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Film Notes

Las Vampiras – notes

NB: these are my notes on the film, not a review – so you might not want to read them if you’ve not seen it yet. 

This opens with John Carradine in a natty sports jacket, dubbed with a rich deep Spanish voice, jovially chatting with the camera about ‘vampiras’, explaining that Edgar Allan Poe believed in them and he does too, then fading away through a Méliès dissolve. After cartoony credits, masked wrestler Mil Mascaras (Mil Mascaras) arrives piloting a small plane, and the film delivers one of those time-filling wrestling bouts these Mexican genre movies always indulge in – though director Federico Curiel at least tries for a few high angles, hand-held shots and amps up the screaming fans in the crowd, which puts the scene ahead of the rote, heavily padded matches in most Santo movies. It seems the beefy one has a sideline as an investigator of witches (‘brujas’), flying saucers (‘OVNIs’) and is currently interested in ‘vampiros’ because his latest ring opponent (a black man called Blackman) has been attacked by bats. A girl is found dead, drained of blood, and the puzzled cops muse that it’s an ‘extraño caso’ which might involve Dracula. MM – whose schtick is that he changes his mask and costume as often as the heroine of a Ross Hunter melodrama changes her frocks, and frequently augments the usual wrestling mask with a sparkly Sgt Pepper jacket – investigates a spooky old ruined crypt, with over-emphatic music stings, and runs into Carlos Mejor (Pedro Armindariz, Jr), a private eye who also specialises in weird mysteries, and they find tombs marked for Count and Countess ‘Alucard’, which both of them spot as a pseudonym.

After our heroes have broken through a wall, we cut away to a well-lit lair where Branos (Carradine) – not Dracula under another pseudonym (though the inscription on the tomb is for ‘Count Branos Alucard’) – is raging and laughing hysterically in a cage (he has a queenly cape with a big stiff collar), penned up by voluptuous, sneering vampire women in green leotards who all act like the villainess of Santo contra las Vampiras (presumably intentional, given the title) and strike non-stop poses as they plot against Mil and Carlos. There’s dissent among the vampiras, who frequently hold choreographed dances in their lair but also have one-on-one duels, with Veria (Maria Duval) and Aura (Martha Romero) hissing a lot as they jockey for the top spot while the extras just flap their arms. Eventually, Aura lets ‘el maestro’ out of his cage, and he seems ready to resume his position as ‘el rey de los vampiros’ until upbraided by chief dominatrix Veria (apparently Dracula’s widow), who reduces him to an infantile, blubbering wretch. However, Branos gets his mojo back and abducts Carlos’s girlfriend Marian (Maura Monti) – in an oddly effective nightmarish moment in a silly film, Carradine leers as he walks towards the camera (representing a terrified cop) and looks briefly genuinely evil rather than a doddering joke. Carlos and Mil break into the vampires’ lair and get caught. They hang about for a bit while the vampires cope with their own story, and are mind-controlled to fight each other – Mil wins (obviously). Marian, who has been stashed in a coffin. is rescued before she can be bitten and Mil uses a flaming torch ro set fire to the lair, burning up the vampires. Carlos and Marian clinch and the cop on the case muses that Mil Mascaras always runs off before he can be thanked. But Marian thanks him anyway. Thank you, Mil Mascaras. Really, thank you.

Kim Newman

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About Maura McHugh

I'm a weird writer who lives in Galway, Ireland.

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