Sunday, December 23, 2007

9th February 2007: Vintage Bloodsucker double!


Germany 1922 b&w

aka Nosferatu Eine Symphonie Des Grauens, Nosferatu the Vampire, Nosferatu A Symphony Of Horror, Nosferatu A Symphony Of Terror, Terror Of Dracula

Director F.W. Murnau Writer Henrik Galeen

Cast Max Schreck (Graf Orlok), Gustav von Wangenheim (Hutter), Greta Schröder (Ellen Hutter), Alexander Granach (Knock)

First is the silent film that really started vampire cinema as we know it, the 1922 silent German classic Nosferatu. This is a film that really needs no introduction, and even if you haven’t seen it before, the sight of Max Schreck as Count Orlok creeping over the rooftops of post-World War One Berlin is so deeply ingrained into our collective consciousness.

Nosferatu A Symphony Of Terror may have been lost to us forever after Bram Stoker’s widow took legal action over the film’s “free adaptation” of her husband’s novel Dracula. It’s true, the film faithfully follows the Jonathan Harker character (here as “Hutter”, played by Gustav von Wangenheim) to Transylvania and the castle of Count Orlok, or Dracula. All prints were ordered to be destroyed - one turned up later in London, however, and for a film that’s now 85 years old it’s in remarkably good condition. Will the collected works of Pauly Shore look so pristine? Hmmm, let us ponder....

Schreck is such a remarkable pre-Bela Lugosi Dracula. His distinctive look of bald dome, raccoon eyes, pointy ears and rat-like teeth was copied to the letter by Klaus Kinski in Werner Herzog’s relatively talky 1979 remake AND by Willem Dafoe in Shadow Of The Vampire, a film that suggests actor Max Schreck was an actual vampire!

As a film nerd I could talk for hours about the Expressionist use of shadows, and the stunning authentic locations, but instead I will join you in drawing the curtains and turning out the lights, whipping out the organ and reveling in the unholy glory of the original vampire classic - the 1922 Nosferatu.

Fangs Of The Living Dead

Spain 1968 colour

aka Malenka The Vampire, Malenka, Bloody Girl, Malenka: La Sobrina Del Vampiro, The Vampire's Niece

Director/Writer Amando de Ossorio

Cast Anita Ekberg (Malenka/Sylvia Morel), “John Hamilton”/Gianni Medici (Dr Lufuani), Diana Lorys (Bertha), Rosanna Yanni (Freya), Paul Muller (Innkeeper), Julián Ugarte (Count Walbrooke)

Talk to any rabid gorehounds and they will tell you Spain has a incredibly rich horror tradition: from the perverse sex-horrors of Jess Franco and the Lon Chaney of Europe Paul Naschy, who played the continental version of every horror character, to the skeletal Knights Templar zombies of Tombs Of The Blind Dead (1971). It was part of a whole series of Blind Dead films from horror specialist Amando de Ossorio, whose increasingly gory and sleazy filmography includes Night Of The Sorcerors (1973) and When The Screaming Stops (1974), and was just the crest of a tidal wave of Spanish shockers from the late Sick Sick Sixties.

Malenka The Vampire from 1968 was de Ossorio’s first horror, and you might be surprised to see Swedish bombshell Anita Ekberg in such a cheap Spanish clunker, but not even ten years after her bustout in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita in 1960, she was already considered long in the tooth (ahem). She plays Sylvia, the new Countess who arrives at the family castle in rural Spain dressed in her swinging Sixties finery and discovers a 200 year old timewarp - her uncle the Count claims to be over 150, the local barmaids are complaining about aenemia, and the castle’s crypt is full of relatives who don’t quite appear to be dead. It’s sad to say that insanity seems to run in the family.

Sylvia also happens to be the spitting image of her “long-dead” raven-haired grandmother Malenka, who was burnt at the stake (of course that’s Anita again, with all the dignity that she can muster, in a cheap wig during the flashback). It appears the malevolent spirit of Malenka wants Sylvia to join the family legacy of bloodsuckers and continue their experiments in “necrobiology”.

In the early 70s, Malenka was retitled Fangs Of The Living Dead to cash in on George A Romero’s zombie midnight movie hit Night Of The Living Dead (1968), and did the rounds of the US drive-ins in an "Orgy of the Living Dead" triple bill which issued an insurance policy: anyone driven insane by the movies would be given psychiatric care or placed in an asylum. Now THAT’s exploitation!!!

It’s highly unlikely anyone viewing Fangs Of The Living Dead would be driven to anything but frustration. It’s not as sleazy as the wave of Spanish horror to come and there’s very little of the free-flowing sangria, if you know what I mean. Fangs... is filled instead with moments of clunky, inappropriate comedy, such as the meeting between an Italian swinger and Blinka the dungeon wench. “But I’m a vampire”, she says, to which he replies, “I love exotic women!”

On the other hand, Spain has the kind of sets that Hammer Horror films could only dream about - moors, crypts, and a brooding gothic castle that you’ve seen hundreds of times in continental horror films. And of course there’s the fading but still alluring charm of its leading lady, about whom one reviewer quipped after seeing her as Malenka the vampire: “Fangs for the mammaries, Anita”. Fangs indeed (cough) for joining us for Fangs Of The Living Dead.


Anonymous said...

Malenka, la sobrina del vampiro

Anonymous said...

Malenka, la sobrina del vampiro