(A.k.a. L'ULTIMA PREDA DEL VAMPIRO)
Five beautiful showgirls are travelling across country in the night, with their manager Lucas (Alfredo Rizzo) and his assistant Frank. A storm is raging outside and the weather gets so severe that they soon happen upon a roadblock. They have two options: turn around and return to the hotel they've just fled without paying their bill, or take a detour ahead.
Against the advice of a passing local, they decide to take the latter option - heading for a castle on the hill.
Upon arrival, the troupe are again dissuaded from venturing further by the castle's handyman (Antoine Nicos). Still, they forge on and knock on its heavy door. Reluctantly accepted into the castle by the surly housekeeper (Marisa Quattrini), Lucas explains that all they need is a bed for the night. Enter the castle's owner, Gabor (Walter Brandi) - a handsome Count with a penchant for sharp suits. Initially hesitant, upon clocking one of the girls, pretty brunette Vera (), he has a sudden change of heart and permits them to stay. On one condition: they mustn't leave their rooms during the night.
Of course, rules are there to be broken. And that's just what one of the girls, Katia (Maria Giovannini) does ... with fatal consequences. The following morning her body is found outside the castle, and it's assumed she fell or jumped from the balcony a few hours earlier.
Advising his guests that they must stay on at the castle while the mystery of Katia's death is solved, Gabor's infatuation with Vera grows ever-more evident. So, too, does the fact that she seems to be unwittingly familiar with her surroundings. And, say, doesn't that portrait of Gabor's cursed ancestor on the wall look just like Vera ...?!
The girls decide to put their worries behind them and practice their dance routines, while Gabor frets increasingly about the threat they may be under come night time. Frank, meanwhile, is convinced that Katia's death was no accident. All it takes to convince the others is another murder...
THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE is on the one hand gloriously camp trash. The dialogue is ludicrous, performances are enjoyably wooden (everyone speaks in expressionless bursts with their arms at their sides) and the plot consists almost exclusively of unlikely reactions to surreal situations. The melodramatic score bounces away in the background even when characters are simply conversing.
On the other hand, there are quite frequently gorgeous shots - ranging from a standout burial scene to the simple image of a naked woman in silhouette in the opening of a door - and a great sense of pacing. Scenes such as a curtailed striptease act and a brief topless shot during the aforementioned silhouette moment are bold for their time (1960), upping the ante in terms of risqué content when measured against the tamer Hammer movies of the era.
An energetic, fun film laced with subtle humour and surprisingly effective moments of Gothic style, PLAYGIRLS makes great use of its black-and-white cinematography and pretty cast. Fair enough, the vampire is perhaps the least threatening bloodsucker ever to have graced the screen, but that doesn't stop the film from being effortlessly entertaining.
Nucleus Films bring Piero Regnoli's THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE to UK DVD in its uncut form, clocking in 77 minutes and 23 seconds in length. The film's original 1.37:1 aspect ratio has been adhered to, presented in a strong windowboxed framing. Blacks are solid, contrast is rendered extremely well, images are bright and clear throughout. The occasional pop and scratch on the print adds to the film's enjoyably trashy vibe.
Audio comes in choices of English or original Italian, both proffered in original mono mixes. The Italian cut of the film was apparently significantly shorter than export versions (this is explained in the disc's onscreen text), so the film reverts to English audio on the Italian track where need me. Both mixes are clear and relatively clean. Well-written optional English subtitles come in yellow with a black borderline, ensuring they're easily readable at all times.
A static main menu page leads into an animated scene selection menu, from which you can access the film via 12 chapters.
Bonus features commence with a new 14-minute featurette entitled "Kim Newman: Vampire Hunter". In it, the esteemed writer begins by describing the film as "an odd one". He talks us through the British genre successes of the late 50s, reasoning that these are most likely the inspiration for PLAYGIRLS's style and content. We learn about the film's connections to another Italian effort of the same year entitled THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA, censorship issues with the BBFC of old and how promoter Richard Gordon turned this film into an international success.
The film's original trailer is a hyperbolic joy.
"8mm Version: THE LAST FLING OF A VAMPIRE" is a few minutes of excellent silent 8mm footage (save for the whirring of the reel), complete with a brief contextual introduction from Newman.
Finally we get the original French credits and a deleted scene.
The disc is defaulted to open with trailers for GIVE US TOMORROW (looking forward to this) and the excellent CRAZE.
A great, important slice of influential Italian horror, served extremely well by Nucleus Films' disc.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Nucleus Films|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|