Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pastel de Sangre – review

Directed by: José María Vallés & Francesc Bellmunt*

Release date: 1971

Contains spoilers

*Four directors listed, the directors of the two vampire segments are listed here

Pastel de Sangre (which sounds much better than Blood Pie, the English title) was an anthology film with four segments. The segments Victor Frankenstein and La Danza don’t really concern us here.

The first segment, Tarota or Tarot directed by José María Vallés, was the first vampire section and whilst dreamlike it had a certain something – despite spinning of into surreal realms. It starts with a man running through woodlands. He gets to a river and finds a shallowly buried body but, by then, a group of robed figures get the man and burn him. We are in the year 1000 and the tale seems to be a tarot reading.

the knight and the woman
A knight travelling the lands reaches an abandoned church. Within it is a woman laid out and apparently dead. We hear a cry of a baby, though we don’t see its source. The knight leaves the church and goes to a river to wash and then catches a goose. He then returns to the church where he sees what appears to be a young boy.

He chases after the boy and the boy’s face reveals himself to be older than he seems. The land is decimated by plague but the ‘boy’ comes to the church to keep bees. He and the knight travel together. The ‘boy’ gives his name as Jeremidas and when the knight admits he has forgotten his name Jeremidas names him Isaac, The knight tells of a dream of a man burnt by a mob and that the woman calls him. He sleeps and when he awakens Jeremidas wears a (rather contemporary looking) mask and puts one on his face – he hits Jeremidas and leaves.

slicing chest
He goes back to the church and tells the woman that he knows she’ll wake soon. We hear baby noises again. Once he has gone her toes, with sharp long nails, stretch and we see that there is a baby in the church. The Knight reaches a beach and, shirtless, walks to the woman, who is now there. They embrace and we see she has fangs. Her long fingernails slice his chest… Fin… okay, it is bizarre but has a certain dreamy quality.

profile with fangs
The other vampire tale, Terror entre Cristianos or Terror Amongst the Christians, directed by Francesc Bellmunt, is just as bizarre but not as satisfying. It is set in the time of Nero and a senator, Candido, has converted to Christianity. He is on the run, accompanied by Marco – a former gladiator, it seems, who certainly must have fought in the fat-weight category! They head into purportedly haunted woods where Romans had long since slaughtered Celts. There is a Christian community beyond the woods.

fanged woman
Despite its reputation they sleep in the woods and Marco wanders off! He sees a man hanging and cuts the body down, giving the man a burial. Suddenly he sees a woman who approaches him – her fangs clear to see. There is something here about him setting on fire but, honestly, the video quality was too poor to tell exactly what happened.

blood at mouth
The buried man rises from the grave and approaches Candido. Children stand around and laugh as he approaches the sleeping senator and bites his neck. In the morning Candido awakens and keeps putting his hand over his mouth – so we know what has happened. A roman soldier rides into the woods but the horse throws him when Candido approaches and the senator feeds from his neck. Come the night he seems to implore the hanged vampire for help and is attacked… fin.

Again weird, bizarre but not as lyrical as the first segment.

All in all these are not likely to set most viewers worlds alight (and the Frankenstein segment is even more pointless). More a poetic exploration than narrative story, 2.5 out of 10. The imdb page is here.

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