Thursday, February 27, 2014

El Pueblo Fantasma – review

Director: Alfredo B. Crevenna

Release Date: 1965

Contains spoilers

Mexican vampire movies can be great fun and this one had an advantage being, also, part of the rare breed of Western vampire movies. It was a shame, therefore, that it was a bit flat, however, as we will see it had some of the greatest comedy fangs in any vampire movie.

It starts in a saloon bar. A drunken gunman known as the Rapid is mouthing off and none of the customers dare say anything against him. Salvation comes when a gunman in black enters the bar and calls the Rapid a filthy animal. He is the Rio Kid (Fernando Luján) and he is happy to kill murderers. After he leaves, one old boy says it is years since he’s seen him, he is older than he looks, but he is always fast.

Fernando Luján as the Rio Kid
A mariachi band sing a song about the outlaw Manuel Saldívar, this annoys his son Manuel Saldívar Jr (Rodolfo de Anda, Santo Vs the She-Wolves) who beats the musicians up. Manuel has never met his father but being his son is a dishonour. He has decided to go to San Jose to find the Rio Kid as the gunman knew his father and may be able to tell him whether he was as bad as folklore says. It is also said that the bodies of those the Rio Kid shoots vanish and this intrigues Manuel.

Rodolfo de Anda as Manuel
Out in the desert Manuel is camping when an old man, Néstor (Carlos López Moctezuma, The Curse of the Crying Woman), stumbles towards the camp. He asks for water and then food. Néstor has just got out of jail after ten years, but he was innocent – he was jailed for a crime committed by his erstwhile best friend the Rio Kid. He is headed back to San Jose to see his wife Amilia (Celia Manzano) and daughter Marta (Elsa Cárdenas). He also wants to avenge himself on the Rio Kid.

Elsa Cárdenas as Marta
They travel together, Manuel calling himself Texan so as to hide his shameful name. When they get to San Jose they discover it is virtually a ghost town. Very few of the locals remain – and the town is said to be cursed. Manuel stays with Néstor and there is a sub-story about Marta falling for him and the unrequited love for her from the sheriff’s son Roberto. When they arrive the kid is not in town but soon outlaws are there to challenge him and he shows up.

Of course the Kid is our vampire. He isn’t necessarily that fast on the draw but he is impervious to damage from his enemies bullets. He feeds from their dead bodies, it seems, and Manuel later works out that it is the blood of these gunmen that gives him his skill with a pistol. He also decides he wants a young singer and she becomes his slave (you are my owner, she says). He bites her and so Manuel stakes her. He goes for the kid with silver bullets from a melted down amulet of Saint Mary.

check the fangs
The Kid sleeps in a grave during the day and can turn into a bat (we only see the shadow of the bat and hear it flapping). His fangs are ridiculous, there is no other suitable term for them. The film has an obligatory comedy character (the barber) who isn’t that funny and a mariachi band that gurn as they play. Generally the film is okay but doesn’t stray into really funny, unfortunately. It is played (bar the comedy characters) completely straight and focuses on revenge and honour as its two main themes.

Not the best, or the most unintentionally funny, Mexican vampire film. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Spanish language DVD

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