This stylish example of 50s gothic horror featuring the first truly suave, sexually magnetic vampire, Count Karol de Lavud (Germán Robles) was influential in determining Christopher Lee’s characterisation of DRACULA (1958) one year later, and paved way for a cycle of successful Mexican vampire films from producer Abel Salazar, including EL AUTUAD DE VAMPIRO / ‘The Vampire’s Coffin’ and EL CASTILLO DE LOS MONSTRUOS / ‘The Castle of the Monsters’ (both 1957). Salazar would produce a total of eight horror movies for production company Cinematografica ABSA, reflecting the mood of the classic Universal series, but which differed in their use of outlandish plots and bizarre monstrosities that included the fork tongued, brain eating EL BARON DEL TERROR / ‘The Brainiac’ (1961), a ghost who wanders around looking for dead children in LA DE LA LLORONA / ‘The Curse of the Crying Woman’ (1961) and a mad pianist from EL HOMBRE Y EL MONSTRUO / ‘The Man and the Monster’ (1958) who turns into a werewolf whenever he tickles the ivories.
EL VAMPIRO begins with a young woman called Marta Gonzales (Ariadna Welter) stranded at a rural Mexican train station whilst on her way to her Aunt Maria Teresa’s hacienda in the Sycamore’s. Unfortunately there’s no transport in the area as “people round here don’t like to be out after dark”. Also waiting a lift is Dr. Enrique (Abel Salazar); a podgy, Bernard Cribbins look-alike, who eventually accompanies her on the journey to the Sycamore’s when a coachman drops by to collect a large crate containing Hungarian soil.
They arrive at the family hacienda to discover the home in disarray; Marta is informed, “No-one wants to work here anymore”. She is greeted by her uncle (Carlos Ancira) and informed by the youthful Aunt Eloise (Alicia Rodriguez) that Aunt Maria Teresa had died recently. Later, an elegant neighbour arrives announcing himself as Mr Duval, (actually the surviving vampire twin of Count Lavud who has imported the soil in order to facilitate the resurrection of his brother) and who has already claimed Eloise as one of his own.
Needless to say, there’s further surprises in store, including some great swooping vampire bats, a mysterious old woman who appears from secret doorways and some ghostly sets that include forest pathways, the decadent hacienda, cob-encrusted cellars courtesy of production designers William Hayden and Gunthar Gerszo. All this is filmed in atmospheric black and white by Victor Herrera, and directed with a good sense of pacing by Fernando Méndez (chosen for his stylish direction on the seminal Mexican horror LADRON DE CADAVERES / ‘The Body Snatcher’ (1956)). Following the successful adventures of Count Lavud, star Germán Robles went on to play another vampire by the name of Nostradamus in a series of four films originally conceived as a serial. Producer Abel Salazar was to direct popular dramas for other studios for the next 20 odd years, and died in 1994 from Alzheimer’s disease.
Mondo Macabro’s fourth release is a fairly good print, though some background hiss is evident on the mono soundtrack, (the sleeve states that the film is in stereo) soundtrack. Aside from a few minor blemishes evident on some parts of the transfer, the overall product is above average for a standard DVD for a film from the 50s. The original Spanish dialogue is crisp and the English subtitles are nicely burnt into the image with a shadowed background to accentuate the white typeface. Though the disc comes with an English dubbed soundtrack, the film’s atmosphere is better maintained with the Spanish original. One final point, the DVD carries a BBFC ‘18’ certificate, this is due to the accompanying documentary on ‘Mexican Horror Movies,’ included in Mondo’s previous ALUCARDA release, which contains some gore and full frontal nudity, and not for EL VAMPIRO, which was passed uncut with a ‘PG’ rating.
Carl T. Ford
Directed by Fernando Méndez
Mexico / 1957 / 85 minutes.
SPECIAL DVD FEATURES
A Mondo Macabro DVD release
All region PAL Mono
EL VAMPIRO (aka The Vampire)