Cinema/TV, Dracula, Film Notes

Your Daily Dracula – Giuseppe Addobati as Stefano, Il mostro dell’opera (The Monster of the Opera) (1964)

Your Daily Dracula – Giuseppe Addobati as Stefano, Il mostro dell’opera (The Monster of the Opera) (1964)

Least-known of a blip of vampire/dancer movies made in Italy in the early 1960s, this is director Renato Polselli’s follow-up to Amante del vampiro (The Vampire and the Ballerina), scripted by Ernesto Gastaldi, who had written Amante and also Piero Regnoli’s L’Ultima preda del vampiro (Playgirls and the Vampire).  It’s the most delirious and logic-free of the trio, harking forward to Polselli’s 1970s peculiarities (Delirio caldo, Riti magie nere e segrete orge nel trecento), not least in its emphasis on kinky sexiness.  There’s no nudity but quite a few peek-a-boo nighties and a striking emphasis on homosexuality, including a three-way lesbian cuddle (with the serious sapphist sobbing when she realises the other cuties are just teasing) and a gay male caricature among the dance troupe.  As the title suggests, it’s sort of a cash-in on The Phantom of the Opera, though the cooped-up-in-a-theatre-with-a-killer set-up prefigures slashers like The Flesh and Blood Show and gialli like Stagefright – basically, the theatre setting is an excuse to litter the screen with weird props.

It opens with a dream sequence as nightdress-clad Giulia (Gloria Talbott lookalike Barbara Howard) is chased by fanged vampire Stefano (Giuseppe Addobbati) and assisted by dusty servant Achille (Alberto Archetti).  This sequence has sped-up camera, sudden shifts of scenery, a magically-appearing coach and an invisible barrier preventing the servant from helping the girl.  The vampire’s favourite weapon is a pitchfork, which he thrusts into the girl as she rolls on the ground – whereupon she wakes up.  Later, with no real introduction, Stefano appears at the abandoned theatre where the large dance troupe are rehearsing a show which covers many time periods – there’s a mediaeval scene, and a Charleston-scored apache dance involving buckets, plus male dancers in skeleton leotards.

Temperamental leading lady Giulia gives director Sandro (Marco Mariani) a hard time with her moods, dreams, premonitions and bizarre behaviour.  There are an enormous number of characters, few identified, and a surprisingly low body count – indeed, none of the troupe get killed.  Supernatural elements are almost random – a coffin buried under bits of scenery in the basement contains the vampire’s empty tailcoat (and unnaturally fresh boutonniere), which he later fills.  A historical flashback explains Giulia was formerly incarnated as Laura, married mistress of Stefano and responsible perhaps for him being buried alive (I’d infer the set-up of La Grande Breteche whereby she kept quiet and let her husband wall up her lover – but this isn’t spelled out).  While immured, Stefano prayed to the Devil and was turned into a vampire – now he has a harem of nightie-clad, fanged former victims chained to the wall in dungeon half-filled with dry ice.  This trio of films are full of kinkiness, kitsch, accidental surrealism (as opposed to the deliberate kind in Roger Vadim’s Et mourir de plaisir/Blood and Roses), silent movie serial-style action, floating elements from Universal and Hammer vampire films and much pin-up posing … which make them a key forerunner of the style of fantastique later found in the films of Jean Rollin and on his best days Jesus Franco.

In the end, he is defeated when the showfolk burn his portrait and then hold torches near his face, which makes him crumble to a skeleton and then dust, leaving his lapel gardenia behind like Christopher Lee’s Dracula ring.  It has even stranger things, like a dance scene where the dancers press themselves to an invisible barrier (a sheet of glass?) or later are possessed to dance in a frenzy until they drop.  A subplot has abducted Carlotta (MilenaVukotic) thrown to the dungeon girls (who fail to chew on her), seemingly just to tick off the by-no-means-entirely-sympathetic Giulia.  It’s impossible to work out how everyone relates to each other –and everyone emotes at full pitch throughout.  Genuinely peculiar, even by the standards of Italian gothic.



No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: