Monday, November 20, 2006

Samson Vs The Vampire Women – review

Manchester Morgue Cover

Director: Alfonso Corona Blake

Release Date: 1962

Contains spoilers

Wrestling is big in Mexico and it must have been logical to introduce their masked wrestling stars as leads in movies. This one stars Santo as himself, called Samson for American audiences, a silver masked avenger for the powers of good. The version I watched was the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (MST3K) version where our hosts (Mike and a couple of robots) sit through the film and make comments over the soundtrack. It’s got to be said that the film itself is absolute cheese, I could imagine sitting through it and laughing but the comments through the film really made watching a joy and laugh out loud funny at moments. The MST3K version was downloaded from The Manchester Morgue, so many thanks to them for making it available.

The film begins in a deserted mansion. Tandra's decayed eyesWe see a picture of Rebecca and then a corroded vampire woman awaken, we later discover her to be Tandra (Ofelia Montesco) the vampire priestess. She prays to her mistress Thorina, queen of the vampires (Lorena Velázquez), and we get some back story during this. The vampires have been dormant for two hundred years, ever since Rebecca - who was meant to be the new queen of the vampires - escaped. It seems that Thorina is to retire and go to her husband, who we only see in shadow and is obviously the devil, and needs a replacement. That replacement was meant to be Rebecca and her replacement will now be her descendant, Diana (María Duval) - a woman with a rather tell-tale bat birth mark on her shoulder. It’s all prophecy, you know – of course it is!

reborn vampire slaveTandra goes upstairs and revives three male vampire slaves and regains her beauty so she can go into the night and hunt. They end up at Diana’s father’s house, one Professor Orlof (Augusto Benedico). Diana is playing piano for him and her fiancé Jorge (Xavier Loya). A bit of eye-mojo through the window and Diana starts acting oddly, she walks to the window but nothing is there. The Professor says it is anxiety; they are having a masquerade ball the next night to celebrate Diana’s twenty first birthday and her engagement to Jorge. In truth he fears for his daughter as he has translated scrolls with the prophecy concerning her fate. Strange that he could translate that but not the bit that says where the vampires’ hideout is located until the very end of the film!

Jorge leaves and police Inspector Carlos (Jaime Fernández) arrives. Orlof has summoned him because he fears for his daughter but he won’t tell the inspector why – well you wouldn’t, would you. Carlos arranges for extra security at the party. Tandra attacksMeanwhile the vampires have attacked a couple outside a nightclub. A cop arrives, draws his gun, but after some eye-mojo and he drops it and the vampires escape as bats. The poor cop is in the morgue with the inspector. They are looking at a body, which has fang marks and has been exsanguinated. Suddenly the cop puts two and two together (punctures, drained body and bat) and mentions vampires – he gets himself locked away for a week’s detention for his trouble!

The queen of the vampiresA victim is manacled in the mansion. In the basement the vampire women help the decayed Thorina out of her coffin and into her throne. Tandra takes a chalice upstairs. There is a bit of ritual jiggery pokery, and just to mention that whenever she does something ritualistic in that room light streams through a window – it looks like sunlight but I’m guessing it was meant to be moonlight or something occulty. Then she bites the victim and fills the chalice. The victim is tossed in a convenient fire by the vampire slaves.

Lorena Velázquez as ThorinaTandra takes the chalice to her mistress and the blood makes the vampire queen appear young and undecayed again. The chalice is then passed around the other vampires and soon we have a bevy of beautiful vampire women in the cellar.

Of course there is one player we have not yet met, Samson. The professor meets SamsonHe goes to see the Professor and the professor asks him to guard his daughter. Orlof has been more forthcoming with what is happening to the wrestler and has even found a passage about a silver masked warrior who could save the day.

Some of the concepts in the film go from the sublime to the ridiculous. We have a police inspector who, after the first kidnap attempt, believes in vampires (and thus releases the unfortunate cop he hearly video phone!ad locked up earlier) so comes up with the plan of staking out the nightclub, where attacks have occurred, with Diana with him as she’ll be safer there. We have a Professor who contacts Samson by video phone – oddly sci-fi and very out of place. Another odd moment was when Diana mentions her birthmark and asks why it is shaped like a vampire – odd because it is bat shaped, why she would assume a bat is a vampire was beyond my ken.

evil wrestler unmaskedEven more strange was the attempt by the vampires to take Samson out by replacing his opponent in a wrestling match with one of their own. This is foiled when Samson pulls off his mask to reveal a wolfen face, causing the crowd to panic and the police to rush the vampire. I guess there had to be a wrestling match scene.

The film does contain some interesting ideas as well, however (or at least one!). The vampires cast reflections but the mirror shows their true, decayed faces. I liked that. As for the vampires they more or less conform to standard type in most other ways. They drink blood (and the bite scenes, whilst not explicit, look really quite good), they cannot face sunlight and they can turn into bats (pathetic looking bats again, it seems very few people in the film industry could ever get a bat right). Fire is effectiveTheir eye-mojo is rather effective - from summoning victims and hypnotising butlers to shattering mirrors. They burst into flames when faced with a cross (which was perhaps a little extreme and not exploited by the heroes of the piece) and fire seems rather effective against them generally.

The acting is awful, the dialogue rubbish but it doesn’t seem to matter. The film is hilarious, if not intentionally, though one could never call it good cinema. As I said at the head, the comedy factor is improved by the comments from the MST3K hosts – the comment during a fight sequence regarding the “Flying Nosferatu Brothers” springs to mind as a fine example.

The film could only really get a low mark, 2 out of 10 is perhaps high but bolstered by the fact that I laughed so much when I watched the movie. Do, however, search out the MST3K version and then crack a few beers and prepare to be amused.

The imdb page is here.


Chris said...

Nice review, it's good to see someone getting some good use out of one of my uploads. I recommend the Beast of Yucca Flats episode, if you haven't already checked it out. No vampires, but hilarious no less. You can't go wrong with Tor Johnson...or can you?

Cool site you've got here, mind if I link to yours on mine?

Chris said...

Crap, I just noticed I spelled it Sampson on one of the quotes. Curses!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Chris, of course you can link - its most appreciated.

I will try and check out the "Beast" soon.

As for "Sampson" - I did it myself a couple of times and had to sweep through and edit lol.

BTW love the Manchester Morgue.