Italian horror godfather Mario Bava almost single-handedly ushered in a whole new genre with this moody mix of murder mystery and kinky horror. The prolific cinematographer made his (uncredited) directorial debut when Ri... more »ccardo Freda stormed off the set with the picture only half finished, leaving Bava to rewrite the script and complete the picture in two days. It became the first Italian horror film since the silent era and a classic of the genre. The vampire of the title is not a literal bloodsucker of Dracula's lineage but a mad-scientist twist on the legend of Countess Bathory. In this modern take, the bodies of beautiful young women drained of blood leave the police baffled, while an ambitious journalist traces a chain of clues back to the familial castle of the aging Duchess Du Grand and her beautiful niece (the elegant and sultry Gianna Maria Canale). Set in Paris but shot in Rome, it's a handsome little black-and-white picture that belies its 12-day schedule with gorgeous locations, shadowy lighting, a stylish elegance, and a couple of startlingly effective transformations executed with brilliant simplicity. In later films, such as Blood and Black Lace and Lisa and the Devil, Bava's style would develop into an elaborately choreographed dance of death in black shadows and glowing color, but here he's smooth and suggestive, a model of restraint that looks to his "official" debut, the striking Black Sunday. The DVD features a clean, sharp B&W widescreen transfer, with a photo and poster gallery (including stills from the scenes added to the "Americanized" version of the film entitled The Devil's Commandment) and a collection of Mario Bava trailers among the supplements. Extensive liner notes and a director biography are provided by Bava historian Tim Lucas. --Sean Axmaker« less
"This movie is famous for two reasons: First, it was the the first talking horror film from Italy. Second, it was the directing debut of the Italian master of horror, Mario Bava. Original director, Riccardo Freda, had captured the first half of the film in 10 days of filming. The producers had agreed to a 12 day shoot and were not about to go over that. Mario was the cinematographer on the film and was asked if he could finish the movie in 2 days. He agreed and it was pulled off in what became a very stylish (almost a fimm noir) and well made gothic horror. It does have it's flaws mind you, but I really liked virtualy everything about this movie. I Vampiri (The Vampire in Italian) plays almost as more of a detective movie than a straight horror. There is the dashing and hip reporter, Pierre Lantin (Dario Michaelis), who is trying to find out who is murdering people and draining their bodies dry of blood. He gives leads to the police who investigate them along with Pierre, but they find nothing useful in them. After he goes out on his own to investigate, Pierre is led to the local castle that houses an old and decrepid duchess along with her beautiful niece, Giselle du Grand (Gianna Maria Canale - director Riccardo Freda's longtime girlfriend and frequent star), whom he has some mysterious tie to from his past. Pierre's partner from the newspaper they work at is on love with Giselle and is always making comments about her, even though it is clear that Giselle is romanticaly interested only in Pierre. Pierre spurns her at every turn and becomes interested in the friend, Lorette, of one of the victims (played by Wandisa Guida). There are two story lines that I found hard to really figure out in this film: The first was the romantic interest between Pierre and Lorette. I didn't know there was an interest and then suddenly they are obviously an item. The second is that in the lower regions of the castle, there is a doctor who has faked his own death along with an assistant. They are doing experiments with lots of cool looking lab equipment and victims that have been kidnapped by a drug addicted thug (played by Paul Müller, who later appeared in many of Jess Franco's films). They are in cahoots with the duchess but exactly what they are doing with her is never clear. But neither of these nebulous plotlines takes away much from the movie.The dvd is presented in 2.35:1 widscreen and the sound is Dolby Digital mono. The print looks fantastic, especially for a relatively obscure, 45 year old movie. It is released by Image Entertainment who has released several Mario Bava films on dvd. There are several trailers for these other Bava films on the disk along with the usual filmographies and also a 4 page insert with liner notes by film historian and author of "Mario Bava: All of the Colors of the Dark", Tim Lucas (who also recorded the commentary for Bava's next major film after I Vampiri, Black Sunday). The film really is well done and considered a classic for a good reason. My brother had bought this dvd and I borrowed it from him, but it is definitely on my list of movies to get, even in the [price] range."
Troy M. Ros | 08/01/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Image Entertainment and VCI are doing a marvelous job with their "Mario Bava Collection". The liner notes by Tim Lucas are always extremely interesting.About "I Vampiri", we learn that it started from a bet of director Freda that he could shoot the movie in only 12 days. He walked out after 10 days, leaving to Bava the task of finishing it in another 2 days.Reading this, one would expect that the movie is a disaster. On the contrary, it is a marvel. Shot in expressionist black and white, it is a unique visual experience.Rather than being a vampire movie, it derives its plot from Frankenstein: A scientist manages to keep the duchess young through the blood of young girls. The movie is well paced, the script and the mise en scene work effectively together.This movie is a must for every horror fan, and the DVD is a fine release.Highly recommended!"
EARLY BAVA EFFORT....
Mark Norvell | HOUSTON | 10/30/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I expected more from this film because so much had been written about it and when I saw the packaging I assumed it would be a wild little movie. This was not the case however. Due to obvious budget constraints "I Vampiri" is somewhat of a letdown. It's not bad, it's just disappointing. A wealthy countess stays beautiful thanks to "scientific methods"---blood transfusions---from female victims. Atmosphere is plentiful but it's SO low budget that it's creaky and not creepy. It would have helped had Bava been more daring with the story and plot elements but for some reason he wasn't. What is here is timid with very little action. Much time is spent on the detective pursuing leads and a lot of talk when the running time is so short. It's worth noting as an early Bava horror film but that's about it. He would obviously fare better in the future."
The emergence of Italian Horror Cinema
James Maynard | Alamogordo, New Mexico United States | 07/06/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What we in America came to know as drive-in fodder for the Sixties actually had it's start with I, VAMPIRI in 1956. The Italians developed a uniquely atmospheric style in black&white photography with minimal resources and maximum talent. Director Freda and cinematographer/director Bava utilized native European influences as opposed to the predominantly Hollywood style of horror to create intricate mood pieces such as 1960's BLACK SUNDAY and 1962's HORRIBLE DOCTOR HITCHCOCK which owe everything to this seminal first collaboration between the two filmmakers. Basically a modern retelling of the Elizabeth Bathory legend of a Countess kept young by bathing in the blood of virgins, with the now classic mad doctor theme added, this fine little film suffered much mutilation in it's transfer to American screens. It is good that this minor classic can now be seen as intended, with the beautiful widescreen photography restored. Don't miss it!"
A great start for Bava
Dr. Freeman | Perry, Iowa United States | 02/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bava's first attempt at directing is nothing less than fabulous. While i usually shy away from subtitles, this film is worth the effort. Shot in beautiful black and white (the only way to do gothic horror) this movie moves along at a good pace. The blood of young women used to keep an elderly dutchess young and beautiful. Im fairly new to Bava and have noticed he seems to like the entrance to secret passages to be located in the fireplace. Interesting. At any rate this DVD plays very clear and clean. Bava's Black Sunday got me hooked and this movie just makes me want more."