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Cinema/TV, Dracula, Film Notes

Your Daily Dracula – Maria Luisa Rolando as Countess Alda, Walter Brandi as Herman, L’Amante del Vampiro/The Vampire and the Ballerina (1960)

Your Daily Dracula – Maria Luisa Rolando as Countess Alda, Walter Brandi as Herman, L’Amante del Vampiro/The Vampire and the Ballerina (1960)

In the early 1960s, under the influence of contemporary Hammer Dracula movies and classic Universal horrors, Italian directors Renato Polselli and Piero Regnoli turned out a trilogy of lookalike gothic cheesecake films about Dracula-style vampires (two starring Walter Brandi, two co-written by Ernesto Gastaldi) mixing with scantily-clad showgirls – with weirdly thrown-together storylines, nice old castle and countryside locations, lots of monochrome gothic atmosphere, cape-swashing action, sweetly silly dance routines, much fang action and hints of the more explicit sexiness that would become a feature of the vampire movies of Jean Rollin, Jesus Franco and others (Polselli would join this trend with the colourfully sleazy Riti, Magie Nere e Segrete Orge Nel Trecento … ).

Polselli’s L’Amante del Vampiro (The Vampire and the Ballerina, 1960) was the first of the trio, followed by Regnoli’s L’ultimo predo dell’ vampiro (Playgirls and the Vampire, 1960) and Polselli’s Il mostro dell’opera (The Monster of the Opera, 1964).  Brandi didn’t exactly register onscreen as well as Christopher Lee, or even David Peel or Noel Willman, but these are mostly endearing programmers.  L’Amante dell’ Vampiro, perhaps inspired by Dracula’s Daughter (1935), splits the arch-vampire role between Countess Alda (Maria Luisa Rolando), who does the appear-at-the-top-of-the-stairs ‘I bid you welcome’ routine, and her minion Herman (Brandi), who wears the cloak and might be the true master in the castle.  Going by gothic vampire tradition, Countess Alda’s first name might be Cru.

Here, in an interesting twist on the Dracula/minion relationship, Herman – who has a wrinkly rubberface and scabby/straggly scalp in his monster form – forages the countryside for milkmaids or showgirls to drain of blood and turn him into a handsome, human-looking fellow with a natty brocaded outfit, staking them when they turn vampire so he doesn’t have any competition (after, with particular cruelty, promising them eternal life and luxury) … then, he lets the Countess drink his blood, or the victims’ blood out of his veins, which turns him back into a wrinkled mess while she preserves her eternal beauty.  As in Dracula’s Daughter, the Countess is looking to get shot of her devoted servant and is either romantically interested in show-backing aristo Luca (Isarco Ravaioli) or has him pegged as a likely substitute for the increasingly demanding Herman, who might have been going through this whole gruesome cycle to keep the higher-class woman dependent on him.

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