Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fangs of the Living Dead - review

Director: Amando De Ossorio

Release Date: 1968

Contains spoilers

Fangs of the Living Dead is an exploitation flick from the late 1960s, hailing from Italy and Spain. As such it is dubbed (or at least I hope it is or the voice looping is atrocious!) and thus one of the problems with the film, its overly melodramatic acting, might actually be a problem with respect the voice actors rather than the original cast.

It begins in a Doctors office in Rome when Dr. Pietro Lufuani (Gianni Medici) is summoned to a nearby bar by his fiancée Sylvia (Anita Ekberg). When he gets there, along with their friend Max (Cesar Benet), Sylvia reveals she has a letter from her uncle (Julian Ugarte), the Count Walbrooke. Sylvia was taken by her father from her mother when she was new born. It appears, however, that her mother was a Countess and she has just died, leaving her castle and title to Sylvia. Sylvia states her intention to travel to the castle but she will be back in two weeks for their wedding.

Arriving at the village below the castle she enters a bar where she is served by Bertha (Diana Lorys) who works at the bar with her sister, Freia (Rosanna Yanni). When she announces that she is the new Countess all the locals go silent. Their fear is interrupted by Vladis (Fernando Bilbao), her uncle’s coachman, who hurries her to the castle. At this point I couldn’t help but think bad things regarding the aristocracy, given that she never paid for her beer!

Arriving at the castle she is informed that her uncle would not be available until 10 that night. When he finally appears (see the screen capture) he is the very picture of a 50s/60s Satanist from a bad B movie – wait it is a bad B movie, though he isn't a satanist! He kisses his niece and she notices how cold his skin is. He shows her a picture of her great grandmother, Malenka (also played by Ekberg in flashback scenes), he then tells her that her mother died of melancholy and is in the castle crypt – off then to the crypt.

Now, as they wandered into the crypt I, thought to myself, 'who on earth keeps all those torches and braziers lit?' This is actually a film which answers such questions; it is the Count who keeps the fires alight, in reverence to the dead.

That night Sylvia is awakened as the door to her room opens. In slinks the rather busty brunette Blinka (Adriana Ambesi). She informs Sylvia that her uncle is not what he seems, that he isn’t really her uncle, being over 100 years old, and that he kept her mother a virtual prisoner. She then tries to lull Sylvia to sleep before kissing her neck. Just then the Count bursts in and drags Blinka off. Sylvia searches, hearing screams and finds Blinka chained and being whipped by the count. He turns the woman’s head to Sylvia and shows she has fangs.

Sylvia, of course runs off and she is caught by her uncle who tells her to break her engagement and then reveals the history of Malenka – a brilliant bio-chemist who dabbled in the black arts and perfected necrobiology (hey, I didn't make that up!). For her troubles she was burnt as a witch but not before she had made her second husband a nosferatu – the 'none dead'. The Count is, of course, that second husband.

Pietro receives a letter breaking the engagement and, not being a man to take no as an answer, goes to find Sylvia with Max, a comic relief character, in tow. Turned away from the castle he goes to the inn. He is asked to examine Bertha and says she is anemic. The Count visits her and she dies. When we see her in the coffin her hand twitches and fangs appear. The next day she is buried.

Sylvia escapes the castle, with Blinka’s help, when the Count is distracted from trying to feed Sylvia his blood by Bertha, back from the grave. Sylvia gets to the inn and is reunited with her love, but has been accosted by Bertha as she made her way through the cemetery. Because of this apparent vampiric ressurection Pietro, Max and the local drunken Doctor, Dr. Horbringer (Carlos Casaravilla), stake out the cemetery and see Bertha rise from the grave. During this time Sylvia has been captured.

They head for the castle and Pietro ends up chained in the dungeon whilst Max tries his luck with Blinka. Cue the following exchange, “I am a vampire.” Drawls Blinka “I love exotic women.” Replies Max.

Here everything goes wrong with the movie. So far it has been a low grade, melodramatic piece of euro-horror pantomime about vampires. Okay the reactions of the characters are often unbelievable, their own perceptions turning from belief to disbelief and back again as quick as the eye can blink, but the film has a direction. Suddenly the Count reveals that it is all a scam to have Sylvia locked away as mad, presumably so he will get the estate, having killed her love because she is a "vampire" from a family of "vampires". Bertha’s death was faked and they knew that the drunken Dr. Horbringer would sign the death certificate – the scriptwriters forgetting that it was Pietro who announced her dead.

The Count's exposition over, Sylvia appears and is told to kill and drink from Pietro. Blinka interupts proceedings just as Sylvia is, apparently, going to kill Pietro and a rather long cat fight begins between Blinka and Bertha. The Count is totally distracted by the enthralling sight of these busty maidens fighting and fails to notice as Sylvia frees Pietro and the direction of the film turns around again.

Pietro punches the Count who falls back into a chair; Pietro has a torch, though it is not clear if he actually stakes the Count or if the Count falls onto something. However, the Count dies and crumbles to dust as the painting of Malenka burns.

In a coda to the film, which forgets to mention the fates of Bertha and Blinka, we see Sylvia and Pietro leave the castle, followed by Max. Freia approaches Max and asks him to take her to Rome and he vamps out in broad daylight chasing her, Benny Hill style, out of the castle.

The film could have been an average euro-horror and it is a shame. I previously posted it was truly awful, and was mildly shocked, whilst I re-watched it, that I was quite enjoying it in a B movie kind of way. It is the inability to decide if the film is or isn’t about vampires that spoils the film, the huge swings in direction at the end just kill the film off. Seemingly this was because the producers decided that enough had been filmed three weeks before the seven week filming schedule had ended, still it doesn't make for a good film. For a score I’ll have to give 2.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

1 comment:

Mark said...

I own this film under the title, The Vampire's Niece.

It's just as bad with that name.