Story: Duke Lionello (Mark Damon) has always been an unstable presence, but after a severe mental breakdown and a murdered prostitute, concerns over his condition rise higher than ever. His sister Duchess Barbara (Claudia Gravy) travels to move into the family castle, closer to her brother and more able to monitor his eccentricities. Barbara and her husband Giordano (Aldo Bufi Landi) soon arrive and despite good intentions, the tension is immediate. Giordano finds himself the target of Lionello’s wrath, regardless of what he does or says. As things become more tense, Lionello decides to take action and delves into the family’s occult history, but what does he have planned for Barbara and Giordano?
Entertainment Value: This one does indeed provide some of the sleaze you’d expect from such a salacious title, but Byleth is more of a slow, serious period piece than a wild horror picture. The narrative is well crafted and while it plays out at a slower pace than I’d like, tells a solid story and allows for some scandalous moments. The pace is an issue, but Byleth has more to offer than just bursts of sleaze, as it also has some good period production design elements in place. I don’t know that costumes or set design will interest a lot of folks with this specific release, but I found the production values to be better than expected. I think the production design combines with the soft-ish visual approach to create some good atmosphere, which helps the movie a lot. At the same time, I can see how some genre fans will find this overly slow or lacking in sufficient chaos, so it is one that likely won’t appeal to everyone. But if you appreciate artistic sleaze and incestual demons, Byleth is recommended.
As I stated above, this movie does deliver some sleaze and while the incest demons aren’t as wild as we might want, it is a comfort to have some scenes of debauchery on hand. The film boasts a handful (no pun intended) of topless scenes and several that involve full frontal, with the 70s giving us epic bush to boot. The sex is by no means graphic or shocking, but some sleaze is always welcome and as a special bonus, the movie does give us some horse stable fornication. Not much on the violence end of the scale however, just some light blood outside of some outlandish crimson smears at one point. But Byleth never posits itself as a gore festival, so the lack of bloodshed isn’t much of a worry. The dialogue is fine as far as narrative advancement, but no real dazzling lines or outrageous exchanges come up, which was a surprise. And while the craziness isn’t dialed up that much, we do have a possesed rapier, some super wild eye makeup, and of course, a gentleman’s sword duel.
Overall Insanity: 3/10
The Disc: Severin Films unleashes Byleth in a new 2k scan and while a pre-credit scroll warns us of less than ideal source materials, the movie looks better than expected. The first stretch of the picture has some print damage and debris, but it soon clears up a lot and the bulk of Byleth looks more than solid. I found detail to be good and no digital woes surface, while colors and contrast are on the mark. So while Byleth might be an obscure release with flawed elements, Severin has done some terrific work here. The audio options offer Italian and German soundtracks, with English subtitles provided, of course.