Saturday, April 25, 2015

Honourable Mention: Vampir, Zan-e khoon-asham

From director Mostafa Oskooyi and released in 1967, this is a real rarity and so I have to apologise for the quality of the screenshots but the version of this I managed to see was clearly a poor video rip. That said I don’t believe that a pristine copy of this is likely to emerge any time soon. However, due to the fact that the quality was so low – I struggled seeing what was happening in some scenes – I have not reviewed the film as I could not judge the quality of the film due to the low quality of the reproduction.

Vampir, Zan-e khoon-asham, or the Vampire Woman, is (as far as I can gather) the first example of an Iranian vampire film and I must warn you I will spoil the main twist.

first appearance
It begins with a man, Jahangir (Mostafa Oskooyi), being taken into police custody. He begs them to let him stay in the office, whilst protesting his innocence and even begs them to stay with him. He is left on his own, his protestations ignored, and we see a woman wearing a hijab... she is a vampire…

Jahangir and Bahram
Going back in time, a train pulls into Neychabour station and a man, Bahram (Mehdi Fat'hi), chases alongside, excited that his friend Jahangir has come to visit. He takes him on a tour, visiting Khayyam’s house, Sheikh Attar’s tomb and the new tomb of Kamal-ol-molk. Following this he takes Jahangir to where he lives and they meet Mashti working in the groves along with his daughter Golnar (Mahindokht). Jahangir decides he wishes to sleep amongst the trees.

Mahindokht as Golnar
That night Bahram warns Jahangir about Golnar, saying that it is said that she is haunted by a Jinn – indeed one was said to have taken her brother. He also suggests that, when near her, an invisible Jinn has tried to strangle him. Jahangir counters that she might be a vampire but Bahram does not know what that is. Interestingly Jahangir, before explaining, directs Bahram to a literary source in the form of the Count of Monte Cristo, thus evoking the Byronic vampire. He then says that vampires and Dracula (perhaps using Dracula as a type rather than an individual?) are creatures like goblins.

Mostafa Oskooyi as Jahangir
He suggests that they can go inside people’s bodies and then come out at night to drink blood – suggesting vampiric possession – but then also mentions that someone killed by a vampire will become one too. Bahram then says that Golnar’s brother might be a vampire, his body went missing and this was blamed on hyenas but later he was seen walking in the valley under the moonlight – don’t ask me why but that immediately pushed my thoughts to Wuthering Heights. Golnar comes along and Bahram cries vampire and passes out – Jahangir suggests his friend has drunk too much. He tells Golnar he wishes to see the moon and she suggests Khayyam’s tomb as the best place to go to see it but refuses to go with him as a wedding is taking place the next day.

the kiss
The film lingers over the wedding for perhaps too long pacing wise, though the traditional wedding and songs were culturally fascinating. Jahangir arranges to meet Golnar and they do meet at midnight at the tomb. She admits that she has prayed that he might fall in love with her and they kiss, marriage is mentioned. Then we see Jahangir leaving, he tells the distraught girl that he will return soon – but ignores her pleas to go with him and her fear that she might be pregnant.

Homayoondokht as Parvin
Back in Tehran and we see that he is a bit of a rake – indeed the use of the Byronic connection was apt. One of his employees, Mr Zeymaran (Mohammad Kahnemout), is getting married. Jahangir cannot understand how someone as ugly as he could meet a beautiful wife like his new bride Parvin (Homayoondokht). He makes disparaging remarks about the place of ugly women (keeping house) and when he dances with her he clearly flirts. He takes the couple out to buy them suits, but is clearly to impress the new bride, and as soon as he arranges for Zeymaran to have to go on a business trip he phones her up.

found bitten
Around this time he gets an accusatory letter from Bahram, regarding his treatment of Golnar. The letter also suggests that Golnar went missing in winter and was eventually found dead but with clear fang marks on her neck and her blood drained. She is destined, he suggests, to return as a vampire. And, indeed, the vampiric Golnar makes an appearance saying that she wants Jahangir's life, that he belongs to the world of ghosts and that she will kill any woman he loves…

Golnar as a vampire
To bring the twist out, we are in London After Midnight territory with Golnar acting as a vampire, conspiratorially with Bahram, to teach the rake a lesson. The main lore the film uses was given us in the first part of the film. All in all it’s an interesting concept and – whether she had been a vampire or acted as one – the idea of the vampire being the woman wronged was a nice one that reaches back as a vampire trope as far as the 1824 the Virgin Vampire but seemed to fit rather well in this Iranian tale.

The imdb page is here.

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