Thursday, February 19, 2009

Invasion of the Vampires – review

posterDirector: Miguel Morayta

First Released: 1963

Contains spoilers

Depending upon the source you read this is either classed as the prequel to or sequel to Bloody Vampire. Research indicated that this was shot first during a back to back shooting schedule but released second as it was the sequel.

In truth, though it again features the vampire Count Siegfried Von Frankenhausen (Carlos Agosti) it fairly much stands alone. Some of the interesting lore concepts from the earlier released film remain such as that of clammic acid – I’ll explain later – elements such as the victims of vampires rising, as dead vampires, when the main living vampire is killed also remain but connected lore such as the element vamparina has vanished. Importantly the Cagliosto family are not in this film, though it is an agent of theirs who is the main protagonist.

woman haunts the haciendaAfter discordant music over the title plates we hear a howl and see the peasants cower in fear. A man stands watching the gateway to a hacienda, the gateway seems flooded with light and a woman walks out of the light. The man follows the woman, who seems oblivious to him. He stands at the edge of the forest as she disrobes at the edge of a lake (Dead Man’s Lake to be precise) and enters the water. We hear a man’s scream.

the body is foundA buggy stops on the road which is driven by comic relief character Crescencio (Fernando Soto “Mantequilla”) and has the passenger Dr Ulysses Alvaran (Rafael Del Rio). They have stopped for a procession of torch carrying villagers who bear the body of the young man. After they have passed Crescencio tells him that it is always the same on the night of the full moon and that he should go back to the village. Alvaran is determined to go to the Haunted Hacienda and thus goes on alone. As an aside I wonder if the hacienda is called the Haunted Hacienda in the original film or whether that was an edition in the K Gordon Murray dub?

Rafael Del Rio as Dr Ulysses AlvaranHe reaches the hacienda and rings a bell. This summons Frau Hildegarda (Bertha Moss) – to whom he gives a letter of presentation. Despite complaints about the lateness of the hour she takes it to her employer and then lets him in. Alvaran is there to see the Marquis Martez (I think, the dubbing was poor), and the letter was from his old friend Count Cagliostro. He wants Alvaran to set up some experiments in the area – he is a Doctor of alchemy and the occult and an expert on vampires. The Marquis allows him to stay, though Frau Hildegarda protests.

fang marksHe goes to the village and enters the wake for the dead man. A priest (Enrique Garcia Alvarez) prays and, during this he speaks to the dead man's father and the local doctor. It seems that each person has a different theory as to what is killing the young men. The Doctor thinks that mass hysteria is focused upon one of them and makes them have a heart attack. The priest believes it is the work of Satan, but is dismissive of vampires and actively works against the hero through the film due to this. Of course Alvaran believes it is vampires and the bite marks on the corpse’s neck seem to conform this.

a little bit of eye mojoAlvaran also discovers that the Marquis’ daughter, Brunhilde (Erna Martha Bauman), married Count Frankenhausen, and they had a daughter also named Brunhilde (and played by the same actress). One day the Count and Countess went for a walk to Dead Man’s Lake. No one knows what happened but she died, the Count vanished and the daughter has not been seen by the villagers since – they assume she followed her father.

Brunhilde (the Count’s daughter) is actually still with her grandfather, but he keeps her hidden from view, and it is she who walks to the lake – we eventually discover after some meandering. Why? Because the Count (who is a vampire) makes her walk in a hypnotic trance and he picks off the villager as a snack. Including the Countess 23 have died and the priest won’t bury them.

crap bat syndromeThe film is quite messy, but it ends up with Alvaran and Brunhilde in love and him needing to get a certain black mandragora root in order to make clammic acid with which to fight the vampires - Clammic acid being an alchemical concoction that is truly effective against the undead. Frankenhausen has some vague world domination thing going on and Hildegarde is his servant, waiting to be made a vampire. However I mentioned the concept that, such a vampire be killed, all his victims rise – well this is the money shot of the whole film, eventually. First of all we have to note that Alvaran has had all the vampire victim’s staked. He is attacked by Frankenhausen in bat form and this film does contain some of the worst excesses of crap bat syndrome.

the shambling invasionAlvaran manages to throw a metal stake at the bat and pin it to the wall at which point all the victims do rise, stakes still through them. They approach the hacienda and, in many respects, look rather zombie like in their shamble. Loved ones come to the fore to try and lure people outside and it is a wonderfully realised scene, worth wading through the mess of a film for.

You see the biggest problem with this is the over-dub, which may have muddled the story – it is difficult to tell. The film is also not of the best stock (though it was a DVD-r that I purchased). This film desperately needs a good restore, as does Bloody Vampire, and releasing in a double pack, with original soundtrack, English dubs and any cut bits (for Bloody vampire) restored back in. Diemos, Masters of Cinema or Casanegra, I am looking at you.

Alvaran and BrunhildaAs it stands, Invasion of the Vampire is a bit of a mess and woefully paced in places. Other than the rise of the victims I felt it didn’t quite manage to capture the same level of atmosphere as Bloody Vampire, but that scene made up for it. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Steve said...

BCI went out of business, so Deimos is probably out of the question. Too bad, because I was counting on them to release Hunchback of the Morgue. Casanegra is almost certainly out of business, though they haven't taken their site down. I doubt we'll see any more Churobusco/Azteca released on Region 1 DVD. It's been decided that DVD is a dead format now, so no one will finance obscure releases like these any more.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

depressing messages Steve - Deimos and Casanegra did much for the obscure movie buyer.

I can't see how DVD can be a dead format yet - many do not have blue ray or HD and the prices are excessive - for both media and equipment. If the industry pushes towards these formats too quickly all they will do is encourage pirating, imho...

Anyway, for those interested in this film an ebay search should find sellers doing a DVD-r... best available at the mo it seems.

Steve said...

I guess I'm just pessimistic because so many slated releases are seemingly in limbo, now. And retailers around here aren't even stocking DVDs anymore outside of recent big-budget Hollywood crap.

And I forgot to take region 2 into consideration, which I don't have a player for anyway. So... *shrug*

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Steve, there is, I know, the ntsc/pal issues - but certainly mt TV can handle both formats and its a good few years old. Most players are hackable to make multiregion...

However, if this doesn't seem like a solution then the player VLC - for your PC - is free and plays mostly anything (invluding broken files sometimes) and actually ignores region checking on discs.

The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

Speaking of CasaNegra I have El Vampiro/The Vampire's Coffin on dvd (El Vampiro is great) and this movie seems to remind of it somewhat. Are they similar in content?

If DVD is now a 'dead' format, what is it replacement? blu-ray or something else? I don't understand what you mean by 'dead'.

Steve said...

Oh yeah. That VLC player sure has been handy...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Gabriel - these are similar to the el vampiro etc films, in that they are Mexican Gothic but they are not as a high quality as that film (just behind coffin of the vampire which was a lot weaker than el vampiro).

As to dead formats, I think Steve was referring to the difficulty he finds in getting anything other than blockbusters in retailers in his area.

The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

Oh ok - cool - I haven't seen that many Mexican vampire films besides El Vampiro etc.

I just got a flash in my head and have to ask you about a vampire movie - it's German and just got a dvd release - someone mentioned it on a forum I used to frequent - its called JONATHAN I think. Its from 1970 and I've only seen screencaps and from that it looks awesome.

here is the imdb page:

Taliesin_ttlg said...


I have heard of Jonathon but haven't, as of yet., been able to source a copy

The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

you can get it on the German Amazon for 20 Euro - but I hope your German is up to scratch!

There is a trailer for the dvd on that page too.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

ah.. when I say source a copy I mean with Ebglish subs (preferably) or dub as all my non-EEnglish languages are poor to non-existent - to my shame.

The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

Yes I know what you meant but alas I think the only copy available is the german one atm unless there is an avi file with an eng srt file available etc. Who knows if you knew German or not - you Brits have got it lucky with easyjet globetrotting all over the place - Germany is what a 2 hr flight? I have a friend who lives in Essex and she jumps on a plane to Germany and Amsterdam etc for weekends all of the time it makes me sick - Australia is in the middle of nowhere - we have Indonesia and New Zealand as neighbours - whoop-de-doo for horror buffs! it takes like 24hrs to fly to England and that doesnt include the stop over at Singapore - flying to Romania was worse...though I'm coming back this year or next - I want to go to Whitby and other places I failed to visit last time - I easyjetted to Edinburgh but I have my sights on Europe this time :p