Tuesday 15 May 2012

Blood Of The Vampire

A Kind Of Blooding

Blood Of The Vampire UK 1958
Directed by Henry Cass
Showing as part of the 6th May 2012 
Classic Horror Campaign double bill

I have to confess that I’d never heard of Blood Of The Vampire so, when the Classic Horror Campaign decided to show it in one of their double bill screenings, along with the sex and blood fuelled Vampyres, my ears pricked up. Of course, when it comes to the second half of their double feature it wasn’t just my ears that were... um... pricking up... but I’ll review that separately on another blog post in the very near future.

I have to say that, while Blood Of The Vampire is, no doubt, a very interesting curio given it’s timing in British Horror History, it’s also, I’m almost afraid to say, not a film I enjoyed very much.

The title is very misleading in that a person who has been revived after death by a heart transplant and who drains his “experimental subjects” of blood by transfusing it into his own to continue living is the only character that passes for a vampire in this one... so I was a little disappointed that none of the traits or usual trappings of the screen vampire are brought into play here. This is probably due to the heavy influence of Hammer Studios’ breakout horror hit of the previous year, The Curse Of Frankenstein, in that this is not really a story of vampires, neck biting and crosses as you might expect, but more a tale of surgical experiments as live human beings are used as raw material for a mad doctor, the so-called vampire of the title, and his deformed laboratory assistant (a “quasimodo” if ever there was one, with a large unblinking eye prosthetically placed halfway down his right cheek). It’s also written by Jimmy Sangster who did the writing duties on The Curse Of Frankenstein and a plethora of other Hammer movies throughout the years.

The story is well crafted, to be fair, telling the tale of a young doctor falsely accused and sent to an “inescapable” prison which turns out to be a set-up so the mad “Doctor Callistratus” can use his special “blood-related” skills to further his own ends. When the set up is discovered, our hero is reported dead but the young man’s VIP girlfriend goes undercover in the prison to find out the truth. The usual shenanigans occur and the film very much plays like a cross between the Hammer Frankenstein movies, which I confess to not liking all that much anyway, and Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe “adaptations”... which I like a good deal more than this warmed up pot boiler. For me this film just drags a little too much for its own good and I did catch myself trying to nod off on more than one occasion (maybe it was the combination of alcohol and good fun atmosphere that the Classic Horror Campaign events always engender). If the photography or shot design had been a little more remarkable I would possibly have perked up a little but, as it was, I can see why this movie got kinda buried in the wake of the Hammer Dracula of the same year... a film which does deal with vampires in a more head-on manner. Not to say that the direction and cinematography on this one aren’t competent... they’re fine. Nothing particularly breathtaking in this one though and, it has to be said, the miniature shots of locations coupled with painted backdrops for some scenes are a lot less effectively handled than they would have been in the hands of someone like, well, the great Mario Bava, to name but one.

And while I’m busy invoking a comparison to The Great Bava, I’d have to say that the one vampiric scene in the movie, which is a pre-credits sequence, shows a staking through the heart of an unseen vampire (Doctor Callistratus) with a big mallet which is done with all the timing and ritualistic trapping of the pre-credits sequence of Bava’s Black Sunday (aka Mask Of The Demon and reviewed here) and features more blood in this first little snippet than most Hammer films of this period put together. I wonder how this film fared with the censors? I know the US and International cuts are different from each other, each containing different scenes and cuts the other don’t have... but I don’t think this opening was under discussion or “on the table” with the censors for some strange reason. Would be interesting to find out a little more perhaps.

And that’s about all I’ve got to say about Blood Of The Vampire. I would suggest If you’re doing a study of British Horror or want to watch all the relevant stuff churned out in this period then this movie is essential viewing because of it’s obvious influences from other horror films of that period but, if you’re not that fussed, then I suspect this movie has nothing much to offer you.

Luckily, my afternoon was saved as I started to watch the second half of the Classic Horror Campaign double bill, Vampyres... which I will review in a blog post coming soon...

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