Unrated - Cinema of the Extreme

The second of three Toho vampire movies directed by Michio Yamamoto begins with a brilliantly composed scene, set against a striking red sunset, in which a young girl called Akiko wanders into a gothic looking mansion in search of her runaway dog. On the steps she ignores the warnings of an old man, goes in and discovers a dead woman and a vampire (Shin Kishida). This prologue is just one scene that draws on a plethora of Hammer vampire movies, most notably DRACULA (1958), and BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960) also notable for including Dracula in the title for western audience interest.
    A number of years pass and Akiko (Midori Fujita) is now a young schoolteacher who has recently moved to a lakeside cottage with her sister Natsuko (Emi Sanae). A strange shipment arrives at the nearby fisherman’s home, when the man later investigates its contents he discovers a coffin, is attacked by the vampire and becomes his servant. Pretty soon a number of locals, including Natsuko, fall prey to the white scarf-wearing vampire It is later revealed that the vampire has returned to the Lake to seek out Akiko whom he intends to turn into his un-dead bride.
    Despite impressive cinematography and atmospheric visuals the movie plods along at a snail’s pace void of the cultural references one usually finds in Japanese horror movies and instead utilises European cinematic vampire concepts; the vampire casts no reflection, sleeps in a coffin, and avoids sunlight – though, oddly, his vampirised victims display no such aversion. Throw in some light Freudian theory involving repressed childhood memories, “evil eye” paintings, and gothic iconography (looking a tad out of place in 70s Japan), and you’ve got a classic piece of cheesecake.
    Fortunately, this widescreen DVD release is taken from a Japanese print and not the atrociously dubbed version distributed by UPA Productions in the USA that trimmed about half a minute of the vampire’s decomposition. Quite why the cuts were made is hard to understand as the scene is a direct copy of Chris Lee’s demise in Hammer’s DRACULA and contains nothing that 70s audiences Stateside couldn’t already have seen in a slew of GP rated un-dead flicks. This Artsmagic release is region 2 PAL and extras include 16 chapter headings, optional English subtitles, original promotional materials, and biographies. Carl T. Ford
LAKE OF DRACULA (aka Chi O Suu Me/ Bloodthirsty Eyes)

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