Tuesday, 31 August 2010


Henry Cass's BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE is one of those oddities thrown up in the wake of the success of the early Hammer films. Unlike Regal's duo of Karloffian thrillers - GRIP OF THE STRANGLER and CORRIDORS OF BLOOD - this one was not only in colour but had some legitimate Hammer blood in the form of a script by Jimmy Sangster. Despite the title (and the poster) it is not a genuine supernatural vampire tale but belongs rather to that sub-genre that also includes films as diverse as Franju's EYES WITHOUT A FACE and Ferroni's THE MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN and, as such is closely allied to the traditions of Paris's infamous Grand Guignol Theatre which has taken on an unhealthy turn in the recent crop of "torture porn" films. A doctor experimenting, none to conventionally, with blood diseases is executed for vampirism and a stake driven through his heart. Luckily a drunken medic is on hand to give him a heart transplant (this is Transylvania in 1873 after all said and done!) and a decade later we find him up to his old experiments while working as the governor of a prison for the criminally insane. Sadistic guards (headed by the later Labour MP Andrew Faulds), beatings, attempted rapes and human experiments are the order of the day until the evil Dr.Callistratus is unmasked and shares the fate of Franju's Dr, Genessier by literally going to the dogs. It's bright and garishly coloured like its Hammer rivals and has a more than interesting cast headed by Sir Donald Wolfit - last of the flamboyant barnstorming actor/managers of British theatre - and scream queen Barbara Shelley. The film's hero is Vincent Ball who is one of those Australian actors who, along with Bud Tingwell and others, made there names in British B-movies and television before returning down under to resume successful careers in their homeland. If you look quickly during the pre-credit sequence you will see Anglo-Indian actor Milton Reid who is fondly remembered as the mulatto mute in Hammer's CAPTAIN CLEGG. Comedy veterans Bernard Bresslaw and John LeMesurier both have small roles and LeMesurier's old friend (and mine) Denis Shaw turns up without any dialogue as a blacksmith. Special mention must be made of actor Victor Maddern, a long time stalwart of English movies, who brings a touch of humanity to the mad doctor's deformed and murderous assistant.Of personal interest to me is an appearance by actor George Murcell who for several years ran a successful theatre in a disused church in a street where I was living in London. Director Cass is best known for his 1949 romantic drama THE GLASS MOUNTAIN. Rating ***

1 comment:

Cerpts said...

This is a movie which I want to like a lot more than I do...so I'd probably subtract a star in my own rating. A great cast, a totally credible Hammer look but I still found it to move at a glacial pace. From your really excellent synopsis, the film sounds a lot more action-packed than it plays. But I still like it in spite of all that; as long as I'm in a nice, laid-back mood and not too impatient, I find I can allow the movie to play out in front of me and enjoy it for what it is. And of course Barbara Shelley can never go amiss. Completely unrelated sidebar: have you seen CAT GIRL???