An Italian horror film based on Sheridan La Fanu's gothic va
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 08/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""La Cripta e l'incubo" (which does not really translate as "Crypt of the Vampire," the DVD title) is a 1964 Italian horror film that stars Christopher Lee and has a nice sense of atmosphere, but not much else to recommend it for horror fans. Things are not looking good when you find out that the film was released under the titles "La Maledizione dei Karnstein" in Italy and "La Maldicion de los Karnstein" in Spain (it was a joint Italian-Spanish production), and originally known as "Crypt of Horror" in the U.K. and "Terror in the Crypt" in the U.S. It was also shown under the names "Carmilla," "Catharsis," "Karnstein," "The Crypt and the Nightmare," "The Curse of the Karnsteins," "The Karnstein Curse," and "The Vampire's Crypt." But this atmospheric horror film does have its moments.
The whole deal starts way back when Carmilla, a vampire witch, is being executed and with her dying breath lays a curse on her family, the Karnsteins. Several generations later Count Ludwig Karnstein (Lee) has sent for a historian, Klaus (Jose Campos), to discover what Carmilla looked like. That is because Rowena, the old, nurse is convinced that the Count's daughter Laura (Audrey Amber, a.k.a. Adriana Ambesi) has been possessed by the spirit of her ancestor and the curse is supposed to go into affect the next time there is a Karnstein who looks like Carmilla. The other major character in the story is Lyuba (Ursula Davis), who becomes Laura's friend and companion after being injured in a carriage accident near the castle. But when Laura has a nightmare about killing Lyuba by biting her neck, she wakes up to find Lyuba is alive, but has two bite marks on her neck. The next thing we know there are a whole bunch of vampire murders, and even Laura is starting to believe that it is Carmilla who is forcing her to kill from beyond the crypt. What else could be the explanation?
The script is based on the 1872 vampire novella "Carmilla" by Joseph Sheridan La Fanu, a 19th century Irish writer of Gothic tales and mystery novels. "Carmilla" actually predates Bram Stoker's "Dracula" and is considered by some to have been an influence on the most famous vampire novel of them all. However, there are so many people who had a hand in the story and the script that it is not surprising things get a bit muddled here. Director Camillo Mastrocinque, known as "Thomas Miller" for this production, does achieve a nice sense of atmosphere, aided by the black & white cinematography of Julio Ortas, and there are attempts to make the gothic elements a bit more up to date for the thrills and chills. I think "La Cripta e l'incubo" would have been stronger if they had spent the money getting a better female lead instead of spending it to have Lee's face and name on the poster, because he is not really a central character here. But there are enough nice little moments to justify rounding up on this one."
Beautifully photographed gothic yarn.
Brent Carleton | 09/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Though only superficially faithful to Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's famous novella, "Carmilla," this picture merits praise for its consistent visual distinction, and a unity of mood, (elsewhere, and accurately described as "stately") that lift it far above the overpraised (and dramatically disjointed) "Castle of the Living Dead" which Mr. Lee completed about the same time.
Allegedly set in Styria, but filmed in Italy, this film boasts deep focus black and white cinematography that clearly takes its visual cues from Bava's "Black Sunday." Indeed, this film even features a witch condemnation sequence rather similar to the one depicted in the earlier film.
The castle interiors are alive with looming shadows, the rooms dressed with the appropriate paraphernalia of the genre, (flaming braziers, suits of armor, baroque prickets and saint statues; while the exteriors contain some of the most enchanting landscapes one could wish for--not to mention unforgettable nightscapes--as of two women fleeing across a hillside in billowing peignoirs and lit by the moon, (rather like the cover of a Phyllis Whitney novel).
Also in its favor are some scenes quite faithful to Mr. Le Fanu's original, as in the barouche accident which occasions the arrival of the vampiress, (here re-named "Luba" for inexplicable reasons).
There are some demerits: a heroine that looks like a cross between Barbara Streisand and Maria Callas, and an Elke Sommerish Lady in Waiting whose adulterous relationship with Mr. Lee seems entirely gratuitous.
Nonetheless, admirers of 1960s Italian gothics need to re-examine this piece which is often unfairly dismissed, as it warrants far more attention and respect than such slush as "Terror Creatures From the Grave."
Adam Troy Teufel | charlottesville va | 02/24/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"the dvd was full frame that i got. the very same one that is pictured. i'm just wondering did i get the wrong aspect ratio because the case said WIDESCREEN? have other people had this problem or am i wrong about something? over all an excellent movie."
Retromedia's poor dvd releases strike AGAIN!
Badwolf | Collinsport, Ma | 10/17/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Great reviews of this movie folks....but where's the technical information about the dvd quality?
The print is the best available, much more detail and less dirt than the bootleg releases. BUT-Retromedia has spent ZERO money on cleaning up this film and some flaws are pretty visible. The title "Terror in the Crypt" is shown at the beginning, but sources claim this is the uncut Euro version-it is different that the AIP bootleg dvd I own. There are NO extras and NO chapters on this disc...VERY NAUGHTY...but that seems to be an alarming new trend. The 1.85:1 ratio with anamorphic enhancement looks very nice and not forced as with other Retromedia dvds, where the films were made widescreen by simply adding the black bars. Compared to newcomer Dark Sky Films recently released films, this dvd could use some better production. There is no doubt that the upcoming Dark Sky version of "Slaughter of the Vampires" will be much cleaner than Retromedia's dvd that was released last year. Let's hope that Retromedia either improves the condition of their dvds or Dark Sky continues to re-release former Retromedia films. The competition is out there and the price is cheaper than these " no frills" Retromedia discs. BTW, I did like the dvd cover."