Year: 1970 Company: Cinefilms / Fida Cinematografica Runtime: 90′
Director: Jose Luis Madrid Writer: Jose Luis Madrid Cinematography: Francisco J. Madurga
Music: Angel Arteaga Cast: Val Davis (as Waldemar Wohlfahrt), Barta Barri, Anastasio Campoy,
Susan Carvasal, Victor Davis, Kurt Esteban, Luis Induni, Patricia Loran, Jose Marco, Luis Marugan
Available in the Undead: The Vampire Collection bargain-bin DVD set from Mill Creek Entertainment.
As a prime example of the boring and under-achieving co-produced European horror cinema of four decades past, 1970′s The Horrible Sexy Vampire is, well, boring and under-achieving. Funded with pocket change forked forth by Spain’s Cinefilms and Italy’s Fida Cinematografica and filmed in Germany, Vampire is a pulse-free skin flick that tries to excuse itself with a tiresome Gothic horror framework. The only noteworthy aspect of the production is its own inherent awfulness, for which the title gets things at least partly right – it’s certainly horrible.
The story, credited to director Jose Luis Madrid (7 Murders for Scotland Yard), is as generic as they come. Bleached Count Oblensky (Val Davis, The Lustful Amazons) inherits a spooky German mansion around which a series of strange murders have been taking place, and begins to suspect that his ancestor Baron Winninger, long thought dead, may be responsible. A crusty old inspector investigates the murders, badly, while Oblensky tries to save his similarly bleached lover from becoming a footnote in a case file.
It’s no staggering revelation when a low-budget European horror co-production turns out bad, but the unflappable ineptitude with which The Horrible Sexy Vampire‘s simple-minded narrative is related still surprised me. Writer and director Jose Luis Madrid’s scripting fails earliest and often, forcing viewers to sit through a half hour of direction-challenged dramatics and killing off the entire cast before the hero of the piece arrives and the story actually begins. The arrival of the plot does little to improve things, as the film devolves into an interminable series of dull conversations between Count Oblesky and the dubious inspector punctuated with a handful of bloodless, toothless attacks on young female passers-by and lots of shots of the good Count burying himself in the bottle. For whatever it’s worth, the English dub track for Vampire offers the best euphemism for drunkenness I’ve yet heard, as the inspector suggests the Count may be “befuddled with alcohol”.
It seems pertinent to note that The Horrible Sexy Vampire‘s vampire is neither sexy nor especially horrible, and Baron Winninger is little more than a generic bogeyman whose appearance emulates the dapper high-collared spooks who had dominated horror cinema for nearly forty years. Madrid’s scripting for the character is interesting, at least, though that shouldn’t be confused with good. Baron Winninger separates from most spooks past through a lack of fangs (that we see, at least), a penchant for invisibility and a rather frank sense of regret for his own monstrousness. In one of Vampire‘s more amusing moments the Baron confronts the Count and doesn’t so much beg as insist on being staked through the heart, offering his complements to the young Count when he goes on the offensive. It’s an interesting development, but not the sort of thing that ratchets up the fear factor.
At best Vampire‘s horror is perfunctory, and at worst it’s just an excuse for the handful of exploitative asides. The sexy parts of The Horrible Sexy Vampire really aren’t, and most play out in exactly the same manner: a young woman in a tight sweater, skirt, and knee-high boots wanders up to an apartment, into a bathroom, strips, hops in the shower, emerges, and is strangled to death by the Baron. It’s dull, dull, dull, dull, dull going, and the budget appears to have been as such that, in most cases, it’s the same bathroom that’s used over and over again. There’s nothing Earth-shattering or boundary-breaking to be seen, and what is here is put forward with the same bland workmanship as everything else.
As for the technical proficiency of said bland workmanship, it’s about what you might expect – Jose Luis Madrid wrote and directed at least 20 motion pictures and, if The Horrible Sexy Vampire is any indication, he had no right to have a hand in any of them. As with the script, the film alternates between the same basic and uninteresting setups time and again. Vampire is dominated by protracted and pointless conversation scenes (“I think it might be the dead Baron,” says the Count. “I don’t think so,” says the inspector. Repeat ad nauseum.) and equally protracted handheld perspective photography of the floor, presumably as seen from the point of view of the Baron. Photographer Francisco J. Madurga seems incapable of finding inspiration even during the saucier segments, which are just as pedestrian as the rest. Vampire was filmed in Techniscope and evidently blown up to 70mm for screenings in Spain, two facts that beg only the question, “Why?”
The Horrible Sexy Vampire‘s technical prowess extends to the continuity as well, which suffers some of the more flagrant violations of recent memory. As is often the case with these kinds of films, the majority of the cast interaction appears to have been filmed within a matter of days (and perhaps on the same day), with the crew returning for individual pick-up shots after the primary photography had been completed. It’s a tactic that typically works passably, but Vampire‘s pick-ups and master shots have the dubious privilege of spanning whole seasons. In the most egregious example, the Count walks out the front door of his mansion in the midst of summer greenery to have a snow-bound driveway conversation with the inspector. The continuity gaffs extend well beyond the influence of the weather, however, with my favorite being when a few side characters drive up to and walk through a fenced gateway that summarily disappears when the scene changes angle.
Perhaps the most confounding thing about The Horrible Sexy Vampire is that the users of IMDB have rated it 4.2 stars, a modestly bad score for any film but far better than Vampire deserves. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some fun with this one – it’s just too dreadfully accomplished to hate absolutely – but it’s nothing I ever intend to see again. Those who prefer their cinema on the slow, boring, and dumb side of things will find a wealth of each here, but Vampire will rate no more than a dull and forgettable diversion for most.
Film: Dull dull dull
Final Thoughts: Between Franco and Madrid, Spain may well have the monopoly on relentlessly boring Euro-horrors. The Horrible Sexy Vampire is just plain awful, and I think that’s as final as I’m apt to get on the subject.