Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Blood of the Virgins – review

Directed by: Emilio Vieyra

Release date: 1967

Contains Spoilers

Not to be mistaken with The Blood Demon, which was also sometimes called Blood of the Virgins and was produced the same year, this is an Argentinean sexploitation flick by the director who brought us the Curious Doctor Humpp and was actually banned in its home country for seven years due to explicit sex and violence. All told, by today’s standards, it isn’t that bad but there are plenty of boobs to be watched through the film.

It is curious for many reasons – including the twist at the end, which I will spoil due to its unusual substance – and in itself does much right as a vampire movie. It also does a lot wrong unfortunately and the bad outweighs the good. However the prologue is rather nicely done.

Gustavo (Walter Kliche) and Ofelia (Susana Beltran) are in love. Unfortunately her parents want her to marry Eduardo. They have met in the woods and admit they do not want to lose each other. Ofelia goes to her parents to ask them to reconsider (and I must admit that the lodge looked too modern for the period dress) but Gustavo will not even meet them. Eduardo arrives with a portrait he has painted of her – we note the creepy butler.

Ofelia asks Gustavo to meet her parents and he refuses, so she marries Eduardo – though she falters with her vows as Gustavo looks in on the ceremony. That night the newly weds enter the marital bed. We see a seagull on red background (I’ll get to that) and Gustavo enters, fangs apparent. He stabs Eduardo through the neck and then eye mojo’s and bites Ofelia. Later we see a grave, the ground opens up and Gustavo helps the newly undead Ofelia out of her coffin. Cut to some quite spectacular artwork over credits.

It is a great opening and, other than the anachronism of the lodge (which as a building will come into the film again), the most you can say is that it is atmospheric and sucks you in. However there was the seagull… For some reason Vieyra had seagulls, against red, rather than bats (though bats do come into this). It was probably a cost thing but one cannot help think of other Spanish language films. Franco occasionally throws a seagull into his films, Paul Naschy is working on a film, Empusa, where the Empusa* is said to be a “cross between a vampire, a snake and a seagull” and, whilst not vampiric, Night of the Seagulls from the Blind Dead Series has seagulls who are said to be the anguished souls of the maidens who have been sacrificed. One wonders at a deeper cultural meaning to the seagull perhaps lost upon me?

Things then go downhill. We get establishing scenes of a group of young people. We know there is Raúl (Rolo Puente), a man who remains unnamed and the man credited as ‘man of group with beard’ played by Orestes Trucco – who seems to be the, mercifully underused, comedy relief. There are also four girls. Laura (Gloria Prat), Gloria, Beba and another unnamed one. As you can see they are not developed as characters really and the establishing shots are such things as skiing, topless go-go dancing and other activities. These shots seem to go on and on… actually about 7 minutes but it is a good stretch of a 72 minute running time.

Driving through the mountains they suddenly stop, the bearded man has run out of petrol. He knows of an abandoned lodge nearby… Okay, I know this was shot back in 1967, but how many vampires would have starved over the years if it wasn’t for convenient breakdowns near their lair? Anyway they go to the lodge, which seems empty, but then Raúl meets the creepy butler. He shows him a table full of food. Raúl gets the others (eventually, there is some meaningless prating around) and the butler drugs the wine before vanishing.

Raúl points out that there are seven glasses and seven of them… spooky that… until one of the girls breaks a glass (against the portrait of Ofelia) and so Raúl doesn’t get to have a drink. After the meal everyone falls asleep except Raúl. Now, you’d think that he would then be able to save them from menace. Not so, he goes exploring and finds the fanged Ofelia. She sees him as Eduardo for a moment and beds him – no fangs just rumpy. In the meantime Gustavo does some biting of slumbering boobies.

The next day all the girls are missing, though the men are none the worse for their ordeal. They cannot find the girls anywhere so go to the police but it is all somewhat of a mystery. Then, for no good reason (though there was perhaps a ham-fisted intimation that Ofelia let her go) Laura turns up and in shock. Gustavo attends her once as a doctor for reasons that are pointless story wise. Laura babbles in her sleep about blood, and the fact that Beba mustn’t drink it, and her brother Tito flies in from Buenos Aries. Raúl notes the fang marks on the neck, identical to those on Beba's neck when she later turns up (odd, actually, as the only bite we saw was elsewhere). However, in fairness the young people (or swingers as the DVD box refers to them) are actually not that important.

Vampires seem to have an affinity with seagulls, have eye mojo and can stand sunlight. Our main vampiric aspects, however, come at the end of the film and it is here that I spoil the ending and twist. Ofelia hates her life and has asked Raúl, already, to set her free. She calls her turning a betrayal and hates Gustavo for it. When Tito investigates the lodge she beds him (she is a randy little minx) and then sees the ghost of Eduardo. He gives her the knife used to kill him. Telling Tito to stay where he is, she goes to the building where her and Gustavo’s coffins are kept and stabs him – killing him.

She then turns the knife on herself, plunging it through her ample bosom and committing vampiric suicide. Why this couldn’t happen before is beyond me. Presumably any object through the heart would have done – rather than the knife that killed Eduardo. The presence of the swingers does not even seem to act as a catalyst but is just a coincidental event. However, in a coda, the bodies are taken and cremated. The creepy butler sneaks in and opens the furnace allowing two examples of crap bat syndrome to fly out… then we get seagulls again… which almost says 'There was no deeper cultural meaning, we just didn’t think anyone would tell that seagulls weren’t bats…'

The film looks marvellous, bosomy women, fangs and blood with, in certain scenes, an atmosphere I’d describe as chunky and yet… there is no substance. The Ofelia and Gustavo story could have been told in half the time (or less) and there was a lot of milling around with a story that had no substance and a plot so well hidden it was impossible to find.

As a piece of cinema, poor, as a sexploitation vampire piece, essential. On balance 3.5 out of 10. Incidentally, with reference to the title it does seem wholly inaccurate as there doesn't appear to be a virgin in sight.

The imdb page is here.

* Empusa, incidentally, was the name of the ship that transported Count Orlock in the original German plates for Nosferatu.


Everlost said...

That must be infuriating, to actually make it into a vampire film, and then be listed as "man in group with beard"! That could have been the poor fellow's claim to fame...

That makes a few vampire films with seagulls, i think i can remember one with the vampiress in a car that had a hood ornament that was a flapping seagull...lair of the white worm maybe? maybe not, i went to bed at 4am and my brain isnt working yet.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Everlost - you are thinking Franco's Female Vampire, which had a flappy bird hood ornemant, images of seagulls and Lina Romay flapping her cape (whilst wearing little else). Incidentally, added a footnote as it just struck me (actually it didn't I noticed because I am rewatching the Kino remaster) that the ship in Nosferatu is called Empusa.

Emily said...

I agree, Everlost. Very unfortunate. I would NOT be happy about that. Nonetheless, I've never seen this film and it looks so interesting.

Check out our spoof vampire news show called "Bloodcast News Network" on iheartvampires.net

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers for the comment Emily, will certainly check out the news show/page - and I have already seen the first few episodes of I <3 Vampires.

Bill Dan Courtney said...

Strange you post this film since I recently picked up here in China. I have not seen it yet expect for scanning some of it to check out the quality.

It had the DVD box like in your post. Being as I live in China it can be hard to find old films like this. Most all are pirated of course (well... all are) and so most films tend to be newer things and usually mainstream Hollywood hit fare. I piked this up with some Jess Franco films and a little package set of the 3 original The Fly films.

A rare treat for me.
I will be checking this out soon.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

let me know what you think