Sunday, June 14, 2015

Honourable Mention: El Vampiro Negro

This was an Argentinian film from 1953 and directed by Román Viñoly Barreto. It is a remake of the classic Fritz Lang movie M and, in honesty, it isn’t a patch on that classic film – though it is a strong piece of cinema in its own right.

It begins with music over credits that seemed cheesy now and reminded me immediately that Lang’s film used sound in a way that was, frankly, mind blowing. And you know what, it is unfair to this film to be comparing and contrasting to Lang but, unfortunately, it feels impossible to do otherwise.

in the court
After images of Rorschach tests – with the subject, Teodoro Ulber (Nathán Pinzón), saying that he sees nothing in the images but the viewer seeing that he is thinking of women – we cut to his trial and the defence and prosecution summing up. The defence suggest that there has been enough evidence to indicate that his dark soul can be reached for rehabilitation and recommending that he be confined to a mental institution and the prosecution calling for the death penalty. The jury is not deciding on guilt (that is established) but on the penalty to be given.

Nathán Pinzón as Teodoro Ulber
The film then goes back to chronicle his crimes. The police are looking for a child killer (as in Lang’s film the murderer targets children rather than any age as per the real life criminal(s) that allegedly inspired the screenplay) who is known as the Black Vampire. In a club a torch singer, Rita (Olga Zubarry), finishes her song and (after throwing a drink in a customer's face) heads down into the club’s basement where her dressing room is.

scream, and scream again
Outside Ulber is disposing of a victim’s body by throwing her into a storm drain. Rita sees this through a high window and catches a view of his eyes. She screams and the club owner (and ne’er do well) comes down. He tells her not to report what has been seen – even when the papers the next day confirms it is an attack by the Black Vampire. His reasoning is based on using the club as a front for drug trafficking. For her, she doesn’t want undue attention – being a singer is apparently no career for a single mother (her daughter is in boarding school).

Olga Zubarry as Rita
Hunting the Vampire is Bernar (Roberto Escalada). He mentions the mediaeval fantasy which produced a spectre, a horrible entity that would suck its victims blood little by little until they were dead, and thus ties the vampire myth into the film in a much more obvious manner than Lang (with whom the vampire connection is almost hearsay, as it was the nickname of the alleged model for the film). Bernar is obsessed with the vampire, but perhaps that is a way from distracting him from the frustration he feels at home as his wife (Gloria Castilla) is paralyzed.

the black vampire stalks
Now, I said that Lang’s film is superior, and it is, but this is still a great film and takes itself down a different path to that taken by Lang. The killer – nicknamed the Professor by those who know him – is a quiet gentleman and actually knows one of Rita’s friends, Cora (Nelly Panizza). The film explores his character much more and the interaction (or lack thereof) he has with adult women feeds his frustrations that in turn excite his murderous urges. In a chilling scene we see him take Rita’s daughter out to a fair and then have to fight his own urges. Like the earlier film there is a theme used of the killer whistling Hall of the Mountain King, however in this he actually blames the music for his crimes.

the empty mirror
This film does deserve to be seen but try, if you can, to divorce it from Lang – difficult when they actually call one of the characters Lange (Mariano Vidal Molina). Of course the vampire tag is a nickname, and this becomes simply something of genre interest as it does not actually contain any of our toothsome friends. However… In a scene we see an empty room in a hand mirror that Ulber is using, but it is held up to comb his hair… was the lack of his reflection deliberate, was the director showing us that, in his delusions, he really thought himself to be a vampire?

The imdb page is here.

No comments: