Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bloody Vampire - review


Directed by: Miguel Morayta

Release Date: 1962

Contains spoilers

From what I can gather there seems to be some confusion surrounding this Mexican film and Invasion of the Vampires (1963). Depending on what you read it is sometimes intimated that this is a sequel to the later film. From what I have been able to ascertain the films were shot back to back, with Invasion of the Vampires being shot first but, as the sequel, being released second. This film contains comments about an unusual method of vampire destruction that is not used, the method is employed – I have read – in the later film.

The first thing to mention is the wildly unusual music that plays over the opening credits. The best way to describe it is as an industrial piece in the style of Philip Glass and, given the date the film was made, this is both astounding and extraordinary.

Coach sequenceWe see a clock at midnight and a coach. The coach is shot in slow motion and we hear no sound – just the hollow howling of the wind and the sonorous toll of the clock’s bell. It is a beautiful scene, compellingly atmospheric and enhanced by the mist that seems to swirl around the coach. You will notice, from the screenshots, that the film seems somewhat over-exposed. I do not know whether this is the print used for the DVD or whether the original film was over-exposed but, whilst annoying in some sections, in scenes like this it adds an eerie quality that enhances the atmosphere.

Three people walk through the woods; Anna Caligostro (Begoña Palacios), her fiancé Dr. Riccardo Peisser (Raúl Farell) and the man servant Justus (Pancho Córdova). They reach what they are searching for, a hanged man, hoping to find mandragora root. They notice the coach and hide and we hear comments that they too notice that it makes no sound. Once gone they gather the root. They have collected the root for Anna’s father the Count Cagliostro (Antonio Raxel) who wants it for one certain acid (Clammic Acid) that can be harvested from it. Unfortunately it is the wrong variety of mandragora. The four, later in Count C’s lab, seem to be conspiring. Body snatching is discussed.

The passenger of the coach, Count Frankenhausen (Carlos Agosti), alights at his destination. effective eye mojoThe coach, which we now discover was driven by a skeleton, fades from view and Frankenhausen, with his servant Frau Hildegarde (Bertha Moss), are left with a case. The case is taken to a cave and the Count F does some eye mojo – which is really well done as there is not only a strip of light over the eyes but the pupils glow – and causes the person in the case to emerge and transfer herself into a casket. He bears fangs and we see bite marks on her neck.

body snatching by the forces of goodWe see Justus indulge in some grave-robbery. The corpse is transferred to the lab of Count C, who is to use it to demonstrate his vampire killing technique. Now here things get a little complex. There are two types of vampire, living and dead. The dangerous ones are the living vampires. These will attack people and drain them, turning them into dead vampires. Dead vampires lie dormant in their caskets and only become dangerous if the living vampire is killed when they awake to spread their contagion. The contagion comes in the form of a substance dubbed vamparina and that may only be neutralised by clammic acid injected, via the machine, straight into the heart. Staking and burning do work, but only clammic acid provides a permanent solution.

The Count’s talk is interrupted by a visitor, Lazaro (Enrique Lucero), who is lackey to a local Countess (Erna Martha Bauman) and friend of Justus. His mistress is ill and so Ricardo goes to tend her. Count F vamps outWhen at her house he discovers that she is the Countess Frankenhausen and is given short shrift by Count F who holds his wife prisoner (and beats Lazaro for calling the doctor). Of course this means that Ricardo misses the part of Count C’s talk that says the only living vampires are the eldest sons of the Frankenhausen family and that the Cagliostro family are their mortal enemies.

Begoña Palacios as AnnaCount C goes on a trip to find the mandragora root and the identity of the nearby family is revealed. Anna decides to pose as a maid in order that they might discover whether the Count F is a vampire and the Count F falls in love with her…

It is all a little convoluted, in truth, and one wonders how the two Counts were unaware of the other’s presence. One also wonders why Count C had to travel to find the correct mandragora root - it is said it only grows where vampires are and there is a vampire living down the road! The film's setting is odd in that much of the time it feels like we are in Europe somewhere and then talk of the Aztecs is made and we realise we are in Mexico.

awful batThe vampire lore is fairly standard. Fangs, blood drinking (on the night of the new moon, for some reason), eye mojo and fear of crosses all play a part. The Count spends his days sleeping in a coffin and can turn into an awfully fake, large, hairy bat. The unusual element is the invention of vamparina and clammic acid – though, as I said, these do not play an active role in this movie – though I believe they are used in the sequel.

The voices are dubbed and the voice-acting is not good. Count F sounds like a pantomime villain, which is a shame as he may have come across as a tortured but ultimately evil villain who wants to turn the world into his willing slaves, and the voice used for Ricardo seems awfully camp and not at all the dashing hero.

Bertha Moss as Frau HildegardeThe main problem with the film is that it is slow. There are lots of lengthy dialogue sequences that are mind-numbing, though perhaps the bad dubbing did not help with this. At 100 minutes, on the DVD I have, it seems a little lengthy and this is some ten minutes shorter than the imdb recorded run time. There is certainly one horrible cut in the film that looks like some of the film had spoilt.

One cannot get over just how thick our heroes are. They have the Cagliostro notes made over generations, they should be aware of what they are getting into and yet they seem so naive it is untrue.

fang marksThese faults are a shame because the film literally drips atmosphere and the coach scene at the beginning is so hauntingly beautiful that it makes the film worth watching.

All in all I cannot give this any more than 3 out of 10, as, despite the beauty of the opening shots and the astoundingly disturbing soundtrack, it is ultimately quite a boring movie. This might score higher if a restored version in Spanish, with subtitles, should surface. Perhaps the film's dialogue would work better with the original actors.

The imdb page is here.


Giovanni Maximiliano Tavares Lanza said...

I really love your vampire reviews, but I have to disagree with this one. Perhaps it is the dubbing, but I watched the original Spanish language version with a pretty good image quality, and I found it to be quite an enertaining little movie.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Giovanni, thanks for the comment and glad you like the reviews. There might be a dubbing issue but, ultimately, the great thing about these films is there is something for everyone. I'm glad you enjoy it - as it proves that point :)