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Ray Russell – Unholy Trinity

Posted by demonik on August 4, 2007

Ray Russell – Unholy Trinity (Ballantine, 1971) (originally USA, 1967)

Introduction: “The Haunted Castle: A Confession” – Ray Russell

Sanguinarius
Sardonicus
Sagittarius

Sanguinarius – Confession of Elizabeth Bathory, incarcerated in Castle Csejthe for her part in the torture-murders of several hundred young women. Russell’s treatment of the story is interesting in that he places much of the blame on her husband, Count Ferencz Nadasdy and his mistress Dorottya for leading her into their wicked ways, while the much-maligned Ilona Joo goes to the stake a martyr, admitting to crimes she didn’t commit to save her beloved Elizabeth. The Countess decides to starve herself to death, but before that, she wishes to make a pact with Satan to unleash a curse on her enemies.

Sardonicus – Sir Robert Cargrave, Harley Street specialist, receives an invite from old flame Maud Randall to visit she and her husband at Castle Sardonicus in Bohemia. When he arrives, he finds his former sweetheart much changed, the once carefee and vivacious girl now sad and distant. One look at her pale-to-the-point-of-translucence husband explains the situation: he is disfigured with “Ricus Sardonicus”, his lips permanently pulled apart to display his teeth in perpetual ghastly smile. The affliction was brought on when, as a young man, he dug up his father’s body to attain the winning lottery ticket that was buried with him(!).
Sardonicus first tries to bribe the doctor by promising him a night of passion with Maud if he’ll operate, then threatens to rape her when the disgusted Cargrave refuses. Reluctantly, our hero complies with the madman’s wishes …

Sagittarius – In 1909, the two finest actors in Paris were the classical Sellig and his polar opposite Laval, a monstrous performer at the Grand Guignol. Narrator Earl Terrence Glencannon is intrigued by both, the one handsome and charming, the other every bit as ghastly as the Bluebeard role he has made his own (he doesn’t even use make-up). When Clothilde, a pretty good-time girl on the theatre fringes is found butchered in the manner of a Ripper victim, the terrible secret linking the two actors is gradually revealed. Glencannon theorises that the killer is none other than the son of Mr. Hyde, modelling himself on Gilles de Rais (!).

Russell parodied his excellent gothic novellas, specifically Sardonicus, in Unholy Travesty (The Devil’s Mirror, Sphere, 1980).

Sir Bosley is invited to the castle of the masked Sarcophagus, who claims descent from Frankenstein, Dracula, a werewolf and a mummy. Having revealed his terrible secret, Sarcophagus escorts the drugged guest to the torture chamber. When Sir Bosley comes to, he is greeted by the sight of his childhood sweetheart, Gwendoline Blushmore, lashed to the torture-wheel. Bodice-ripping in its literal sense and featuring a few good lines, but nowhere near as funny as it ought to be.

Other contenders are his incredible vampire story American Gothic (reads like an episode in the lives of the Deliverance oddballs) and black magic classic The Cage:

[/i]The Countess is about to begin an affair with her husband’s right-hand man, who many suspect is the Devil Incarnate. Worried at her husband’s penchant for torture, she demands her fiendish suitor grants her wish: “Make this beauty never fade. Make it withstand the onslaught of time and violence. Make me – no matter what may befall – live forever.”

When the Count discovers her infidelity, true to form, he locks her in his favourite contraption for the night, just as her treacherous lover is advising the enemy army how best to take the castle …

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One Response to “Ray Russell – Unholy Trinity”

  1. Nick (Tintin) said

    Superb site and what a wonderful book! This was actually my older brothers and not to be touched under pain of death….although tickets to Bowie at Hammersmith Odeon or The Who at Charlton Athletic Football ground made his mind wander enough for me to sneak into his room and take a peek…..That cover (and similar faces on the back of the book in hues of blue!) drew me to it and brings back so many memories. I have recently found a copy on eBay………………..The only other books that can evoke such strong memories for me are the Pan Horrors, John Blackburn hardbacks with library stamps, the 2 Thriller/Brian Clemens tv tie-ins and a Sphere p/b called Porject Dracula by Alan Scott. Good work fellas – i’m off for a Lord Toffingham………………

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