OF THE VAMPiRES
(1965), B/W, 85 minutes
Produced at Soundlab, Coral Gables, Fla.
Produced by K. Gordon Murray
Directed by Paul Nagel (as “Paul Nagle”)
DVD-R comes packaged as shown in color DVD case, wrapped in plastic!
THE WORLD OF THE VAMPIRES has many touches found in several other of the Mexican vampire films, all of which, it could be argued, utilize the Bram Stoker novel “Dracula”, and specifically the 1932 Universal film of the same name, as their primary role model.
Yet THE WORLD OF THE VAMPIRES is different, somehow. Perhaps it is the contemporary setting, the intrusion into the Mexican bourgeois, or the fact that the vampire/villain is unusually sexual.
This film uses music as a pivotal plot point, as in THE MAN AND THE MONSTER. Here, however, music has uses both as behavioral science and weapon. The familiar, spooky cues of Gustav Cesar Carrion are enhanced by some truly avant-garde piano and organ pieces.
The contemporary setting is, as in THE VAMPIRE’S COFFIN and other genre entries, sort of a surprise. The credits roll over scenes of the vampire in his musty catacombs, implying a distinct 19th Century period; suddenly, a Land Rover roars into view! This tendency of Mexican horror-makers to shock us with temporal shuffling is weird, and alotta fun.
This film, like many of its brothers, is simply dripping with atmosphere, and boasts many impressive sets, including a hell of a pipe organ, with its pipes topped with human skulls.
The f/x range from trivial to very impressive. We have, of course, the obligatory rubber bats, but they’re kinda creepy here, and they fly pretty well. Much cooler are the Count’s army, a bunch of rubber-faced vampire-ghouls who look like something you’d more likely see in a Grade-C “Son of Hercules” movie. The Count’s caverns, and his pit of spikes, are great, as well as the aforementioned organ.
The all-important transformations from bat to vampire this time around are accomplished by means of quick dissolves, some with zoom shots. (Perhaps we should mount a study of the various vampiric entrances/transformations in the Mexi-Murray horror canon; there are likely a dozen or more!)
One amazing shot shows vampiress Leonore as the grimacing face on a rubber bat! This quick, not repeated shot is a shocker. There’s also a humorous shot of a bat hiding in the rafters, peeking out and then scooting back upstairs, a shot that simply shouts “I’m a puppet, damnit!”
And of course there’s the inevitable occurrence of the old “I can’t see the new guy in the mirror!” trick.
There are some impressive scenes throughout of sacrificial occult rituals, involving a fairly large cast of vampirettes.
Count Subotai is an unusually “pretty boy” vampire, more akin to a charismatic bum or one of deSade’s “voluptuaries” than a gruesome undead seducer.
For some reason, the Count’s seduction of Leonore, a typical 60’s suburban housewife, suggests garden-variety adultery, “Thy Neighbor’s Wife” and all that rot. It is both common, yet somehow quite erotic, even “dirty”.
Indeed, THE WORLD OF THE VAMPIRES is highly erotic, and may be the most overtly sexual of the Mexican vampire films. In addition to the Count and Leonore being singularly handsome, there are scenes which are very steamy. When the Count first bites Leonore’s neck, not only does she crane her neck yieldingly, she moans, as if in the throes of orgasm! Later, we are treated to a “toothy” (literally) closeŠup of Leonore that’s also quite sexy, with her gaping, glistening mouth and all.
And then there’s our hero, Rudolph, a cross between Beethoven and Valentino, with his skinny mustache and his cutting-edge theories on music-as-social engineering tool. He comes across as ultra-cool, especially as voiced by the ultra-cool Paul Nagel.
Together, these three make a most odd sort of love triangle, with artist/scientist battling vampire/seducer for the prize of woman.
People at a cocktail party freak out over different bits of music which Rudolph plays. When the Count soon appears at same cocktail party, all the “birds” immediately start clucking over him; one might imagine that Rudolph sees competition! This is verified when Leonore virtually “flies” into Subotai’s arms.
The Count has, as an assistant, a goofy moaning hunchback who looks like John Astin. His actions are entirely comical; he is second only to Nostradamus’ familiar, Leo, as “the clown prince of hunchback flunkies”. A fight between the hunchback and musicianĒscientist Rudolph provides some amazing acrobatics as the two hop over furniture, dancing like they’re in a ballet.
Overall, the film is a structural mess, meandering all over the place. But that’s fine, when we’re watching for other reasons…
A good deal of time is spent ruminating on the subtle yet dreadful horror of making an excruciatingly, slow, inexorable transformation from man into monster, watching helplessly as your very limbs are turned into monstrosities. This is good stuff, heavy and powerful for this vintage cheapie-creepie.
We follow our heroes through Subotai’s dark caverns in thrilling last reel, racing towards an implausible yet effective ending, in which the Count trips and falls onto his own stake pit, followed by his grief-stricken, undead bride! Wow! Now that’s an ending!
THE WORLD OF THE VAMPIRES is strange, different, and quite entertaining. It could be called an odd duck, in a family of odd ducks. To some, this would be the highest honor.
* (updated 02-14-06) Thanks to a terrific new book we just received, “Ghouls, Gimmicks and Gold” by Kevin Heffernan, (2004, Duke University Press), we have been able to update the U.S. television release date for this Murray horror title to 1965. The appendices to this study of the horror film in America, circa 1955-1968, include complete listings of syndication feature film packages from many distributors, including American International Television, who subleased the K. Gordon Murray film catalog under the title THRILLERS FROM ANOTHER WORLD. It seems that 1965 was the watershed year for genre film sold to television, with a veritable flood of titles released by both domestic and foreign distribs.
* (effective 05-01-03) After a very brief window of availability, this long-sought K. Gordon Murray title is once again out of print, due to international copyright issues. Used video tapes of this title may be found on online video dealers and auction sites. Stay tuned for further developments!
* Here’s an odd and wonderful thing, which makes one wonder if this was a dubbing liberty, or a direct translation: the “devil” which Subotai prays to is called KAYGOR. As in “KAY GORdon Murray”!!! Weird, huh? Alright, let us all get on bended knee now and