Friday, May 27, 2016

Bite Me Darling – review

Director: Helmut Förnbacher

Release date: 1970

Contains spoilers

Also called The Amorous Adventures of a Young Postman, this was a German Sex Comedy. The version I saw had no overt sexual scenes and was clearly the cut version. It was dubbed into English and was a very poor vhs rip, therefore I apologise for the quality of the screenshots.

The alternative title is probably the more accurate of the two but before we get to meet the postman in question we meet two animated and very crap bats – Stan and Ollie, yes one was thin and the other fat and they comment on the film, not just over the credits but through the film where their animated selves flit onto screen from time to time.

Patrick Jordan as von der Wies
They tell us that the local Doctor Hartlieb von der Wies (Patrick Jordan, Lifeforce) runs a sex clinic and is a descendant of Count Dracula. Then we meet a postman – not the postman of the title but one named Verkäufer (Dieter Augustin). Through him we meet the various people in the town, including the sadistic lady dentist (Brigitte Skay), the gay guy, Wagner (Ralf Wolter, Dracula Blows his Cool), who is the butt of jokes regarding his sexuality and the old woman who believes she births garden gnomes. At its best it reaches the level of a low grade Benny Hill.

Dieter Augustin as Verkäufer
On his round he is interviewed by von der Wies regarding any amorous adventures he might have on his rounds, but he denies any such thing – it is against post office rules. There are also a group of kids who are plaguing the poor postman. They pelt him with snowballs, let the air out of his bike tyre and eventually leave a rope out to trip him – he breaks his leg. The post office send cover for him in the form of Peter Busch (Amadeus August) a young man clearly popular with the ladies – before too long he is servicing several on his round.

Amadeus August as Peter
When he is asked why he is a postman (or asked to leave the job) he tells a detail shifting story about the Bishop of Salzburg laying a duty on an ancestor that all the Busch male line will be postmen. When interviewed by von der Wies, who realises that he has lost half his female clients since the postman arrived, Busch suggests that this pact also bestows superhuman sexual potency. Von der Wies has some issues however, beyond losing clientele, he has developed fangs (which the dentist files down) and his niece, Sabrina (Eva Renzi), has fallen for Peter.

boomerang for assassinations
The Doctor tries to assassinate Peter several times, culminating in him adding poison to whiskey. He gives Peter the wrong whiskey and kills himself – before he dies he tells Peter to take over his practice and marry Sabrina. He does this (despite her warning him of vampirism in the family). He happily leaves the postal service, she happily pimps him to his clients but von der Weis does not lie quiet in his grave…

fangs and animated bat
Now it needs to be said, getting in and out of his grave night after night was easy enough – given no-one bothered to fill it. The lore used is very bog standard, warded by crosses and garlic, the vampire must hide from the sun and is killed by stake (cremation helps make sure). However this entire rising from the grave business is quite a way into the film. Before then we have virtually nothing vampiric – bar the panic over fangs, which are filed and not mentioned again pre-death.

The jokes are at seaside postcard level for the main. One joke about a dog losing the war for Germany (the dog is called Adolph) fell flat and I imagine fell flat at the time of release. The jokes around Wagner show a homophobia that was telling of the date of filming. The film hasn’t really got a huge amount to recommend it, to be honest. 2 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Honourable Mention: Cult of the Cobra

Perhaps I should make a new series of articles entitled “distant cousins”? This 1955 movie, directed by, Francis D. Lyon is not a vampire film but it does have a lamia in it and there is a lot of interconnectedness between the lamia and the vampire. Many cite Keats' poem Lamia as a vampire poem (it isn’t).

I watched the film after discovering it was about a cult of Lamia and it was one of those 50s films (it double billed with Revenge of the Creature) that just had to be shared. The connection is loose, I grant you, but indulge me.

in the bazaar

A group of six GIs are doing the tourist thing around an Asian bazaar, just before shipping home at the end of the war. They spot a snake charmer, Daru (Leonard Strong), but reach him after he has finished his act and so they persuade him, for a fee, to have his picture taken holding the cobra. One of the GIs, Paul (Richard Long), recounts that he has heard stories of the lamian cult, Daru pricks up his ears.

Richard Long as Paul
Paul suggests that the rumour is that cult members can transform into a snake. Daru confirms this and says that he is a member of the cult but is also desperate for money. For $100 dollars he will sneak them into a ceremony that night. When one of them, Nick (James Dobson), suggests it would be a photo worth having he is lambasted by Daru who is strict that cameras cannot be taken into the ceremony. They arrange to meet later that evening.

Leonard Strong as Daru
The GIs get drunk waiting for Daru. During the conversation they have, Paul tries to convince them that shapeshifting may be possible mentioning that “the werewolf stories in Germany or the vampires in Transylvania” give such ideas credence. Daru takes them to the temple, gives them robes and, before they go in, reminds them to be careful – if they are caught the cult will kill them – sending a shapeshifting assassin if necessary.

They'll never notice!
So in they go and there is an interesting danced psychodrama about the first visitation of the snake goddess to save the lamian people. Nick seems to be missing but actually has got his camera out – remember, just after the Second World War, the camera has a giant old flash on it… but he’s drunk. Chaos ensues, there is a fight, Nick steals a cobra basket that one of the dancers emerged from and a high priest curses them all as Daru is killed.

The woman
They drive off suddenly realising that Nick isn’t with them. Up ahead they see a shape in the road and a woman running off. The woman escapes and the shape is Nick, next to the cobra basket. One has presence of mind to suck the venom out and they get him to the hospital. He responds well to anti-venom and treatment and is going to ship out with his buddies but a snake gets in his hospital room (and we see through the snakes point of view) and bites him again, killing him. The others are shipped home to New York.

Tom and Lisa 
A few weeks later and Julie (Kathleen Hughes) who had been dating squad buddies and civilian roommates Paul and Tom (Marshall Thompson, Fiend Without a Face, It! The Terror from Beyond Space & First Man in Space) has chosen Paul. Tom is a little out of sorts but feels better when he goes to the rescue of new neighbour Lisa (Faith Domergue) – especially as he seems to fall for her straight off. Yet we see that animals respond negatively to her and their other friends from the squad start dying off.

In cobra form
So, Lisa is our lamian (c’mon that was hardly a spoiler) and she actually does transform from woman to snake. The transformation is shown in silhouette once and is shown from snake back to human once as well (it isn’t a great effect, to be fair, but they had a crack at it). In snake form she is the size of a normal cobra and she has her normal human intelligence. She does bite, but to administer venom rather than to feed.

The film is actually really good fun. As I said at the head, it isn’t vampiric in any way but the close association of vampire and lamia makes this of genre interest.

The imdb page is here.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Vamp or Not? Dracula of Exarcheia

It might seem silly to have a film with the name Dracula in the title as a ‘Vamp ot Not?’ but really this felt the best way to go for this Nikos Zervos directed 1983 slice of Greek surrealism and music. The film has the alternate title O Drakoulas ton Exarheion.

The film is a political and social satire, I'd guess, and the reason I say that I guess is because I am sure some of the commentary means more if you are aware of Greek culture. It also, for me, slams synthetic pop/pop culture and the tendency to push financial gain over art in the music industry.

Konstantinos Tzoumas as Victor
We begin with Victor Papadopoulos (Konstantinos Tzoumas) walking towards camera. He eventually comes to a tree branch that overhangs the stairs he is walking on and grabs (what is clearly meant to be) an insect from the foliage. He opens his hand, swats it with a newspaper and eats it. So, at this point, I was thinking Renfield.

Graveyard ciggie
He is picked up in a car driven by Aphrodite (Johnny Vavouras) and is in the car with Stoneheaden – who looks like a member of the Blues Brothers. As they drive Victor has Aphrodite put some Talking Heads on, though Stoneheaden appears not to like it. They arrive at a cemetery and start grave robbing (a right hand for the bass player, a head for the singer and 20 fingers for the guitarists says Victor). When I say they, Victor is listening to music and Stoneheaden is smoking, only Aphrodite digs. Suddenly there is a moaning sound, they’ve been rumbled and leg it.

Zombie activist
Zombies rise from the graves. They have a zombie union meeting and one zombie believes that they must take action against Victor. The entire thing is based on a left wing meeting but what we do hear is that Victor is robbing the graves of musicians to steal their body parts. The zombies decide to hold a protest concert at a festival. They go on the march, with placard held high. Some of the zombies are determined to eat the living.

Making a band
Meanwhile Victor gets home. He asks the maid, Ophelia, if his daughter Ioulieta (Isavella Mavraki) has gone to bed. Victor is creating a band. He places the bodies he has collected together in a vat and is making them listen to 48 hours of contemporary music as part of the process… So he is not Renfield, he is Victor Frankenstein? It would seem not. His daughter is sneaking around the lab as she is making a doll (which her father cannot find out about) and wants to know what he uses as a battery for his musical creations.

Musical interlude
Over dinner that evening we get a further clue as Victor is less than happy when Ophelia leaves a soup spoon over a knife forming a sign of a cross. We hear that he travelled from the Carpathians to move to Greece (and become a music mogul, it appears) and we see that he sleeps in a coffin. So, Victor is the Dracula of the title apparently. As it is things go wrong with the band (Music Brigade, an actual Greek band) as Stoneheaden plays something unsuitable in earshot and Ioulieta runs away with them. Victor sends Stoneheaden after them and we don’t see him again until the end and then he is simply watching their concert on TV.

Mermaid moment
The rest of the film has the band playing to a feminist collective that turns into an orgy with raiding police. Aggressive marketing in a supermarket. Stoneheaden going into disguise both as a meremaid and (at the feminist collective) an unconvincing woman. There is coffin sex and occasional zombie attacks and, of course, there is the benefit concert. It’s a heady, surreal cocktail of strangeness that will be off-putting to many and cult viewing to some. But is it Vamp?

Zombie attack
Truthfully there is nothing traditionally vampiric within the film. However, the character Victor is meant to be Dracula and Konstantinos Tzoumas has a presence that works well. If we take the vampire to be an agent of capitalism, though, a creature who takes the dead and uses it as cheap means to make a buck – exploiting culture and heritage for the sake of manufactured pseudo-art then Victor is a real vampire.

The imdb page is here.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Crowd-sourcing: Vampire Playing Cards

Something a little unusual today. I have brought you, in the past, crowd-sourcing campaigns for films and books but this is the first time I think I have brought you playing cards.

Kirk Slater, who is behind the deck, had this to say: The Sisterhood of Blood is a custom designed deck of poker sized playing cards, printed by The Expert Playing Card Company (EPCC). 

The theme of this deck is based on London vampires from the Victorian era. As with my previous project, The Coven, this deck also features an all female cast of court cards. Each of them have a different story to tell, but together they become The Sisterhood of Blood. 

Each of the vampires have names and backstories that help to bring these beautiful monsters alive. Along side this, each of the groups follow a theme, the Jacks have just fed, the Queens revel in their malice and the Kings immortality is coming to a close.

If this sounds like something you'd like to get behind, the kickstarter page is here. As with all crowd-sourcing, backing is at your own risk.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Honourable Mention: Curse of the Devil

Regular readers will know that we do like a Paul Naschy film here at TMtV, so when friend of the blog Ville contacted me and suggested I looked at this 1973 Carlos Aured directed movie starring the Spanish horror movie great I was a tad confused as to why I hadn’t already looked at it.

Checking it made it very clear that I had seen the film and, as Ville points out, it does feature María Silva as Elizabeth Báthory and that would normally guarantee a feature. All I can think is that her role was so very small in the film that I then overlooked posting – a terrible omission and one that is being rectified with this post.

Bathory's head
It begins with two knights facing off, one a Báthory and the other Irineus Daninsky (Paul Naschy). Irineus states that the magic that Báthory is known for will not aid him against Daninsky’s sword and this proves to be true. Watched in secret by Elizabeth and her companion, Daninsky fairly and squarely beats Báthory and then cuts off his head. Elizabeth heads back to the castle, though she knows that Daninsky will come for her.

Drinking blood
At the castle she indulges in a black magic rite that involves blood sacrifice and drinking of said blood. Just as she’s taking a gulp from the goblet one of her guards comes in, an arrow in his back, closely followed by Daninsky and his men. The companion escapes but Báthory and her handmaidens are captured and executed – they by hanging, her by being burnt at the stake. Before she dies she offers one of those convoluted curses to the effect that when one of Daninsky’s descendants draws blood from the firstborn of one of her descendants then that Daninsky and all his issue will be cursed.

The wolfman
That is the last we see of Báthory but when, centuries later, Waldemar Daninsky (also Paul Naschy) shoots at a wolf (with a silver cartridge his servant puts into the gun) but finds the body of a gypsy, he sets the curse into motion. The gypsies ensure that Waldemar is cursed to live the living death of the werewolf. However we don’t get the ghost or revenant of Báthory showing up and hence she has only a fleeting visitation in the film and this is the honourable mention of that visitation.

The Borgo Pass
is another aspect that genre fans will like, however, and that is the proximity of Daninsky’s estate, in this, to the Borgo Pass – highlighted only by a road sign to that effect. There is also a scene of the corpses of victims being treated and about to be cremated to prevent a possible return – but they don’t return and so whether this would have been as werewolves, vampires or zombies is not actually touched upon in any meaningful way. However, standard werewolf myth be that only survivors become werewolves in turn.

The imdb page is here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Empire of Dracula – review

Director: Federico Curiel

Release date: 1967

Contains spoilers

Oh, you just have to love Mexican Horror Cinema. Even when it begs, steals and borrows, and even when it isn’t the best example, there are more often than not moments that make a vehicle worthwhile.

The Empire of Dracula would appear to be quite a rare example and I have to say that in its ‘begs, steal and borrow” way it did manage to pilfer aspects that were rather reminiscent of the Hammer film from just two years before, that being Dracula Prince of Darkness (DPoD) of course.

the castle
The credits tell us that this is based on the novel by Abraham Stoker as a sombre piano plays. However as we see the Grey Mansion (the exterior establishing shot, clearly a model, is a castle but the interior and courtyard shots suggest hacienda) and we discover a little background we are told that the vampire of our tale is the Baron Draculstein (Eric del Castillo).

staking Draculstein
After seeing a cloaked shadow and fangs we hear a scream. A portly gentleman (Víctor Alcocer) runs for his life, however he is wont to stumble and fall – meaning the Baron is able to follow him at a walk. He is caught and has to fight for his life. Eventually, in a room, he fights the vampire off and grabs a curtain. The vampire retreats and hides behind his cape in a corner – though viewers might recall that the ripping of a curtain to kill Dracula at the end of Horror of Dracula was shown at the head of DPoD. The man grabs a poker and stakes the vampire with it – he turns rapidly to a skeleton.

the family
Madam Brener (Rebeca Iturbide) has told the story to her son Luis (César del Campo) whilst she lies in her death bed. The portly gentleman was his father and he gave his life to rid the world of Draculstein and banish him from the Grey Mansion (which belongs to the Brener family). Round her bedside are Patricia (Lucha Villa), Luis’ wife, and Patricia’s sisters Diana (Ethel Carrillo) and the mute Lily (Robin Joyce). Luis wants her to rest but she insists in telling him that she knows Draculstein will be reborn at the next New Moon and Luis must return to the Grey Mansion, find the cross of oak and destroy him forever. Luis doesn’t believe a word of it and Mrs Brener dies.

Fernando Osés as Igor
It is the 1st of October and a couple are walking beneath the New Moon… ish… because it isn’t a New Moon, despite being referred to as such, it’s a Full Moon! The man says it symbolises love or death. They walk for a bit and then she starts to shiver, so he returns to their buggy to get a coat for her. A black coach with black horses comes out of the night and runs the man down. The woman returns, finds her lover crushed and then is grabbed by the carriage driver, Igor (Fernando Osés, Santo Vs Baron Brakola).

bleeding the victim
She is taken to a crypt and tied above a sarcophagus. Igor stabs her and her blood spills on the sarcophagus, causing it to open and revealing the bones of Draculstein, which then reform into the restored vampire. A couple of points struck me. Whilst the victim was a different sex and had been kidnapped from outside, this was reminiscent of resurrecting Dracula in DPoD – though nowhere near as impactful as Hammer’s scene. The other thing that struck me was why has the servant waited so long (Luis was a child when his father died and the vampire was staked, a goodly time has gone by)?

Robin Joyce as Lily
Anyway Luis returns to the Grey Mansion but their carriage breaks down. The black coach appears, without a driver, and the women get in, whilst Luis drives it. When they arrive there is food put out for them and their luggage manages to find its way to their rooms (again, lifting from DPoD). Housekeeper Maria denies having put the food out or moving the luggage and claims that Igor died a few months ago – actually her role in the film is confused as to whether she is helping the vampire or hindering him – she gives one character an apotropaic. Very soon Diana goes missing – no one seems too bothered, assuming she upped and left, though we know she has been vampirised – and the whole family are in danger.

a shadow of two swords
The vampires fear the sun and are warded/burnt by crosses. The oak cross doesn’t seem special, to look at, but is rather destructive. Draculstein is a bit of a big wuss, to be honest. At one point he fights Luis with swords and they cross, causing a cross shape shadow to fall over Luis’ face. This elicits a scream from the vampire and he legs it! Rather than garlic, mandrake has an apotropaic effect and there is a whole patch of it planted outside the Mansion. There is a nice mirror moment with the vampiric Diana appearing in the mirror and stepping through to Lily’s room.

emerging from the mirror
The story is weak, to be honest, however there are nice moments (such as the mirror just mentioned). Eric del Castillo does not make a very threatening vampire and the fact that they just walk after victims seems plodding rather than menacing. A little more clarity around the roles and motivations of the staff would have been nice and a slower build to the attack on the family would have built a tension that was sadly lacking. I saw it in Black and White, apparently there was a colour version also but black and white probably suited the film more.

However it is a nice Mexican rarity and has worthwhile moments amongst the pedestrian pace. 4 out of 10. The IMDb page is here.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Verge – review

Author: Rebecca Bradford

Release date: 2016

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: On the eve of her 18th birthday, Ashleigh Palmer is preparing to celebrate like any other 17 year old. With a close circle of good friends, a loving family and a sparkling academic record, her life seems enviable and above all: normal. Suddenly, her world is turned upside down as she realises that she may not be the typical young woman she thought she was. To the dismay of her family, her boyfriend Todd and her best friend Emma, she begins to change against her will. Her abilities go from top-standard to prodigal. Her strength, anger and lust know no bounds. Then the inhuman cravings begin - what is happening to her? Her mother holds the secret to her history which will change her life forever, but how and when will it reveal itself? How will she cope, and will she have to leave everyone she loves behind? A world which was once pure fantasy has become real...

The review is hosted at Vamped.