Written and directed by Miguel Morayta, 1963’s El Vampiro Sangriento was made in Mexico. It was one of many films picked up by K. Gordon Murray, who is best known for redubbing and rereleasing foreign fairy tale films—as a result, he is remembered as the “King of Kiddie Matinee.” Murray also brought to America a variety of films from Mexico, including some of the enmascarados (Lucha Libre) films (changing Santo’s name to “Samson) and low-budget horror movies.
Known in the United States as Bloody Vampire, El Vampiro Sangriento (the original title was La Invasion de los Vampiros, which means “The Invasion of the Vampires”) has little to recommend it. The story moves slowly, the reactions of the characters are often confusing (poor direction and writing from the American screenplay, as the actors themselves do well), and the film’s abrupt ending is less than satisfying. Viewers will be sucked in immediately by the movie’s opening sequence, however, in which a spectral coach glides through an abandoned road, with death himself (a skeletal creature) guiding it through the fog.
Once this sequence is over, the film bogs down. The story centers on a couple, namely Dr. Ricardo Peisser (Raul Farell) and his fiancé, Anna Cagliostro (Begona Palacios). Anna is the latest in line of the Cagliostros, vampire hunters who through the years have used science as their principal weapon. Anna’s father, Dr. Cagliostro (Antonio Raxel), has discovered that the root from a plant known as mandragora (Spanish for Mandrake, which in this movie grows only under the feet of a hanged person) can cure a vampire of its “disease.” This interesting premise is abandoned, however, as the story shifts to Count Frankenhausen (Carlos Agosti), who happens to live in close proximity to the house of the Cagliostros.
A servant of the count makes his way to the Cagliostro home, where he asks for the help of a doctor. Peisser then pays a visit to Frankenhausen’s wife, a countess who claims that she has been sequestered to her quarters and believes her husband is draining women of blood for some unknown reason. Peisser informs Dr. Cagliostro of these horrible events, and Cagliostro agrees to let Anna infiltrate the Frankenhausen home as a maid. Peisser is also allowed further contact with the countess, who agrees to help the couple take down the count. Much talk and drama ensue (with Peisser actually becoming friends with the count), until the film’s climax, where Frankenhausen turns into a bat and battles Peisser as he tries to rescue Anna. Although the rescue is successful, Frankenhausen manages to escape with the countess, whom he drains of blood before flying off into the darkness.
The American version of El Vampiro Sangriento has been dubbed and cut down to about 110 minutes. The dubbing is strange, with characters often making little sense or droning on and on about varied subjects, such as the discovery and their addiction to coffee. There is plenty of melodrama in the movie, with very few action sequences spicing up the viewing experience. Special effects are few, with still images of Frankenhausen used to create simple “hypnotism” effects and a large plastic man-bat on a string for the final battle sequence.
One of the most confusing sequences in this film takes place after introducing the main characters. Dr. Cagliostro spends quite a bit of film time explaining a strange machine that could cure vampirism. Viewers will more than likely believe this machine will play a crucial role at some point in the movie, but that time never comes! There is no payoff regarding the machine or the hangman’s root used to power it. Cagliostro also takes the time to discuss the difference between “living” vampires and “dead” vampires, but the reasons for these creatures are so convoluted that it left me baffled. Moreover, Frankenhausen crypt of female vampires, although creepy in its execution, makes no sense, as all these “dead” vampires do nothing but rest in slumber while Cagliostro continues to walk among the living.
Bloody Vampire is a snoozer of a film, although I cannot help but wonder if the full-length, Spanish-language film is superior, as there are hints of solid storytelling in this truncated, horribly dubbed disaster.