"Sir, just a minute...is this vampire madness contagious?"
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 08/11/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I really had no idea what was in store for me as I popped The Bloody Vampire (1963) into my DVD player last night...that is until I saw the name K. Gordon Murray appear during the opening credits. For those of you not familiar K. Gordon Murray was a man with a dream...one that included bringing forth to the United States the finest films the Mexican cinema had to offer, but since he couldn't get his grubby mitts on those, he instead settled for some of the most curiously bizarre, esoteric horror films (among others) he could find, dubbed them up something fierce, and released them on an unsuspecting American public...not a bad gig...buy the distribution rights to a foreign film, have someone write an English script for it (or do it yourself and save some dough), dub the hell out of it, slap your name on it (often within the credits of these films you'll see `English Language Version Produced by K. Gordon Murray'), and peddle it to the most indiscriminate audience you can find, usually kids who'd spend an entire Saturday at the theater for fifty cents, or, in later years, shown on television. While Murray may be best known for `his' horror films, he also imported fairy tale and exploitation films for the same treatment, along with the occasional original production. The original title of this film was El Vampiro sangriento (1962), written and directed by Miguel Morayta (The Invasion of the Vampires). Starring in the film is Carlos Agostí (Santo vs. the Murderer of TV), along with Erna Martha Bauman (The World of the Vampires), Raúl Farell (800 Leagues Over the Amazon), Bertha Moss (The Exterminating Angel), Antonio Raxel (The Monster of the Volcano), and Begoña Palacios (The Adventures of Chucho el Roto), who would later marry the late, great, highly controversial director Sam Peckinpah.
The film starts out with a clock striking midnight, a wolf howl, the wind blowing, and a horse drawn carriage moving in slow motion, the hooves of the galloping horses silent. A trio of individuals, including Dr. Ricardo Peisser (Farell) and his fiancée' Anna Cagliostro (Palacios), observe the carriage before continuing on to meet Anna's father, Count Valsamo de Cagliostro (Raxel), who's sort of like the Van Helsing character in this vampire tale. Anyway, it turns out the Cagliostro family has been tracking and hunting vampires for many, many years, and have collected much in the way of information on identifying and disposing of these creatures of the night. After some curious occurrences, Anna and Ricardo suspect a local man by the name of Count Siegfried von Frankenhausen (Agostí) of being a vampire, so Anna decides to do her best Nancy Drew impersonation by going under cover, taking a position as a house servant in order to get the skinny on the operation, but she may get more than she bargained for as the Count is indeed a vampire (and handy with a whip), one that's looking for a new wife (his current one regards him as something of a vile, hideous monster), and Anna fits the bill...holy haunted haciendas, Batman! Will Anna become the next Mrs. Siggy von Frankenhausen? Or will her fiancé arrive in time to save her from the curse of the undead?
In terms of pointless material, this film has it in spades...seriously, the running time was just shy of an hour and forty minutes, thirty of which could have been cut without losing anything critical to the story. Here's an example of what I'm talking about...there's a couple of scenes with Anna's father where he goes into great detail about his experiments with corpses and some sort of vampire killing machine his family has developed over the years, one which never actually gets used at any point in the film (its demonstrated using a fresh cadaver, but that's it). What the hell was the point of this? And there's plenty more where that came from...the overall effect is the story, while starting out strong, virtually dies about ten minutes in (and becomes confusing) and doesn't pick up until about fifteen minutes prior to the end, resulting in a dull malaise cured only by the generous doses of a ball peen hammer to the side of the head. And was this film talky...holy crapola! There's also a huge chunk in the middle where Count Siegfried von Frankenberry...er, I mean Frankenhausen, talks about coffee (perhaps the National Coffee Council helped fund the production)...here's an example of the exciting exchanges peppered throughout the movie, as Anna, in the guise of servant, is combing the Countesses' hair;
Anna: Shall I put up your hair now, Countess? Or should I wait until later?
Countess: It seems very shiny.
Anna: I think you're right...I prefer to show you only there are no mirrors.
Countess: All those things are prohibited in my house. (obviously meaningless prattle isn't)
Also, the dubbed dialog was often ridiculously inane and loaded with expository statements. Usage of contractions seemed rare, many sentences ended with prepositions, and the inflection/emphasis on certain parts of the dialog odd, resulting in a general awkwardness throughout...and who did the voice for Lupe, the witchy woman who worked at the inn? She was the worst...there were a number of things I liked about the movie, like the generally creepy atmosphere, the expansive sets (especially Count Siegfried's mansion), the suitable (and odd) musical scoring, loaded with strange sound effects, to name a few. There's caves, coffins, cobwebs, corpse brides, Counts, Countesses, creaking doors, fangs, a giant, laughing vampire bat, whippings, a little blood, a tongue extraction (no shown), secret passages, a torture chamber, complete with a full skeleton attached to a rack (wouldn't the bones have fallen apart once the flesh deteriorated?), mesmerizing vampire eyes, a sadistic house keeper named Frau Hildegarde (Moss), vulgar lackeys (this term kept popping up in the film), and more...as I mentioned early, the film kind of falls apart in the middle, but comes back strong, with one of my favorite sequences being two men being buzzed by the count in bat form...he comes at them like five times, and each time they dive to the ground...it's pretty funny. Carlos Agostí, who looks a little like a young Burt Renoylds, actually made for a creepy looking villain, especially when he bares them great, big fangs. I'd be interested in seeing this film with the original dialog intact along with subtitles as I'm curious how much actually transferred over after K. Gordon Murray got a hold of it...
The fullscreen presentation on this Beverly Wilshire filmworks/Telefilms International DVD release is about a decent as I thought it would be, meaning it's very rough, but serviceable. There was obviously a transmission failure about one hour in as the signal got lost for a second or two, but nothing to freak about. The audio comes through relatively clear and clean. One thing you'll notice right off is the cheapness of the DVD case artwork...looks like a poorly produced high school art project. All in all I did enjoy the strong atmospheric qualities about the film, and the dialog was a source of much unintentional humor, but the patience is a necessity if you're planning to take this journey.
By the way, if you ever meet a vampire, avoid the subject of coffee, as they'll never shut up. If you enjoyed this feature, check out another K. Murray Gordon classic titled The Brainiac (1963).