Claude Marchand (Jean-Pierre Aumont) is a jet-set art critic and photographer. He is sent to Spain to try to do a photo shoot on a famous but rather reclusive blind sculptor, Franz Badulescu (Boris Karloff). Badulescu lives with his wife Tania (Viveca Lindfors) on the Spanish coast in a sort of artist colony village.
Claude meets local artist, Valerie (Rosenda Monteros) and Shanghai (Milo Quesaa), the owner of the local bar. Valerie knows Tania. Shanghai has her take Claude up to Badulescu’s place. Tania allows him to interview her husband. Due to a car accident, that Tania was supposedly responsible for, Badulescu is now blind and has trouble walking. Claude discusses with him a period in his life during the thirties where he used animal skeletons as armatures in some of his sculptures. Claude wants to take pictures of Badulescu and some of his works. Tania agrees to allow him to come back another day.
Badulescu is currently working on a commissioned work. Unknown to anyone, Badulescu is still using skeletons as armatures in his sculptures, even the humans. He believes that Tania is having someone rob graves to get them. In reality she and her mysterious lover are killing people and Tania is dissolving the bodies in acid to clean the flesh from the skeletons.
While Claude is waiting for his next appointment with Badulescu he is working with Shanghai to purchase land in the area. Claude thinks that the area could be a good place to draw tourists. He is also spending more time with Valerie. Eventually Claude and Valerie become attracted to each other and begin to have a relationship.
In the meantime a few people begin to go missing in the village. First a local hunchback that rents umbrellas on the beach. Then a local model named Elga (Dyanik Zurakowska). Claude begins to get suspicious when he accidentally breaks one of Badulescu’s creations and believes the armature being used is not what artists normally use. Oblivious to what his wife is doing, Badulescu still needs another female skeleton to complete his masterpiece. Tania zeros in on Claude’s girlfriend Valerie.
"Cauldron of Blood" AKA “Blind Man’s Bluff” AKA “El Coleccionista de cadavers” or “The Corpse Collector” was shot in 1967 but not released until 1970. Directed by Edward Mann and Santos Alcocer, it is an American Spanish independent horror thriller with some giallo tones. The movie was filmed in Spain.
It takes most of the movie to figure out what is going on. Until then it’s boring as hell. There are some obvious red herrings, including a rape that has nothing to do with the story. A lot of the visuals are of strange trippy free spirits and loud drunken parties. At one point Tania has a nightmare with strange images of sadistic whippings which I think represented a scene from her childhood but the actual meaning is a little difficult to interpret. It half explains her overbearing Elsa of the SS personality. The dream then morphs into images of Badulescu’s face melting. I’m not sure what that meant.
All of these weird images make the movie bizarre but not exactly interesting. I found all the symbolism and stylized atmosphere more confusing than entertaining. It’s like someone decided to add different plot points but didn’t link them very cohesively. The end portion of the movie picks up and has some action but it takes a long time to get there.
Karloff’s role in the film is small and he spends most of his time just sitting and criticizing everything. He is not used to his full potential, which is another point against the film.