Cinema/TV, Dracula, Film Notes

Your Daily Dracula – Germán Robles as Señor Duval/Conde Lazlo Lavud, El Ataúd del Vampiro (The Vampire’s Coffin) (1958)

Your Daily Dracula – Germán Robles as Señor Duval/Conde Lazlo Lavud, El Ataúd del Vampiro (The Vampire’s Coffin) (1958)

This follow-up to El Vampiro brings back all the main creatives – it might not be a better film, but it’s a busier one with a lot of varied elements.  It opens in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man sequel prologue style with Dr Mendoza (Guillermo Orea) and minion Barraza (Yerye Beirute) breaking into a crypt in the backwater village of Sierra Negre and stealing the body of Lazlo Lavud (German Robles) – immaculately dressed and preserved except for the huge stake stuck through his starched shirt-front – so Mendoza can do a scientific study (the subtitles on the version I saw have him claim that he plans to ‘analise’ the vampire).

It turns out that the semi-mad scientist wouldn’t be here if the blabbermouth hero of the last film, Dr Enrique Saldivar (Abel Salazar) hadn’t told him about Lavud, though the doctor has managed to convince himself that the dead man was just a ‘normal guy who liked blood’.  The action moves to the big city – very stagebound and eerily depopulated – where Enrique seems to have turned into a tongue-tied comedy klutz and is still smitten with heroine Marta (Ariadna Welter), who has been working as a nurse in the hospital but plans to resume her never-before-mentioned career on the stage.

Part of Robles’ vampire get-up is an oversized version of that medallion Bela Lugosi sported – which turns up on a surprising number of screen Draculas.  Here, unusually, it serves several plot purposes.  Greedy Barraza wants to steal it, but the chain is caught up on the stake so he pulls that loose – whereupon Lavud returns to life and makes Barraza, whose day job is as a security guard in a wax museum, into his minion.  The medallion is also useful when it comes to hypnotising prospective victims and in exerting the fluence over Marta, who is still the Count’s intended bride/breakfast.  Lavud moves into the wax museum, which has a basement full of functional torture devices.  The mad old aunt (Alicia Montoya) of El Vampiro shows up still wailing awful warnings and gets shoved into an iron maiden and forgotten about.

After working up a House of Wax knock-off sub-plot, with Barraza in the Charles Bronson role, the film has Marta go into rehearsals as a principal dancer and setting up an abduction-from-the-stage sequence with quite a bit of Phantom of the Opera energy.  Robles, billed as ‘German Robles (El Vampiro)’, strides about with purpose, dramatically lit from below and often accompanied by a thunderous score, and occasionally indicates displeasure with a mean look – amusingly, he seems shocked that his intended concubine wears an immodest outfit on stage, with a poster of her striking a leggy pose earning a hard stare.  Lavud boasts an impressive cloak and even bigger fangs than in the last film.

It winds up with serial-style parallel action – Marta fainted with her neck under a guillotine blade, Enrique besting the hulking Barranza in a punch-up, and the vampire taunting the hero by appearing and disappearing and turning into a big fluttering bat on a string to irritate him … until a well-thrown spear skewers the bat to a wall and it turns back into the caped Count, now impaled like a trophy.  Fernando Mendez occasionally lets the atmosphere build up – as in a sort of melancholy encounter with a depressed victim (Lourdes Azcarraga) who is alone in a café after failing an audition – but most often goes with pell-mell, somewhat protracted action (that bat prop bobs about much too much).  Salazar, who co-scripted with Ramon Obon and Raul Zenteno, likes to give himself comedy routines and fights in which he gets the better of much more formidable opponents.


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