The Return of the vampire

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1945

Who’s in this?

Bela Lugosi as Armand Tesla a scientist interested in vampires who eventually became a vampire. Lugosi was a horror legend who was of course Dracula and was in tons of horror films. He was also in some poor films too and some rough spells mostly due to addiction problems and being typecast after the success of Dracula.

Frieda Inescort as Lady Jane. British born actress who had fairly regular roles for almost 30 years.

Matt Willis as Andreas an assistant and part time werewolf. Willis had over 60 credits in just over 11 years before seeming to fade away from Hollywood in the early 1950’s even though he wasn’t even 40 yet.

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What’s this about?
So two people manage to kill a vampire with a stake so that’s it movie is over. Not quite, World War two comes like almost twenty years. The bombings on England shake free the vampire’s staked body. Volunteers looking for bombing survivors find the body and pull the stake out – oh, deary me no! Now they have unleashed one of the slowest moving vampires in an equally slow moving film. Vampire Tesla assumes another identity and aims for revenge. He also gets back his werewolf assistant who looks more like a doggie, talks perfectly and also seems to always be carrying around brown paper packages. The family he goes after suspects who he may be and what he may be up to, but they slowly wind their way through a creeping pace of this kind of chess game. Of course the vampire gets it in the end and everyone else is okay. Roll the credits.

The negatives-The story starts out alright and then kind of meanders it’s way through pulling as much out of Lugosi as they can. The plot is just very average and even though the film doesn’t go much over an hour it feels slow more often than it should. Some of the performance perhaps most notable Matt Willis are rather wooden.

The positives-Lugosi was hoping that Universal was going to bring him back as Dracula around this time, but they opted for John Carradine instead although eventually they’d bring Lugosi back for the Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein film. Meanwhile rival Colombia was all to pleased to sign Lugosi and give him a cape. However they were not allowed to use the name Dracula. Even though Lugosi looks worn and puffy here he still gives a good effort and that goes a long ways here. The sets are well done too in a Universal copy kind of style. I also like the angle of having the vampire being uncovered by bombings as it fits in with the times rather just the same old gothic clichés.

Fans of Lugosi and old style horror films will find enough to enjoy, but there isn’t enough there to call it a classic or a must see.

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Kiss of the vampire

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1963

Who’s in this?
Edward Desouza as husband Gerald. Desouza has been in acting for over 50 years and according to IMDB is still working at 81. He also a large part in Hammer’s Phantom of the opera.

Jennifer Daniel as Marianne wife Gerald. Also still going and has been numerous British shows and movies over the years. She also played another wife fighting against a monster in Hammer’s the Reptile.

Clifford Evans as Professor Zimmer. The stern faced, deep voiced Evans was a regular in British films and TV for over 40 years. He also plays the father of Olive Reed’s ill fated character in Hammer’s Curse of the werewolf.

Noel Willman as Ravna a rich vampire and leader of a local group. He is blamed for having turned several local girls to his cause. The stoned faced Willman had a steady career that included roles in Dr Zhivago and The man who knew too much as well as playing the father of the curse title character in Hammer’s the Reptile.

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What’s this about?
A young couple Gerald and Marianne run out of gas in the mountains, but they soon find refuge at an inn (there always seems to be one handy in these films). The local rich dude Ravna says he’ll get gas for the couple’s car because this is back in the olden days when very few people had such things. Ravna then invites Maryanne and Gerald over for dinner. Ravna shares some sour stuff about their wine being made by people with dirty feet (eww) and then his son Karl plays a wild and frenzied piano piece that has Maryanne swooning. Her husband gets her to go without knowing what was really going on. Hey not so fast something more has to happen because it’s still early in the film. So at the inn the innkeepers act odd in a scared little rabbit sort of way and the only person staying there is a professor named Zimmer who acts like he has been sucking on pickles for the last two years. The couple get invited back for a big fancy party complete with music, fancy outfits and goofy masks. Gerald gets drunk with “special wine” – hey wait something fishy is going on here and not just because it’s a vampire movie and we have yet to have seen a vampire yet or at least that we know of. Anyways he gets woozy and is sent back to the tavern. The next day he awakes and his wife is gone and everyone says “what wife?” or something like that. He thinks he’s gone bonkers and only when he asks lemon puss Professor Zimmer is he told that his wife has been taken by Ravna oh and Ravna and his family are vampires and a whole cast of vampires lives at the castle. Wait, there is hope so there needs to be a plan. However hothead Gerald sets off to get his wife back goes back from Ravna manor at night (smart move-no not really) and he trusts a female vampire (strike two). This only leads to his capture, his wife spits in his face, he gets his chest cut open and almost gets a serious pain in the neck. However he escapes as Zimmer arrives, they grab Maryanne and haul gothic butt out of there. They do manage to kill Ravna’s human man servant, bolt the front door and mark it with a very weak grease spot of a cross. Apparently that’s enough as Ravna and his pack are trapped. However they use dark forces to try and draw Maryann back to them, wouldn’t a saucer of blood work better? Anyways Zimmer blows the dust off some big books and they aren’t just pickle recipes but they are actually volumes on the occult. Ah black magic to the rescue. He scribbles on the floor, swirls a dagger around and blurts out some magic gibberish. POOF a bunch of bats attacks Ravna and the blood slurpers up at the castle. The bats bite necks, legs, arms and anything they can get at. The two legged vampires go down, Maryann is free from the curse and roll the credits. Wow a Hammer film from the 60’s that doesn’t end with a shot of something burning.

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Kiss of the Vampire, Les Bowie matte shot

The negatives-Not so much. Maybe a little slow at first, but that’s when the background of the story is unfolding

The positives-No real big name 1960’s Hammer regulars like Cushing, Lee or even Oliver Reed, but still strong performances from all involved. The sets are some of the best for this period in Hammer films. I thought the costumes in particular were well down. The story play out well and I love the angle of vampirism as a disease as seen by someone like Zimmer yet Ravna plays cult leader and gives it out like a gift or that his followers are chosen. One of my favorite Hammer films of all time.

Kiss of the Vampire, De Souza, Jacquie Wallis

Vampires out west

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Counts and cacti? Fangs and the frontier? Stakes and shootouts?
Anyways the western vampire idea has been here and there over the years, but never that much and usually with quite a bit of cheese factor at times. That’s a shame because I think it’s a combination with merit. Yes, so many films were done with cloak wearing European vampires haunting the shadowed mountains of Europe or maybe some real brave ones went over to England, but they never came over to these shores all that much. Svengoolie will be showing Curse of the undead a late 50’s vampire-cowboy film on his show later this month. The film has never gotten a proper DVD release and I only saw it once on AMC maybe 15 years ago. I remember it being kind of slow, but hoping it holds up since I have not seen it in so long. I reviewed the early 90’s films Sundown the vampire in retreat on this site a while back and it had some real promise. I’ll be taking another view at another vampires in the west (not old west) film when I review John Carpenter’s Vampires at some point this week. I wish the idea of bloodsucking undead in the west had more takers as far as films go. Then again maybe the few that have made are more than enough.

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The appeal of vampires

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Ah vampires how they sparkle..wait no they don’t or they shouldn’t They are monsters, bloodsuckers, leeches of sorts. Yes there is room for some other character traits and there can be an allure in the idead of living forever or power or both. The sleeping all day and going out all night deal isn’t too bad either. Although laying in a box of dirt may not be so grand, but ah maybe you get used to that. The ability to turn into a bat, a wolf or another animal would be great too and would help cut down the boredom factor a little only whether not you do or don’t have those abilities seems to depend on which story you are following. When I was a kid the idea of living in a castle particularly one that is following part sounded promising too-lots of room to roam and sneak up on anyone wandering through your abode. With certain vampires there seemed to be a dignity and prestige that would never be given to mummies, werewolves and most other monsters. I guess because you don’t see Frankenstein’s monster going to the opera or a dinner party too often. Anyways there are lots of reasons why these creatures have existed is stories for generations and will continue to do for generations to come. Let vampire week begin.

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