Friday, March 02, 2007

The Vampires Night Orgy - review

dvd

Directed by: León Klimovsky

Release date: 1972 (imdb lists as 1973)

Contains spoilers

This is pure euro-horror and one might be forgiven, due to the title, for wondering whether this falls under the sexploitation banner – it doesn’t. There is the merest touch of nudity but this is horror, with some quite disturbing concepts that are endangered by, amongst over issues, a bizarre soundtrack that can be best described as psychedelic jazz meets "bad 1970’s porn soundtrack". In some respects the soundtrack is so weird that it is great but soundtracks are vitally important to mood and atmosphere and this is so strange, and at times jolly, that it goes dampen the atmosphere.

Be that as it may, the beginning shows a scene of a funeral. As the coffin is lowered into the grave it falls, breaking open. The mourners run as we see a blackened, steaming corpse filled with worms and maggots.

A bus makes its way through the Spanish countryside. All the passengers have been hired to work at an estate in a variety of jobs from gardener to tutor and the agency who has hired them has arranged the transportation. They are 110 km from their destination, Bujoli, when the bus driver (L Villena) has a heart attack and dies. They manage to stop the bus and one of the passengers, Godo (Luis Ciges), takes the little girl, Violet (Sarita Gil), off the bus whilst they deal with the corpse – placing him on the back seat and covering him. Violet goes for an explore and we see the start of a bizarre sub-story.

Fernando E Romero as the mysterious boyViolet meets a little boy (Fernando E Romero) whom she speaks to for a while, until he vanishes. This sub-story continues through much of the film and is generally unexplained. The bus sets off again with one of the passengers, Ernesto (Gaspar 'Indio' González), driving. He sees a sign for a nearby village, Tolnio, and takes a detour in order to find food and rest. The village is deserted and yet the inn seems set for visitors. Another traveller, Luis (Jack Taylor), enters and says that the whole village seems empty. He seems quite taken by Alma (Dyanik Zurakowska).

Indeed Luis and Alma are the hero and heroine of the piece and this is one of the places where the disturbing little ideas can be seen. Luis has a habit of looking through a peep hole and voyeuristically watching Alma getting ready for bed. This is not the normal way to build up the hero of a film. a group of village vampiresThat night, when all are in bed, Ernesto is asleep in the bar when he is woken by a cuckoo clock. He hears something and explores the village. Suddenly he is surrounded by villagers who pounce on him – they are in a village of vampires.

The next day the villagers are around and the mayor, Boris (José Guardiola), explains Fernando Bilbao as The Giantthat the night before they were all at the cemetery for a funeral. There is another one of the disturbing elements here when the villagers try to work out what they will feed the guests. One says that the Countess (Helga Liné) will supply and then we see a villager, credited as The Giant (Fernando Bilbao), approach a blacksmith at the Countess’ command and cut off his leg, which is then served to the travellers.

Boris, Alma and LuisErnesto suddenly reappears looking very grey of the face, though a hangover is assumed, and mentions that he has dealt with the driver's body. This leads to the black humoured little comment by traveller Marcos (Manuel de Blas) about he wouldn’t have cared if they’d eaten the corpse – they probably had. The travellers go to their respective vehicles but both have broken down – suspicious that – and the coach travellers admit they have no money. Not to worry, their bills will be paid by the Countess who also gives them cash.
Helga Liné as the Countess
As more passengers vanish Luis becomes suspicious and tries to find a means of escape for himself and Alma.

The vampires are somewhat different. You might think that they can go around in The Countess' cryptdaylight but the point is clearly made that whilst in Tolnio the sun never shines, it is always overcast. Only the countess is fanged, the villagers are more like revenants and feed in packs. We do not know the villagers’ sleeping arrangements but the countess has a stone coffin in a crypt like basement area. At one point we see Boris drink his ‘special liquor’, having refused any food or standard drink, which clearly looks like bottled blood.

Countess vamps outThere is a great scene when the Countess has would be tutor Cesar (David Aller) recite a monologue for her and then beds him. Post-coital she vamps and bites him. It is only a quick nip, however, and then she throws him over a balcony to a pack of villagers who descend upon him. The villagers out-number the travellers, plus each person killed joins, and thus swells, the ranks of the undead. Why they attacked in such a piecemeal way is not explained, but I’ll go with the flow with regards that. Of course this piecemeal factor lead to the sacrificing of villager’s limbs to feed the victims during their stay and this is, as far as I am aware, a completely unique premise.

The storyline with the little boy is odd and somewhat disturbing. He can clearly be seen by the villagers, though he only seems to appear before Violet and not the other travellers. At one point he takes her to the cemetery and they bury her doll, though he specifically leaves one arm out of the grave, then he vanishes leaving violet locked in the cemetery. When villagers come he returns and hides her, clearly trying to save her, though it is to a disastrous result. Who he was, whether he was a ghost or a vampire, we never know.

The film is dubbed and the dubbing is quite poor. It also leads to Violet’s mother, Raquel (Charo Soriano) having a most amusingly dubbed voice, unfortunately the comedy of it does not fit into what the filmmakers were trying to produce.

a finger in the foodAs I said, the film’s themes are quite disturbing. The cannibalistic meals lead to a cooked finger being served (and covered up by having the innkeeper cut off a finger to make it look like an accident led to the finger being in the meal). Unfortunately the atmosphere never quite builds as one would hope and I suspect that the main culprit is the soundtrack, along with the dubbing, though the direction has some responsibility. The film’s pace fails badly at time. This was most noticeable when Violet and the boy play hide and seek, and Violet’s lack of reaction after she has (accidentally) seen The Giant hack off a man’s arm, during this scene, was unfortunately unbelievable. It has got to be said that, given the subject matter, the film is fairly gore free; in fact it is almost bloodless.

The film ends with a strange (and somewhat incongruous in set-up) little twist and, whilst I expected a twist, it wasn’t what I thought it might be.

attacked by hungry, hungry vampiresThe village of vampires was a great idea and some of the disturbing touches were fantastic. These make this a fairly good piece of Euro-horror that the pacing, soundtrack and dubbing cannot completely ruin. As it is 4 out of 10 reflects the great little touches, despite itself, and I’d love to see this re-scored and in its original language – though that wouldn’t help the moments of poor direction.

The imdb page is here.

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