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How does a nice British girl out of Liverpool wind up as the figurehead of Italian horror cinema?

One of thousands of feckless art school attendees during the beatnik era that both preceded and prefigured the sweeping cultural change of the British Invasion and subsequent hippie movement, Barbara Steele’s striking, yet severe looks landed her roles in several classic Italian films, even catching the eye of Federico Fellini himself while creating an all too brief series of gothic horror efforts that all but define the genre.

Working alongside the now-much feted likes of Mario Bava, Riccardo Freda, Antonio Margheriti and Sergio Corbucci, Steele all but personified the Italian malafeminina, the most deadly of femme fatales: because in the right hands, the Steele anti-heroine embodied the inescapable allure of the thanateros, the morbid obsession, even passion and longing for the dissolution into the other, most pointedly in the finality of death.

Parlaying her Italian fame into roles for Roger Corman, Michael Reeves, Vernon Sewell, Joe Dante and David Cronenberg (not to mention an abortive starring role against none other than Elvis Presley!), Steele would find work in horror and cult cinema throughout the 60’s and 70’s, eventually settling into a role as coproducer (and occasional onscreen presence) for the inimitable Dan Curtis, even landing a production gig on (of all things) Queer Eye…

Join us as we wend our way through the funereal gothicism and necrophilic allure of Barbara Steele, only here on Weird Scenes!

Week 46:
The Icy Eyes of Death – the films of Barbara Steele