After a resounding success with their first three debut releases, Mondo Macabro strike again with yet another slight change in direction with a very rarely seen gothic horror gem in the form of Fernando Mendez' 'El Vampiro' (or for the mentally challenged consumer 'The Vampire'). But going on the form of the standard set by the well received debut titles, could Mondo Macabro maintain the already high standard of expectation
As the opening titles role we get our first bite (oh dear) of our lead vamp in action as lunges toward his latest victim. But this is just a teaser for what's to come as when the film starts proper we are introduced to the young Marta who has just arrived at the run down train station in Sierra Negra (that's in Mexico folks). She has hurried home to be by the side of her ailing aunt but when she arrives there is no one there to meet her, but she soon makes acquaintance with a similarly stranded traveling salesman called Enrique who offers to help her obtain a ride home. The only other arrival at the station though was a large crate of earth that has been specially shipped over from Hungary for the mysterious Mr Duval (can you guess where this is heading yet?) When a cart comes to collect said crate, Enrique persuades the driver to give a lift to himself and Marta to her family residence.
Reminiscing fondly about the beautiful homestead she is returning to she is soon taken aback when she gets there and finds that all is not how she remembered it. The once beautiful land is dank and lifeless and the prosperous bustling activity has been replaced by a ghost town. If this wasn't strange enough then Marta soon finds out that the mysterious Mr Duval wants to buy their property but as the land is owned by the family she retains the casting decision on whether it would be sold. Even more worrying is the growing number of what seems like vampire attacks on the remaining members of the community which triggers even more belief that a vampire does indeed exist! What is the truth about the legend of the vampire's existence? What are the dark secrets of the inhabitants of Marta's family home? Can Marta and her new friend solve these queries before their world is turned upside down?
Well yes of course, stalwarts of the vintage gothic vampire movie scene will know what to expect from a such a production as this and in general the main query that fans of the genre will be more interested in is that does the film deliver the goods? Well with great confidence I can happily say 'yes' and there are a few key elements to exactly why this is such a damn good vintage horror film. Firstly (and perhaps rather misleadingly) the film has been packaged with Hammer's Dracula mentioned as a reference point, ignore that time line specific reference and start thinking comparisons to the Universal horror classics and you'll be more in tune here. And it is with this in mind that you'll find immense enjoyment from this vintage midnight movie gem. I've long been a fan of the Universal Monsters series and in truth found 'El Vampiro' to be very much at least en par (if not better than some of the Dracula sequels) in terms of both delicious spooky atmosphere and pure horror style.
From the aforementioned set piece opening titles director Mendez grabs his audience and reels them in. His pacing is faultless and his direction very much full of style and flair that I'll embaressingly admit that I did not expect from an early Mexican horror movie such as this. The casting is solid enough with worthy mention to Enrique as minor comic relief but it is the performance by German Robles as the spooky Mr Duval (well dammit ok one of the vampires) truly steals the show and I would hope that he would have been revered as much as say Lugosi (with whom his performance rivals) in native Mexico for his delightful portrayal. Classic gothic horror atmospherics and a story that has some nice twists and turns, 'El Vampiro' is one of those vintage gems that you'll be thrilled to discover, especially if you enjoy this scene (and let's face it, who doesn't?)
The main worry that folk have with any old film being released on DVD is that the source prints can often be somewhat lacking, so you're always generally prepared for the worst with this are. Thankfully not so with Mondo Macabro as the old black and white print utilised here looks simply fantastic, sharp and clear with only the merest of inevitable tiny blemishes here and there. The audio is brought to us with two quite differing options; the first being the original audio which I would certainly recommend be your choice (together with the English subtitles) as this retains perfectly the charming creepy atmosphere of the movie as it was always meant to be seen. Of course some of you may be tempted by lazy option of the English audio track but I would seriously advise against it as the monotone drone of the dubbing team suck the soul right out of any atmosphere that the film has - it might perhaps be sufferable though for the beer soaked bad movie effect that this option would be likely to induce. But as always I'm starting to roam, so what about the extra features of this particular Mondo Macabro release?
Well, outside of the audio options (which I wouldn't really count to be fair) there are only two main bonus features; the first being the very much fun inclusion of the films sequel in photo strip format 'The Vampire's Coffin' - a lengthy onscreen comic book gothic adventure that will possibly get a mixed reception from fans (strange but lots of fun). The other extra is the always welcome inclusion of an episode of the excellent Mondo Macabro TV series, this one being the edition concentrating on Mexican Movies. I've seen these shows several times before (well I love my TV tapes) and have always found them to be some of the most fascinating studies of our favourite genre scene globally out there (if only they could expand on these more!) So while not bursting at the seams, still a solid and admirably presented package that should sate fans of vintage late night gothic shockers.
Another change in direction for the Mondo Macabro team, but another very gratifying release that as well as being essential viewing for fans of the classic Universal Monsters series is an excellent late night horror treat. I loved this film - check it out!
Review by Alan Simpson
|Released by Mondo Macabro|
|Region All - Pal|
|Rated - 18|
|Audio - Optional Spanish or English|
|Subtitles - English|
|Documentary on Mexican horror movies, Photonovel sequel|