A minor Italian vampire movie with bodice-ripping elements, this is one of quite a few attempts to reproduce Hammer’s horror formula in black and white. Shot on impressive real castle locations, it has a neo-expressionist look very different from Hammer’s studiobound Eastmancolor horrors – it runs to quite a lot of cleavage, but very little blood. It opens – as Hammer’s Vampire Circus would – as if it were a sequel reprising the end of a previous adventure. An aristocratic vampire (Dieter Eppler) leaves a fanged girlfriend to be slaughtered by an angry peasant mob (possibly in Austria sometime in the 19th century) and catches a carriage for the next community.
Bereft even of a name, this vampire is a cloaked, hollow-cheeked, stocky Dracula stand-in, who picks up a trick from Terence Fisher’s playbook by concealing his coffin in the extensive basements of the house where he selects his prey. Indeed, several other elements – including a featured role for the imperilled gardener’s daughter (Maretta Procaccini) – are lifted from Hammer’s 1958 Dracula, though the vampire makes his bow in society in a manner that prefigures John Badham’s 1979 Dracula, sweeping buxom Louise (Graziella Granati) into a dance-floor clinch in front of her jealous husband Wolfgang (Walter Brandi, billed as ‘Brandy’ on this print, and fresh from his own vampire role in Playgirls and the Vampire). When Louise comes down with familiar bite-related symptoms, Wolfgang calls in Van Helsing substitute Dr Nietszche (Paolo Solvay).
Written and directed by Roberto Mauri (Eva, la Venere Selvaggia/King of Kong Island), this is one of a clutch of similar efforts (L’Amante del Vampiro/The Vampire and the Ballerina, Il Mostro dell’Opera/The Vampire of the Opera, etc) . It hints that it might be questioning Hammer’s square morality by making the heroine and her Leia-earmuffed companion Corinne (Gena Gimmy) both compliant with the fiend. There’s no ‘Mina’ figure to balance these ‘Lucy’ types and it’s Wolfgang, the equivalent of Michael Gough’s Arthur in the Hammer film, who is bitten and semi-vampirised but purged of the taint – admittedly thanks to his own strength of character and a handy wrought-iron spiked gate he uses to impale the lurking dastard. The vampire-hunter a significantly-named, sinister fanatic (the day-players doing the English dub mangle his surname several different ways). Nietzsche has apparently driven vampires almost to extinction, but the flat ending doesn’t follow through this interesting streak.
There’s a deal of fang-bearing and bosom-heaving, but a lot more skulking around the basement. Eppler’s vampire is somewhere between Tod Slaughter in full-on melodrama and Robert Quarry as Count Yorga, and his obviously powdered white cheeks make him almost a camp figure. The costumes are nice, the authentic castle has atmosphere and there’s a lush, imaginative score from Aldo Piga.
Also known as Curse of the Blood-Ghouls.