Sunday, April 25, 2010

Las Vampiras – review

Directed by: Frederico Curiel

Release date: 1969

Contains spoilers

If there is one thing guaranteed to put a big old smile on my face it is the thought of a Mexican wrestling movie with vampires in it. Okay, not a single one I have seen is, shall we say, Oscar material but they all put that grin firmly into place. Whilst my critical faculties may baulk at the unadulterated badness of the films, as a viewer I revel in that very badness and, ultimately, films should be entertaining. When I hear that John Carradine is in the film, badly dubbed into Spanish, my anticipation soars and when I witness an interpretive dance routine in the middle of the thing... well does viewing schlock get any better?

John Carradine has been a vampire...
The film actually begins with Carradine, as himself, introducing the movie. He asks us if we believe in vampires? He suggests that Lucifer is the most powerful of all spirits, able to make any man submit to his will and that vampires are his preferred demons. He actually reads this out of a book and ascribes it all to Edgar Allan Poe (who, to my knowledge, wrote no such thing) and then says that he, Carradine, has been a vampire… He fades from his chair.

wrestling matchMil Máscaras (himself; who would go on to be in Los Vampiros de Coyoacán – which I have on DVD twice but cannot, to date, locate English subtitles for anywhere!) flies himself into town and then heads to a wrestling match. Unusually this is the only actual ring match we see. He is driving to his next match when there is a car crash and bats fly from the other vehicle. He gets to his match but his opponent is missing. Bats fly out of the missing wrestler’s locker room. We later discover that several sportsmen have vanished.

Mil Máscaras
He is with a friend and the police officer Lt. Garfias discussing vampires, Garfias is dismissive. They put the news on and a reporter called Carlos Meyer is being interviewed about the recent crash of a plane from Transylvania Airlines but is cut off by the interviewer when he says he wants to warn the world about vampires. Máscaras asks his aid Alicia to get him some documents from a Professor Sinclair. In these papers he discovers that vampires need mild weather, high humidity and a certain blood type (that later appears to mean human generally)! It seems their natural form is that of the bat and they can transform into human shape (which was a little bizarre).

Mil Máscaras and Carlos Meyer
He decides to search a certain cemetery and nips off to see a cartographer he knows to get a map. A vampire, in the meantime, flies into his home in (really crap) bat form and drains Alicia. The police come but still don’t believe in vampires. Máscaras goes to the cemetery and is about to enter a crypt when Meyer approaches him – they go in together. There is a sealed area that is marked as belonging to Countess Dracula – they knock the wall down and bats fly out.

Marta Romero as Aura
It seems that Countess Dracula, otherwise known as Valeria (María Duval, Samson vs the Vampire Women), has been trapped for some time after her husband was killed by humans. She meets up with Aura (Marta Romero) – who is the big bad vampire in this. You can tell that they are important as their costumes are a richer green than the ordinary vampires. It seems vampires are almost hunted to extinction. The only surviving male vampire, Branos (John Carradine), was injured by a splint of oak in his brain, has lost his powers and is quite mad. She keeps him in a cage. She thinks that one of the two who accidentally freed Valeria could be the chosen one who will become the new king of the vampires.

María Duval as Valeria
Máscaras and Meyer have worked out where the vampires’ hideout should be (a mountain with the same dimensions as the Carpathians!) when Aura and Valeria turn up at Máscaras’ home and spin some line about them and a girlfriend, Carmen, who has vanished and bats that flew away. They think she was attacked by vampires. There was some paper but they left it at the scene. Meyers and Máscaras get in the women's car and are locked in the back (a screen separating them from their kidnappers). I did wonder at how the vampire chicks got this spy film type car but that question quickly melted as I stared at the wonder of Máscaras and Meyer sliding from side to side, into the car doors, until they make the vampires crash. The women fly away in bat form.

All hail the crap bat attack
How will they tackle these fiendish creatures? Máscaras suggests stakes, but Meyer tells him that only works when in human form. Meyer suggests fire and silver bullets are the way forward and it just so happens that his girlfriend, Carmen (Maura Monti), lives with her uncle who has silver bullets. They go there but her uncle is being attacked by bats – the form vampires chose when feeding Máscaras later reveals, though the film seems to disagree with his supposition – he is dead but at least they get their silver bullets.

a vampire slave disintegrates
Before heading off they go back to Máscaras’ place and suddenly they are attacked by a horde of henchmen in bad batman-type henchmen clothes. They fight them off and Meyer and one struggle with a gun, the henchman accidentally shooting himself in the stomach. He dies, disintegrating, whilst the other henchmen run. They are vampire slaves – remember the missing sportsmen. When drained the vampires inject them with a poison that makes them mindless servants of the vampires.

bring on the dancing girls
The vampires, however, have dissension in the ranks. It seems that Branos is not as mad as made out (he acts on it to keep himself safe) and just needs a good feed to get his powers back. Valeria decides that he should be king of the vampires and challenges Aura to Satan’s trial - a method that will decide which of them should be vampire queen. The trial begins with the earlier mentioned interpretive dance routine which Carradine seems to particularly enjoy (if his facial expressions are to be believed).

duel of the vampire women
By the time the trial gets to the meat – a fight between the two vampire women using flaming torches – Máscaras and Meyer have arrived (fallen into an oubliette and faced a spiked ball) and when they are detected it brings the trial to a temporary end and uneasy truce. After all they have to deal with the two would-be vampire hunters and there’s still a good 35 minutes of film to go.

I haven’t mentioned, yet, the eye mojo that seems rather effective in this and the fact that they really must hide from the sun – though sunlight is never used in the movie except to give a convenient escape moment for the heroes. That is about all we get in the way of lore. I also haven’t mentioned the gladiatorial contest – there might not be the multiple ring matches but Máscaras gets to fight in other ways!

Branos goes for the throat
This is rubbish, it’s badly paced, and it has stupid ideas (a mountain in Mexico being identical to the Carpathian range). Yet it is still great fun, we have chicks in leotards dancing, we have a wrestler wearing several designs of mask (Mil Máscaras means a thousand masks and his trademark was to change them), we have John Carradine camping it up to the max, we have the crappiest of bats and we have vampires.

The film only deserves 3.5 out of 10 as a film – but you owe it to yourself to track it down, crack a beer or two (or your beverage of choice) and marvel at it.

The imdb page is here.


christinemanning92 said...

Keeping mad vampire in cage? Sadist! Hm, sounds like this is harmless stupidity with some redeeming qualities.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

that probably hits the nail on the head Christine

Zahir Blue said...

Methinks this might fall into the category "Gloriously bad."

Taliesin_ttlg said...

That is also a fair summation