We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.
Cody is drawn into a Mexican vampire double feature.
EL VAMPIRO (1957)
Mexico-based filmmaker Fernando Méndez passed away forty-nine years ago, but movies are immortal and the works of the long lost director are still picking up new fans nearly half a century after his death.
Méndez's filmography lists forty directing credits, with El Vampiro coming in at #29, but it was, for the most part, my introduction to the director when I watched it for the first time this month, and I was impressed by what I saw.
This vampire tale centers on a young woman named Marta, who travels into the Mexico countryside to visit her beloved aunt, the woman who raised her and who she has been notified is very ill. Although Marta remembers the area her aunt lived in as an idyllic place, things have taken a turn for the worse in recent years. The place is now dark and dreary, and the locals live in fear of nightfall.
It's no coincidence that the area's decline started after a man named Duval arrived in town. Duval is the titular vampire, secretly Count Karol de Lavud, and he has plans for this area. Just under one hundred years ago, his brother was killed by the locals. Lavud has had soil imported from cemeteries in his native Hungary, and when this soil is placed on his brother's grave on the one hundredth anniversary of his death, he will be resurrected. Together, the vampiric brothers will rule Mexico.
Unfortunately, Marta's aunt has been declared dead and entombed by the time Marta arrives at her home, and it's no mystery to the audience just what her ailment was, especially since Marta's other aunt, the woman's sister, has clearly been turned into a creature of the night by Lavud.
It isn't long before Marta is being targeted by the vampires just like her aunt was, while the doctor who had come to town to examine Marta's aunt tries to get to the bottom of what's going on around here.
Although I have listened to the B Movie Cast cover quite a few Mexican genre classics, I don't have very much experience at all with watching Mexican horror movies. I'm not sure I had even heard of El Vampiro before this month, but I am very glad that I ended up crossing paths with it, as I really enjoyed the film.
It's a great little vampire tale that moves along at a good pace and features some wonderful black and white imagery. It has everything you could hope to see in a gothic horror film - impressive, dusty, cobwebbed locations; stone tombs; a funeral procession by torch light; mysterious spectres.
One issue would be that Lavud seems a little underused, but Germán Robles certainly had the perfect look for a vampire Count.
If you enjoy the Universal Monster movies, I would highly recommend checking out El Vampiro, as it delivers something very much along the same lines.
THE VAMPIRE'S COFFIN (1958)
The Vampire's Coffin / El ataúd del Vampiro was the pick for day 14 of the Final Girl blog's SHOCKtober event, which is how I came to discover El Vampiro. I started watching The Vampire's Coffin and something seemed off about it, as if I was being dropped into the middle of a story and trying to play catch up... as it turns out, that's exactly what was going on, as El ataúd del Vampiro is the sequel to El Vampiro and picks up directly after the events of its predecessor. When I discovered this, I stopped The Vampire's Coffin and put on El Vampiro instead.
The sequel begins with the staked corpse of Lavud being stolen from its tomb by a doctor, who takes it to the hospital where he works so he can study it and deduce the scientific facts behind the legends of vampirism. Of course, this is a completely idiotic idea and only results in Lavud being revived and set loose in the hospital... which happens to be the same place where the doctor from the previous film works and Marta is recovering from the ordeal Lavud put her through. Yeah, a good stretch of the movie is basically a vampire version of Halloween II, twenty-three years before that slasher sequel moved its heroine and killer into a hospital setting. As the film goes on, Lavud also wanders off into town and hangs out in a wax museum, so that gives it a little extra flavor.
While Lavud is out on the town, there is a standout sequence, a chase featuring some fantastic lighting and shadows. The movie as a whole isn't amazing, but this shadow play is.
Overall, The Vampire's Coffin is quite a step down from the first movie, and quite a different film. It takes a somewhat lighter approach to the material, and while El Vampiro was an atmospheric gothic horror movie, this one largely feels like your average cheap B-movie. It is still an enjoyable movie to watch, but it's no wonder there was never a third installment to the Luvad saga.
There is a subtitled version of the film streaming on Netflix, but if you really want to have a fun viewing of it, there is a 1987 episode of the Commander USA horror host show on YouTube where Commander USA hosts a screening of an English dubbed version. The video is the episode in its entirety, including the commercials that aired during the show, like previews for The Grand Knockout Tournament, The Monster Squad, and the Masters of the Universe film. "Opens tomorrow!"
It's been a very hectic month, so I fell far behind in my SHOCKtober write-ups, but even though October is coming to an end and the event is over, I still intend to continue writing about the SHOCKtober movies. Why limit them to October? Every day is SHOCKtober for a horror fan!