Not only is this horror-tinged comedy directed by Lucio Fulci, who spent much of his career making knockabout entertainments seldom seen outside Italy, but the writing credits include Pupi Avati (Zeder) and Brunco Corbucci (Django). It tries for something more than tit and bum jokes – though there are a lot of those – but any comedy which needs lengthy footnotes about Italian social history to understand probably isn’t going to get a lot of laughs … and the vampire angle, as stressed in the title and all the publicity, is a surprisingly minor part of the movie, though it does allow for the set-piece featured on the poster as blood-lusting Costante (Lando Buzzanca) bites his wife (Sylva Koscina) on the soapy bottom in a bathroom scene.
Costante Nicosia is a Sicilian migrant to In Brianza – an industrial district in Northern Italy – who has married the daughter of a tycoon, built up a successful toothpaste business and gained many of the trappings of success – luxury home, a psychiatrist (Rosanno Brazzi), a mistress (Christa Linder), smart car, a basketball franchise – but is still caught between local gentry who sneer at his origins and useless relatives who browbeat him into supporting the whole family. He’s also neurotically superstitious – rubbing the spine of a hunchback (Antonio Allocca) for luck, terrified of broken mirrors and black cats, convinced that a witchy relative has cast the evil eye on him – which, at a pinch, might relate to the vision of Southern Italy in Avati’s La casa dalle finestre che ridono/The House with the Laughing Windows.
A miserable business trip to Romania leads Costante to the castle of pale, chic, tittering bisexual Count Dragulescu (John Steiner), a descendant of Dracula who hosts a nude dinner party with three voracious women and a camp gay stereotype. After an orgy of champagne-sloshing, Costante wakes up in bed next to a pale lovely back and is horrified to find he’s slept with – and been bitten by – the Count. Back in Brianza, Costante is overcome with strange feelings when he contemplates the naked bottoms of his basketball players in the shower and advised by his shrink to visit his mistress to see whether he’s really turned gay … when the woman cuts herself on barbed wire and insists he suck out the blood, he’s relieved to find that he’s not homosexual but is a vampire. Sort of. There’s a lot of back and forth as the protagonist becomes more aggressive – firing his useless brother-in-law, playing hardball with the unions, forcing himself on his wife – but still remains fundamentally inept, getting humiliated when he tries to stage a gothic liaison with a decadent aristocrat and when he visits a dominatrix known as ‘the lady in leather’.
‘Is this what you want?’ an Amazonian union organiser (Francesa Romana Coluzzi) asks during an argument, showing a cut on her arm, ‘the blood of the proletariat?’ In the happy-ish, if politically and sexually dubious, ending, Costante sets up a blood drive among his bought-off workers to feed his habit and his wife gives birth to a son who sports a big set of fangs. It features Ciccio Ingrassia of the Ciccio and Franco team as a shyster warlock, big-chinned familiar face Ugo Fangareggi as a Dragulescu minion and future porn star/politician Illona Staller. Fulci enthusiasts who want to deep dive into this sort of thing should note that it’s a follow-up to his earlier vehicle for comedy leading man Buzzanca, Nonostante le apparenze… e purchè la nazione non lo sappia… all’onorevole piacciono le donne (1972) aka The Eroticist, which is all about a politician possessed by an irresistible urge to pinch bottoms.