Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Upír z Feratu – review

Director: Juraj Herz

Release date: 1982

Contains spoilers

Vampire machines – not as rare as one may think and when you look to those of a motor vehicle nature the obvious film to think of is I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle. The Czech film Upír Z Feratu is nothing like I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle.

Indeed, if I had to liken it to anything it would be more in the realm of Hanno Cambiato Faccio for it seems, to me at least, that it is not so much the car that is the vampire but the corporation behind the car.

Jirí Menzel as Dr Marek
It begins with an ambulance; in it are Dr Marek (Jirí Menzel) and his driver Mima (Dagmar Havlová). Mima is a bit of a speed freak. It does seem that Marek has a soft spot for Mima as he suggests that they go out in a normal car at some point. Interspersed with this we see scenes of Luisa (Jana Brezková) getting into a sports car – the name vampire painted on it. The ambulance and car meet up on the road and some high speed shenanigans take place.

the vampire
Eventually Mima and Marek get to where they think they’re supposed to be. It turns out, however, that the road (which ends in fields) doesn’t have a house number they have been sent to. It’s a hoax call. They turn round and the vampire is there. Luisa gets out of the car. She is complaining of a sore foot and Marek sees it is bruised. Mima checks out the car and suggests that there is something wrong in the accelerator design – Luisa had said it felt like her foot was being sucked into it.

She drives off but, later, the ambulance comes across the vampire turned over. Marek goes to help the woman – she is still alive – but the Ferat team turns up, with a news crew, and push him out of the way and take her to their own private ambulance. Team spokesman Cross (Petr Cepek) makes a news announcement that there is nothing wrong with the car design but Marek interrupts and suggest a flaw with the accelerator – Mima is called over but contradicts the doctor.

Zdenka Procházková as Madame Ferat
All this is watched over and over by the Ferat team – including owner Madame Ferat (Zdenka Procházková). It turns out that Mima had been a rally driver – under Cross’ tutelage – and she is soon seduced into driving for Ferat. In the meantime Marek goes to see Luisa but is told she died. He goes to the morgue and the medical examiner says cause of death was perforation of the spinal cord, though the crash caused her to break and sever her foot in a way that made it appear that the foot had been bitten off. The family had already claimed the corpse.

Jan Schmid as Kaplan
Marek is sought out by a Dr Kaplan (Jan Schmid) who tells him the car has a biomechanical engine that ran off human blood drawn in small quantities from the capillaries in the foot via the accelerator. As things progress he also suggests that a victim of the car would actually become a vampire. Worryingly Marek thinks he has seen Luisa and so, when he breaks into the chapel of rest and finds her coffin empty bar earth he is freaked. More so when Luisa appears behind him until she suggests she is Luisa’s sister Klára and she has had Luisa cremated.

Nina unwell
The stories of Kaplan seem less outrageous as Ferat offer to employ Marek to make an independant examination of the car but then deter him from doing just that, as Mima seems more and more ill and as Klára’s allegedly senile grandmother starts to suggest that Klára died as a child and keeps calling her Luisa.

vampire imagery
All in all, however, this is about the corporation, embodied in Madam ferat, and how it sucks its employees dry, how it manipulates the press and how it cares about nothing but getting its own way. There is a dream sequence in which Marek is eaten by the car engine, through the bonnet, that is effective but as to whether the car is a vampire… you’ll have to consult the film for the answer to that one.

less Shreck more Lee
There is plenty of footage of vampire films shown – one being , allegedly, an early silent film that was based on Dracula. It was apparent, however, that as much as elements were reminiscent of Nosferatu, all the footage was shot for this film and the vampire had more to do with the Lugosi/Lee Dracula performances than the Schreck performance.

This was a fascinating, highly politicised film. It used the vampire as metaphor more than anything else. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


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Stuart Hample said...

Hi from Czech republic! :-) I just want to say two things.

1) You´re right, the "silent vampire film" is fictional - and the vampire on the picture with "less Shreck more Lee" note is actually played by director Juraj Herz himself.:-)

2) You may be interested in another czech vampire film called "Svatba upíru" from 1993, directed by Jaroslav Soukup. Frankly, it´s more comedy than horror (something like Czech answer to Polanski´s The Fearless Vampire Killers), loosely based on a story by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. But it´s certainly full of vampires in their more traditional form than in "Upír z Feratu". :-)

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Stuart many thanks for the comment and the confirmation.

With regards Svatba upíru, I'll certainly keep my eye out. I see it has been released on DVD in Czech so will definitely try to get hold of :) I've actually just got hold of some rough english fan subs for it for when I manage to get it.

One True Thug said...

hello ! can you upload the rough english fan subs ?? i would like to watch this movie !!

Taliesin_ttlg said...