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Mill of the Stone Women (1960) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • In 19th century Holland, a professor of fine arts and an unlicensed surgeon run a secret lab where the professor's ill daughter receives blood-transfusions from kidnapped female victims who posthumously become macabre art.

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  • Hans arrives in a town near Amsterdam to write a story on the reclusive sculptor, Professor Val, who lives on an island in the old mill house the locals call the Mill of the Stone Women. Hans meets the professor's beautiful and seductive daughter, and begins feeling passion for her despite his true love for Lisa Lotta. Slowly he becomes aware of the nefarious experiments being conducted by Val and his furtive assistant Dr. Boles, and local women continue to disappear.


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The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • Hans von Arnam [Pierre Brice] has just arrived by barge to Veeze, a small town not far from Amsterdam. It is Hans' intention to collect information about the Mill of the Stone Women, as it is known to the locals, and about the current owner, professor and sculptor Gregorius Wahl [Robert Boehme], whose great grandfather created the windmill and its eerie stone sculptures one hundred years ago. While waiting for the housekeeper to summon the professor, Hans notices a beautiful but sad-faced woman looking at him from behind a curtain. Before he can say or do anything, he is directed by the housekeeper to wait in the Professor's study. The housekeeper locks Hans in the study, but he cannot miss the wails coming from behind the curtains. Alone in the study, Hans has a chance to see the many stone sculptures in various stages of preparation. He also comes upon a drawing of the young woman he just saw behind the curtain. It is signed "Elfi, 1912."

    Suddenly, a grinding sound in the next room attracts Hans' attention. Curtains open to reveal a moving carousel featuring a diorama of women from history. A sculpture of Joan of Arc tied to a stake passes by, followed by Cleopatra holding an asp. Just as suddenly as it began, the carousel stops as the professor enters the room. He seems a bit taken aback that Hans has arrived earlier than expected but gives him a pile of documents and a room on the second floor where he can work in peace. He also warns Hans that he must complete his studies in six days.

    The next day, while Hans works hard on his research, his friends Liselotte [Dany Carrel] and Raab [Marco Guglielmi], both students at the Academy of Fine Arts where Wahl teaches drawing and sculpture, are discussing how Hans showing up is causing Liselotte to feel distracted, as she and Hans were childhood friends. Raab is distracted himself...by the girl posing as today's model. Unfortunately, Annelore [Liana Orfei] has just taken a job as a singer in Paris, so there is no hope for Raab. Later that evening, Hans meets Raab and Liselotte at a nearby tavern. Liselotte is hoping to rekindle something with Hans, until Hans asks Raab about the professor's daughter, Elfi. Liselotte can see the interest in Hans' eyes and walks away.

    The next day, Elfi [Scilla Gabel] comes to see Hans. She begs him to help her and gives him a key to her bedroom with instructions to meet her there at 11 PM. At 10:30, Elfi calls it a day and goes up to bed. She is accompanied by her doctor, Loren Bolem [Wolfgang Preiss], who compliments her on her passionate piano-playing and wishes she felt such passion for him, but Elfi wants nothing to do with the doctor, even when he reminds her that he's the only one who knows her secret. At 11, Hans enters Elfi's bedroom as planned, only to find her sleeping soundly, almost as though in death. When he arouses her, Elfi confesses that she was dreaming of him, and she offers herself to Hans right then and there. Hans doesn't resist.

    On Sunday, there is a scheduled public showing of the carousel. As the villagers arrive, Hans is informed that he has two visitors, too. It is Raab and Liselotte. While Raab watches the performance, Hans and Liselotte hang back in order to express their love for each other. Unbeknown to Hans, Elfi is standing on the balcony and overhears everything. Elfi leaves a note on Hans' desk that says "I must see you tonight without fail. No one will be here. You must explain everything, otherwise..." When Liselotte faints at the sight of the macabre carousel, Raab takes her home. The professor calls Hans to his office and tries to warn him about his daughter's delicate medical condition. She must not be subjected to any strong emotions or her life could be in danger. The warning is pretty clear...Hans is not to mess with Elfi.

    That night, Hans meets Elfi as she requested. Elfi swears her love for Hans but is devastated when he tells her that he doesn't love her and that their night together was a mistake. She begs him to take her away with him, but Hans refuses. Elfi grabs a knife and threatens to kill him, but Hans turns away and heads for the door. Suddenly, Elfi gasps for a breath and falls to the floor. Not knowing what to do, Hans carries Elfi to her bedroom and lays her atop her bed. Hans notices a mirror on her bed and holds it in front of her face. When he sees no condensation on the mirror, he backs away in horror. Elfi is dead! Hans runs away.

    Some days later, Hans returns to the mill to confess all to the professor. Wahl is extremely angry and holds Hans responsible for Elfi's murder. He informs Hans that Elfi has already been buried in the Veeze cemetery, but Hans is confused when he finds a fresh rose on his desk. Who could have put it there if Elfi is dead? Seeing the state that Hans is in, Dr Bolem gives him two tranquilizers that cause Hans to pass out. He awakens to a dream (or hallucination?) of Elfi rising from her bed. He hears the piano playing, but the door into the parlor is locked. He roams the mill, sees Elfi laid out in her coffin, hears screams and sees a girl tied to a chair. Hans is finally confronted by Dr Bolem and Professor Wahl, who cannot understand what Hans is going on about. Suddenly, Elfi comes down the stairs, having been awaken by all the shouting. Hans is speechless, and Wahl arranges for him to be taken by carriage back to town.

    Now the truth comes out. Bolem and Wahl are trying to confuse Hans, to make him believe he's had an episode of madness. Unfortunately, all the excitement causes Elfi to have another attack. While the doctor prepares Elfi, the professor fetches the tied up girl (Annelore). The "treatment" involves drawing off all of Elfi's "bad blood" and replacing it with blood from Annelore along with a special serum developed by Bolem. As Elfi revives, Annelore dies. Meanwhile, Hans is being taken care of by Raab and Liselotte. His doctor believes Hans has suffered a nervous breakdown. Hans is already feeling better and tells Liselotte that he's going to go to Danzen, their home town, in order to ask Liselotte's parents for permission to marry her.

    Back at the mill, Wahl is mummifying Annelore's body in preparation for creating another statue for his macabre carousel. Bolem is performing some tests on a sample of blood taken from Liselotte on the day she fainted at the mill. Liselotte's blood type proves to be an exact match to Elfi's, he tells Wahl, and transfusing Liselotte's blood into Elfi will result in a total cure for Elfi's condition. Wahl can't wait and readies the laboratory so that the transfusion can be performed as soon as possible.

    When Hans returns from Danzen, he learns from the landlord that Liselotte has been missing for the past 24 hours. In her room, Hans finds her purse with her money and papers still in it. On her dresser, he sees a photo of Liselotte with Annelore and recognizes Annelore as the girl he saw tied to a chair at the mill. It wasn't a dream. It wasn't an hallucination. It really happened. Looking for proof before going back to the mill, Hans and Raab visit Elfi's grave and find it empty. Near the tomb is a wax dummy of Elfi. Now certain that Hans wasn't dreaming, hallucinating, or nuts, they break into the mill.

    The transfusion is underway in the basement laboratory. Liselotte is ready, and they only have to anesthetize Elfi. A storm is brewing, and the strong winds set the arms of the windmill turning. A new sculpture has been added to the carousel, but the head falls off as the figure passes before Hans and Raab. Raab picks up the head and recognizes it as the mummified head of Annelore. Suddenly, a scream pierces the air. As Raab and Hans struggle to get into the basement, Bolem confronts Wahl with a request for Elfi's hand in marriage, but Wahl refuses.

    Knowing that this will be the last time Elfi will need to be transfused and that Bolem's services are no longer needed, Wahl stabs Bolem in the stomach and gets ready to conduct the transfusion himself. He first removes Elfi's "bad blood." When he looks for the serum to transfuse into Elfi along with Liselotte's blood, he cannot find it. He finally thinks to look in Bolem's pocket, where he finds the syringe...broken in Bolem's fall to the floor. With Elfi drained of blood and no hope of reviving her, Wahl sets the lab burning, grabs Elfi's body, and rushes upstairs just as Hans and Raab break down the door into the lab. They untie Liselotte and carry her from the burning room. As the fire spreads through the mill, the carousel turns. [Original Synopsis by bj_kuehl.]

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