Lust of the Vampire (1957)


Lust of the Vampire Storyline

Someone is killing women in Paris. Four have died in the past six months, all of them young, with the same blood type, and drained of their blood. The newspapers have dubbed the killer a “vampire.” When it seems that dancer Nora [Ronny Holiday] has become victim number 5, journalist Pierre Lantin [Dario MIchaelis] is on the story, much to the annoyance of police Inspector Chantal [Carlo D’Angelo], who thinks of Pierre as a meddler looking for publicity.Pierre learns that one of the murdered girls used to attend Ecole Jean d’Arc, so he heads over to the school to interview her classmates. All they remember (that they haven’t already told the police) is that they were followed by a dazed-looking man in a trenchcoat just days before the murder. Pierre finds this interesting because the one picture he has of Nora also shows a strange man in a trenchcoat walking behind her. The next day, as Pierre drops off Lorette Roberts [Wandisa Guida], one of the students at the school, he notices the man in the trenchcoat. Pierre follows him to his apartment but, when Pierre returns with Inspector Chantal, he goes to the wrong apartment (they all look the same), and the Inspector is duly unimpressed.Knowing that he’s being tailed, Joseph Signoret [Paul Muller] (the man in the trenchcoat) goes straight to the Clinica Salus to see Professor Julien du Grand [Antoine Balpêtrè], for whom Joseph works in return for drugs. It’s been Joseph’s job to kidnap young girls for du Grand’s experiments, but now he wants out. Du Grand’s assistant gives him an out by strangling him. Du Grand, knowing that Joseph might have attracted the police, fakes his own death and goes into hiding on the advice of his cousin and benefactor, the duchess Margherita du Grand . Reduced to working in secret now, du Grand hitches up Joseph’s body to a machine that circulates his blood and keeps his organs working, while the duchess Margherita demands that du Grand complete his experiments because she is giving a ball tomorrow evening and wants her niece Giselle [Gianna Maria Canale] to attend. Giselle, considered the most beautiful woman in Paris, has the hots for Pierre, but Pierre prefers to keep a wide berth around Giselle and her aunt Margherita, because Margherita destroyed Pierre’s parents with her selfish love for Pierre’s father. Still, Pierre is ordered by his editor to cover the ball for the society page, and Pierre reluctantly agrees.Meanwhile, Lorette is stopped on the way home from school by a blind man asking her to deliver a letter to an address next to the Church of the Sacred Heart. When Lorette goes there, however, she is chloroformed and taken to the du Grand castle, where she is slated to become du Grand’s next victim. When Lorette doesn’t show up for dinner that evening, Pierre and her parents go to the police. The police find the blind man and get the address of the apartment, but the apartment has been abandoned.The next evening, Pierre attends the du Grand ball. He fends off Giselle’s attempts to interest him and leaves, but Pierre’s partner Ronald Fontaine [Angelo Galassi], who is lusting after Giselle, remains after hours and scales the castle wall to get into her bedroom. When Giselle irately refuses his advances, her resulting anger shows in her face as she rapidly ages, turning into old Margherite. Now that Ronald knows Giselle/Margherite’s secret, he cannot be allowed to live, so Margherite shoots Ronald and steps up her demand that Prof du Grand complete his treatment on her, even if it is not yet perfected. Reluctantly, du Grand prepares Lorette for the treatment, which involves hooking her and Margherite to the blood machine. After three hours on the machine, Margherite turns back into the beautiful Giselle and Lorette falls into a deathlike sleep.The next day, Pierre runs into Giselle on her way into an art store. He watches as she writes a check using her left hand. This catches Pierre’s attention because Lorette is also left-handed. When Pierre finds out that Ronald never returned from the ball last night, he puts 2 and 2 together and attempts to get Inspector Chantal to investigate. Chantal refuses to search the castle until Pierre provides with proof, so Pierre goes to the castle alone. There, he runs into Joseph, who has mysteriously awakened from his death and is lumbering around the castle grounds trying to get away. Pierre takes Joseph to the police, Joseph confesses his part in the murders, drops dead…again, and Inspector Chantal finally agrees to pay a visit to the castle.The police search the castle but find nothing. Just as they are about to leave, Giselle reverts into Margherite before their eyes. This time a fevered search finds a passage they missed before. It leads to a hidden room where they are surprised to discover Professor du Grand alive and well just before they shoot him. Looking in du Grand’s coffin, the police find Lorette, weak and in need of medical attention, but well enough to reveal her attraction to Pierre. While the ambulance takes Lorette to the hospital, Pierre and Chantal go out for coffee together. [Original synopsis by bj_kuehl]

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Lust of the Vampire Movie Reviews

I VAMPIRI (Riccardo Freda and, uncredited, Mario Bava, 1957) ***

This is notable for being the first Italian horror film, thus spearheading a rich Gothic vein which ran well into the 1970s (one of three strands of horror which emerged simultaneously – the others being the so-called “Mexi-Horror” and Britain’s Hammer brand-name). Curiously enough, I had never heard of the film when it turned up on late-night Italian TV some years ago but loved it immediately and, having erased the tape, I’d been pondering the idea of picking up the Image DVD ever since its release – but, only now, with Anchor Bay’s recent issue of THE MARIO BAVA COLLECTION VOL. 1 Box Set did I determine to spring for it! Rewatching I VAMPIRI now and, having in the meantime amassed quite a few titles made in this style, I can safely say that it was a tremendous start to the subgenre and remains one of its finest examples.

Due to a dispute with the producers, Freda left the project after 10 days’ shooting; Bava eventually completed the film and, during the remaining 2 day’s work, reportedly made considerable changes to its plot structure (which should have allotted him a co-director credit – a similar situation subsequently arose during the making of the horror/sci-fi CALTIKI, THE IMMORTAL MONSTER [1959]). Bava’s cinematography lends the film a real class – transcending its obvious low-budget and tight schedule – with any number of sweeping camera moves (to take advantage of the Cinemascope format) and incredible lighting effects. Besides, the transformation of the villainess from a beautiful woman into an old hag are masterfully accomplished in-camera through the use of filters (pretty much in the style of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE [1931]). The sets, especially the elaborate castle interior, are suitably impressive; Roman Vlad’s powerful score may have been re-used in later films, as it felt oddly familiar to me.

The script does seem to naively approach the new genre by piling on typical elements from the American horror films, such as the mad scientist and his sinister-looking ‘zombie’ acolyte. However, there’s no real vampire at work here – but rather rejuvenation by blood transfusion; perhaps, it was thought that the traditional bloodsucker would seem incongruous – or, worse, laughable – amidst a modern-day Parisian backdrop, but this clash of settings actually works very nicely (and may well have influenced EYES WITHOUT A FACE [1959] which, in its way, proved even more seminal to the horror genre). Besides, we get an unusual emphasis on the antagonistic rapport between the reporter hero and the police inspector in charge of the crime spree; following a splendid climax, the latter provides a long-winded last-minute explanation for the benefit of the viewer – which, basically, became a fixture of Italian horror/thriller efforts.

It’s also interesting that the hero, ultimately, establishes the source of evil as being much closer to home than he could ever have imagined; in fact, he represents the object of desire for wicked noblewoman Gianna Maria Canale (probably cast because she was Freda’s lover at the time, but there’s no denying that her classical looks and natural sophistication are perfect for the role). Still, even if the reporter falls for a lovely ingénue and does bear a grudge against Canale, his aggressive aversion to the latter isn’t credible: he should have been fascinated by her in spite of himself, thus creating an inner conflict for the hero. As it stands, one is merely moved to see Canale cling pathetically to an unrequited love – for which she debases herself by being driven to crime in order to re-obtain a semblance of youth (a scheme which still backfires on her, as the effect only lasts for short periods of time)!

The latter drawback leads, incidentally, to a head-scratching scene towards the end of the film: Canale runs into the hero, who accompanies her to buy a painting – she starts reverting to her true decrepit age while writing a cheque, excuses herself and hurries away to ‘safety’. This, somehow, arouses the reporter’s suspicion (why he should care whether she is right or left-handed is beyond me, but her behavior appears odd even to the shop-owner) and he promptly phones a colleague who had accompanied him the night before to a party given at the castle – the latter, smitten with the lady, had stayed behind – and, consequently, discovers that his friend has vanished! Euro-Cult favorite Paul Muller’s haunted, hunted look makes him ideal for the role of the hapless junkie who’s, basically, blackmailed into complying with the doctor and the Duchess’s perverse experiment. Curiously enough, Freda had originally intended him to be guillotined and subsequently reassembled; this grisly end, however, was dropped when Bava took over – but the stitching marks on his neck are said to be still visible in a scene where the re-animated Muller is grilled by Police (still, not being aware of his altered fate beforehand, I can’t say that I noticed)!

Interestingly, I VAMPIRI fared poorly at the box-office; this has been attributed to the Italian people’s innate skepticism of a home-grown horror product, thus giving rise to the long-running – and often highly amusing – practice of bestowing cast and crew members with English-sounding names! With respect to the American market, then, the film was bafflingly retitled THE DEVIL’S COMMANDMENT and included additional scenes featuring Al Lewis (later of the horror-spoof TV series THE MUNSTERS)!!

The Eternal Youth

When four young women are found in Paris with the blood completely drained, the ambitious and snoopy journalist Pierre Lantin (Dario Michaelis) decides to investigate the cases of the killer known as The Vampire. Inspector Chantal (Carlo D’Angelo) does not approve Lantin´s behavior. Soon Pierre suspects that family Du Grand, who lives in an ancient castle, may be involved with the murders but Inspector Chantal does not give support to his investigations. Meanwhile Pierre avoids the harassment of Giselle du Grand (Gianna Maria Canale), who is the niece of the wealthy matriarch of the family Margherita du Grand.

“I vampire” is a great Italian horror film with a story of the search for the eternal youth. The film was directed by Riccardo Freda, who left the production that was concluded by Mario Bava (uncredited). The beauty of Gianna Maria Canale is impressive more than sixty years later. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): “Os Vampiros” (“The Vampires”)

This classic terror movie gets an atmospheric and stunning direction from genre master Riccardo Freda

This frightening movie is plenty of thrills, chills, high body-count and an expressionist photography with phenomenal results . The picture is set in Paris, France, where a mad scientific captures and kills various young girls and draining their blood for her illicit use . He drains their blood , in order to keep alive an ancient, nasty duchess (Gianna Maria Cannale who starred ¨Teodora¨ directed by her husband Freda) . While a smug reporter (Michaelis) and a Police Inspector (Carlo D’Angelo)seek out clues for the so-called ‘vampire murders’ and links to the case a local drug addict (a junkie well played by Paul Muller , usual of Italian B series) whom is connected to the evil scientist and at the same time kidnaps a beautiful young woman (Wandisa Guisa who starred various Peplum).

Freda’s first great success is compellingly directed with startling visual content . This film, also known as “The Devil’s Commandment”, was the first Italian made horror film of the sound era and inspired a wave of Gothic Italian horror films . The picture was sadly censored in Italy and other countries . Strong on visual style and plenty of thrills, chills and suspense . The movie belongs to Italian Horror genre , Riccardo Freda (¨Secret of Dr. Hitchcock¨ , ¨Il Vampiri¨) along with Mario Bava (¨Planet of vampires¨, ¨House of exorcism¨) are the fundamental creators . In fact , both of whom collaborated deeply among them , as Bava finished two Fedra’s films , this ¨Il Vampiri¨ and ¨Caltiki¨ . These Giallo movies are characterized by overblown use of photographic effects , usual zooms and utilization of images-shock . Later on , there appears Dario Argento (¨Deep red¨, ¨Suspiria¨,¨Inferno¨), another essential filmmaker of classic Latino terror films . ¨The vampires¨ packs a good acting from Gianna Maria Canale , directer’s wife , as a crazed duchess, obsessed with retaining her youth. There also appears a cameo director , Riccardo Freda as autopsy doctor . The movie has a splendid cinematography by the terror genius , Mario Bava , while working with Freda on The vampires (1956) , the director left the project after an argument with the producers and the film mostly unfinished , then Bava stepped in and directed the majority of the movie, finishing it on schedule.

The motion picture was well directed by Riccardo Freda who used a number of aliases during his career, including Robert Hampton or George Lincoln and as screenwriter Riccardo Fedra . His artistic spirit led him to a strong belief in the importance of visual composition in filmmaking . Freda worked in many popular genres, including viking films, Peplum, spaghetti westerns, action, and even Softcore, but it is his horror films and Giallo mystery films which stand out and for which he is best remembered . Freda along with Vittorio Cottafavi continued to realize films in the historical-spectacular style , at which he developed a considerable skill and mastery . From the mid-50s Freda’s liking make for atmospheric and colorful scenes of shock began to itself apparent , especially in such Musclemen epics as ¨Teodora¨ , ¨Spartacus¨ , ¨Giants of Thessaly¨ , ¨The seventh sword¨ , ¨Maciste all’s inferno ¨, the latter a gripping/horror Peplum and of course ¨Maciste in the court of the Great Khan¨, one of his best films . In the early 60s , he was a pioneer in Italy of horror-fantasy films frightening audiences the world over , especially with ¨I Vampiri¨ and ¨L’Orrible Segreto del Doctor Hitchcock¨ as he combined with that wide-staring of actress , the British-born Barbara Steele . He also made adventures as ¨Black Eagle¨ , ¨The son of Black Eagle¨ , ¨White devil¨ , ¨Son of D’Artagnan¨ , and uncredited ¨Daughter of D’Artagnan¨ ¨. From there he went to melodrama and spy films as ¨¨Mexican Slayride¨and ¨Coplan FX18¨ and even made some western as ¨No killing without dollars¨ with Mark Damon and signed under pseudonym as George Lincoln . Freda’s movies had popular appeal , and were usually commercial hits . Several were French/Spanish/Italian or other European co-productions . He has been called a filmmaker “who brings some style to exploitation pictures”, and has something of a cult following . Rating : 7 , better than average horror movie .