine folks over at Eccentric Cinema. I've been trolling around over there for awhile now, and you really should, too, unearthing all kinds of strange and oddball films that I'd never seen before -- or really even heard of -- but are now finally getting out on DVD. It's been murder on my bank account, but I've tracked down a half-dozen or so of these titles that piqued my interest -- none of them stranger, or more oddball for that matter, than Georgio Ferroni's Mill of the Stone Women.

An Italian and French co-production, set in Holland, using mostly German actors (-- Preiss would go on to play the equally mad Dr. Mabuse for Fritz Lang --), the film was based on a short story of the same name by writer Pieter Van Weigen, collected in a book called Flemish Tales. Based on Scandinavian folklore, Van Wiegen's story centered on how the native windmills represented three distinctly different levels: Heaven, Earth and Hell. Sure, whatever. That's thinking a little too deeply here, though, and it took Ferroni and three other -- that's four, count 'em four -- scriptwriters to cook it into a script as demented as this.

One part Grimm's Fairy Tale, one part Edgar Wallace murder mystery, and then mixed with a little Mystery of The Wax Museum, the end results are a strange concoction that's long on mood and atmosphere, with plenty of strange characters and morbid plot twists to keep things humming right along until the real whiz-banger of a climax.

So what's really going on at Professor Wahl's old windmill? Lets find out, shall we?

(She'd tell you, but she's all tied up at the moment. Mmwahahaahah...)

Anyhoo ... As the guilt gnaws away at our so-called hero, Arnam returns to the mill and sneaks into Elfie's bedroom -- but she's not there. In fact, judging by all the dust and cobwebs, the room appears to have been unoccupied for a very long time. Baffled by this, Arnam tries to sort it out and looks for some answers. When he runs into Bolem -- who sees the young man is terribly upset about something -- the doctor offers Arnam a sedative to calm him down. Then things get curiouser and curiouser as Bolem's sedative triggers a long, phantasmagorical nightmare sequence for Arnam: while the ghost of Elfie haunts and taunts him, Wahl berates him for not listening and heaps on the blame for causing his daughter's demise. This night-terror concludes with Arnam running about the mill, in a futile attempt to escape his guilt, and eventually, into the family crypt, where he desecrates Elfie's grave by opening it up. Sure enough, her body's in there. Our boy quickly retreats, and as a dazed Arnam continues to wander aimlessly around the mill, he hears a woman's haunted screams. Following the cries down into the mill's sub-levels, through an open door, he spies Amilore (Liana Orfei -- last seen tormenting Hercules, Samson & Ulysses), a model who poses for Wahl's art classes, tied to a chair. The door slams shut before he can get to her, though, and it won't budge. As Arnam pounds on the door, trying to get in, Bolem comes on scene wanting to know what all the ruckus is about. Told what the boy saw, Bolem is incredulous but unlocks the door anyway. The room is empty.

Fearing he's losing his sanity, Arnam demands to speak to Wahl. Bolem complies, and when the boy spills his guts and confesses to killing Elfie, Wahl doesn't seem too shocked by this news -- no, he thinks it's a pretty sick joke. Though Bolem assures him that Elfie is fine, Arnam insists he just saw her entombed and she was most definitely dead. Worried about the lad's mental state, the elder men say that's nonsense, and to prove it, Wahl calls for Elfie, who appears at the top of the steps, alive and well. Obviously, Arnam's circuits are a little fried by this development. Wahl, meanwhile, says he's willing to forget the whole thing, but Arnam will have to pack up and clear out immediately. And as he escorts him off the premises, Wahl strongly urges the vanquished Arnam to seek some professional help. But after he's gone, things take another sinister turn as Bolem thinks they should have just killed the interloper because Elfie has fallen in love with him. But Wahl assures that over time, she will forget him and Arnam is no longer a threat: their little drug-induced acid trip has seen to that. Still, Bolem worries that Arnam might come back and find out that Elfie's been dying for years, and how they must constantly restore her to life.

...What the hell goes on here, you ask?

Well, we get our answer PDQ, as Wahl and Bolem reveal the true nature of their treachery. You see, Elfie really does have a sickness: a rare blood disorder that requires a full-body blood-transfusion every 3000 miles. And Bolem has perfected a procedure to accomplish this and keep her alive. Of course, to also accomplish this, they need a live donor. Lots of donors, actually. And if you're thinking what I'm thinking, that all those gruesome displays on the Carousel are actually concealing the bodies of all the previous donors, you get a cookie.

So down into the bowels of the mill we go, where we find a bona fide mad scientist lair. And while Bolem prepares Elfie for the next transfusion, Wahl straps the struggling Amilore to a gurney. Hooking up both women to some kind of fancy Rube Goldbergian contraption, it first drains all the bad blood out of Elfie, then sucks all the good blood out of the unwilling Amilore, and then transfers it into Elfie. Of course, the donor kind of gets the short shrift here.

Once the procedure is complete, while Elfie recovers, Wahl sets to work converting Amilore's body into another one of his macabre display pieces. Seems he's got some kind of serum that freezes the body, but with a little effort, is still malleable to pose. Snap. Crackle. Pop. Creepy. Meanwhile, Bolem is already hard at work looking for their next donor. (I gather it has to be a certain blood type.) Taking a sample of Lisolette's blood -- taken from Wahl's handkerchief that she used after accidentally cutting herself at the mill earlier, the doctor makes a startling discovery: turns out Lisolette's blood composition is so close to Elfie's that the cure would be permanent once the transfusion is done. Good news for the Wahls -- bad news for Lisolette.

Speaking of Lisolette, with her help, Arnam has made a full recovery from his psychotic episode at the mill and considers it all just a bad dream. But when he and Raab head to her apartment, they find her gone -- under some mysterious circumstances, according to the landlady. Spying a picture of Lisolette with Amilore on the dresser, Arnam only recognizes her as the girl he saw trapped in Wahl's basement. But Raab knows who it is, he and Lisolette had drawn her hundreds of times, and wants to know where Arnam saw her since the girl's been missing for the past few days. As the circumstances pile up, Arnam finally comes clean on everything that happened to him at the mill. After taking it all in, Raab, who has -- make that had -- a crush on Amilore, isn't quite sold, but feels it's worth investigating. First, they check out the crypt and find it open, but the coffin is empty. Nearby, they spot a mannequin poorly hidden in an alcove that looks just like Elfie. (Obviously one of Wahl's sculptures.)

And any sympathy for Elfie's plight is quickly lost in the next scene as she gloats over the hapless Lisolette, gleefully telling the captive how Arnam will be all hers after she's gone. In the other room, Bolem spouts some goobledy-gook on how his new super-serum, when combined with Lisolette's blood, will be a permanent fix. But this permanent fix has a hefty price tag: For all his years of service, the doctor wants the bewitching Elfie for himself after she's finally cured.

Meanwhile, Arnam and Raab sneak into the mill and promptly trigger the Carousel ... After it wheezes to life, when the revolving display gets to the last figure, Raab recognizes the fiery red hair and tells Arnam to stop the infernal contraption. But when he engages the brakes, the display comes to such a  screeching halt that the head snaps off the figure in question, due to the momentum, and rolls to Raab's feet. He reluctantly picks it up for a closer look, but I think he knows the answer already: it's Amilore. Before this grisly revelation can even sink in, the men hear Lisolette screaming and head for the basement...

...Where Wahl is currently wrassling Lisolette's gag back on (-- and we can't help but notice Carrel's exposed left breast that's bursting out of her corset. How in the hell did the censors miss that?) With the preparations for the last transfusion almost complete, the two conspirators aren't really cooperating anymore. In fact, Wahl, none to happy about Bolem's demands, stabs the other man to death: Elfie belongs to him and him alone. Then, as Arnam and Raab break through barricade after barricade, slowly making their way to the basement, Wahl hooks up both girls to the infernal machine and cranks it up. And as it begins to drain away the bad blood from Elfie, he looks for the syringe with Bolem's miracle additive -- but it's not on the tray where it should be, and while trying to find it, Wahl loses it and trashes the lab in an ultimately futile gesture. Grabbing Bolem's body by the lapels of his lab coat, as Wahl furiously shakes the body, he finally gets his answer; it was in Bolem's pocket, where it broke open when he fell on it after Wahl stabbed him in the back. Hearing Arnam and Raab getting closer, a defeated Wahl sets the lab on fire, takes up Elfie's body, and then slinks away, leaving Lisolette to burn. But the boys finally manage to get the last door broken down and rescue her in the knick of time. Soon, the fire is completely out of control and the trio barely makes it outside to safety. Back inside, Wahl carries Elfie up as high as they can go, but the flames aren't that far behind them. We then cut to several shots of the carousel burning -- each disintegrating figure revealing what is hidden underneath the facade. Yuck.

And as Wahl raves and strokes his daughters hair, the flames finally catch up to them. Outside, Arnam and Lisolette, safely embraced in each others arms, watch solemnly as the mill burns.

The End

If you sit down and think about, has anyone had more of an influence on European cinema than mystery/adventure writer Edgar Wallace? His intricate tales of criminal masterminds with insane stratagems, stalwart heroes and damsels in distress are intertwined in everything from the James Bond franchise to the gialli -- and most notably, the German krimis, a Teutonic precursor to the Italian whodunits. Mill of the Stone Women has not one, but two, criminal masterminds with a stratagem that definitely qualifies as insane; one -- well, I really wouldn't call him a stalwart, so let's say serviceable hero; and since we have two villains, we have two damsels in distress -- but only one of them gets rescued, while the other meets a very gruesome fate.

Moving at a very deliberate pace, it doesn't take the viewer very long to surmise that all the missing women are now encased in wax -- or whatever the hell that is Wahl injects them with to turn them into stone. The scene where he's posing and prepping Orfei's body, with the sound of her bones cracking as he breaks them out of rigor while moving them around, is the most disturbing scene in the whole dang film. So we know the what right away, but then the film takes its own sweet time showing us the how and the why. And I'll admit that I was encouraging the film to hurry up in a few spots, but the tedium doesn't last too long as the film starts to unravel the mystery, plot wise, right about the time Arnam cracks up after his acid trip. After that, the film abruptly switches gears from overtly expressionistic Gothicism -- where sex and death are erotically intertwined -- to full bore, hold onto your seats, completely unadulterated, maniacal mad scientist on the loose melodrama, where damsels are menaced while the heroes try to piece it all together -- hopefully in time to save them.

Released the same year as Mario Bava's seminal Black Sunday, and while that was a moody tale of stark black and white, Mill of the Stone Women was shot in Technicolor -- but not really. Let me explain this the best I can: the colors are very muted and subdued, punctuated with bright colors scattered around the foreground, drawing the viewer's eye all over the place. Take a look at the screen cap of Raab holding the dismembered head and you'll kind of see what I'm getting at. Ferroni uses this to great effect; dreamlike or nightmare, depending on the situation, adding to the films delirium as we really can't focus our attention on just one place. When it was originally released, due to some print problems, where all the color was washed out, and compounded by one hideous dub job, the film slipped into obscurity after it's initial theatrical run, where it had been wallowing ever since. But it's finally back in one piece thanks to the fine folks over at Mondo Macabro. With a new dub, and -- thank you jeebus -- optional subtitles, the restored colors are crisp and clear so we can really appreciate what Ferroni was trying to accomplish, and Mill of the Stone Women should take its rightful place of honor as one the prime examples of the horror film renaissance of the late '50s and early '60s.

Roger Corman's Poe cycle, which also debuted the same year with The House of Usher, received a lot of accolades for its similar production design, use of color and art direction -- but a bigger nod needs to go to scriptwriter Richard Matheson, production designer Danny Haller and star Vincent Price. Mill of the Stone Women is definitely in the same vein -- only a lot screwier, thanks the antics of Dr. Wahl and Dr. Bolem. And that's probably why I like Mill of the Stone Women better than Corman's Poe films. Despite Vincent Price, they're almost too gothic for their own good. (I have the same hang-up with Hammer horror.)

Honestly, not everything is explained away to my satisfaction before Wahl's house of horrors goes up in smoke, but I'm willing to overlook it. And I encourage casual viewers to stick with it -- at least until the abrupt 90-degree turn from glacial gothic-romance to manic maniacal mad-science. You won't be disappointed. Trust me. It's truly a very, very strange and weird and wonderful movie. I don't quite get it, but I likes the movie. I likes it a lot.

Mill of the Stone Women a/k/a Il mulino delle donne di pietra (1960) Galatea Film :: Parade Releasing Organization / P: Giampaolo Bigazzi, Riley Jackson, Robert Patrick / D: Giorgio Ferroni / W: Remigio Del Grosso, Giorgio Ferroni, Ugo Liberatore, Giorgio Stegani, Pieter van Weigen (Short Story) / C: Pier Ludovico Pavoni / E: Antonietta Zita / M: Carlo Innocenzi / S: Pierre Brice, Scilla Gabel, Dany Carrel, Herbert A.E. Böhme, Wolfgang Preiss, Liana Orfei, Marco Guglielmi
Originally Posted: 03/25/05 :: Rehashed: 05/14/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.

How our Rating System works. Our Philosophy.