Monday, October 14, 2013

Svatba Upírů – review

Directed by: Jaroslav Soukup

Release date: 1993

Contains spoilers

I had been left a comment on my review of Czech film Upír Z Feratu by Stuart Hample letting me know about Svatba Upírů – also known as the Vampire Wedding. At the time I found some subtitles online but could not track down the film (though I believe it has had a Czech DVD release).

A Czech friend of mine finally got me together with the film (the version I saw is from a TV broadcast I believe). I have to say that the fan made subtitles are rough and quite literal in places. As the film is somewhat of a comedy this is a little problematic but I have taken that into account. Indeed the comedy element (and the feel of the film generally) seemed to be comparable to the Fearless Vampire Killers - indeed at one point other vampires in the Carpathians are mentioned, as is their leader, one Count Polanski. This fits in with Stuart’s comment, which mentioned Polanski’s opus. The film is said to be based on the works of Sheridan Le Fanu but this is at a very vague level.

Rudolf Hrusinský as Richard Bancroft
The film begins with a carriage. The passengers are Richard Bancroft (Rudolf Hrusinský) and his Uncle Archibald (Petr Nározný). They are English traders and are travelling to Prague. Richard is a young romantic who believes the trip will be full of adventure. The howling of wolves excites him, his uncle is dismissive, preferring to sleep. When they get to an inn the stables are on fire. Richard pours water over his head and runs into the blaze to free the horses. Inside he sees a woman, Olivie (Iveta Bartosová), and runs to rescue her – she ends up pulling him out of the blaze and as the unconscious Englishman comes round he falls in love. However she is the companion to the Count Kronberg (Viktor Preiss).

Olivie and Count Kronberg
Richard reads guidebooks for chivalry and, that night, finds it difficult to sleep. He walks outside and meets Olivie but becomes tongue tied. In the morning he steals some of his Uncle’s perfume, which it is said no woman can resist (Uncle is, as we see as the film progresses, a bit of a letch), and tried to find Olivie but her rooms are empty. Archibald meets a Col. Degendorf (Petr Pelzer) who is also travelling to Prague on a sad, personal mission. That night a drunk man picks a sword fight with Count Kronberg. The Count toys with him until the man pulls a pistol. Richard intervenes. The Count thanks him before he and Olivie ride off in a carriage, but she drops her handkerchief out of the window for Richard.

masquerade ball
Once in Prague Richard pines over Olivie. He spots the Count’s servant and follows him to the Count’s residence. He tries to gain an audience but fails – he does meet one lady residing there, though, who will become the source of some of the farcical bedroom humour later. When he gets back to the hotel there has been an invite from the Count to attend a masquerade ball, which Richard and Archibald do. As they wait to gain entrance the Colonel tries to push his way in. It is his association with the two Englishmen that gains him entrance. He is looking for his son.

bite marks
Of course it will come as no surprise that the Count and most of his entourage (including Olivie and the Colonel’s son) are vampires. Richard and Archibald find themselves kicked out of the hotel they are staying in (due to ‘double booking’) and moved to a “haunted” guest house that the Count uses as a hunting ground. From Richard’s new window you can see the Count’s residence and a graveyard lying between. Olivie and Richard fall in love and the resultant bites on his neck draw the Doctor Hermann (Ludek Kopriva) into the tale.

shot in coffin
In a nice sequence the Colonel has a coffin exhumed and in it is his son. He shoots him through the heart with a silver bullet and this causes him to convulse. The lid is put back on the coffin and sat on as the coffin rocks. When it quietens down the lid is opened and a white dove flies out. This represents the freed soul and the vampire’s corpse has gone. Later we see plenty of doves flying around but certain vampires have no souls.

biting a foot
The vampires do not reflect and must return to their coffins at cock-crow. What happens if they are caught in the sun is not explained in dialogue – certainly when the coffin belonging to the Colonel’s son is opened he does not seem affected by the sun. He can move but, as we see later in film, the movement is perfunctory, with a vampire moving to simply close the coffin lid. However we learn later that the vampires are impervious to bullet and stake at night and only vulnerable during the day.

smoking cross
Garlic does not affect vampires – indeed the Count rather likes it – but crosses burn when touched. A priest’s blessing would make a vampire pass out. We meet one dowager vampire (Nelly Gaierová) whose teeth are false and kept in water. The vampires cast no reflection in a mirror and that is about all the lore.

vampire dentures
The film itself looks lovely – though a little washed out on the version I saw, I assume that was a sourcing issue – and as I said earlier the film shares the atmosphere found in Polanski’s Fearless Vampire Killers. The acting seemed good for what the film was – which was much more a romantic comedy in period dress than a horror film. Nothing wrong with that though, so long as you know what you are getting. The humour is gentle, however, and I assume that there were language jokes that the too literal subtitles lost. I would like to see this getting an international release, restored with good subtitles – I think it would be a genre staple if it had such a distribution. There are images within the film – such as the smoking cross or the exhumation scene – that are classic vampire cinema.

Very much worth hunting down, however. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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