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Thursday, October 03, 2019

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2019-Day 3: THE VAMPIRE (1957)

 The real curse of vampirism: transforming into Lee Marvin.

A kindly doctor (John Beal) becomes addicted to pills made from the blood of vampire bats, pills meant to regress animals to a more primitive state before restoring the subject to their original temperament, and he ends up transforming into a vampire every evening around 11pm. The doctor rampages nightly, wiping out people who know him in his daytime existence, and it's only a matter of time until he murders someone he loves. As the police investigate the murders and start noting the forensic evidence that lends credence to the killer being a scientific vampire, the doctor's loss of control escalates and it seems the only way out is self-execution...

THE VAMPIRE attempts to reinvent one of the classic monsters for the modern age by adding a scientific twist, and while rather tame and cheesy by today's standards, the story is told with considerable heart and intelligence (even if at times it reads like a knockoff of Universal's  THE WOLF MAN). The performances are solid and its 76 minutes are briskly paced, and the filmmakers had the good sense to keep the look of the vampire hidden until the last reel, as the makeup renders him a darker-hued twin of Lee Marvin's drunken gunfighter, Kid Shelleen, from the western comedy CAT BALLOU (1965).  That said, though its effort was noble, nothing beats the appeal of the classical gothic vampire and all of its trappings and tropes. The seductive terror and elegance of the undead suckface is utterly lost when transplanted into 1950's suburban California, so while I respect it for trying something new, I rate THE VAMPIRE as worth a look for genre completists only. It's not terrible or anything and it's completely suitable for the kiddies, but your life will be totally unaffected if you give this one a miss.

Poster from the theatrical release.

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