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Movie Review: ‘Fangs of the Living Dead’

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Fangs of the Living Dead

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Originally released in 1969 under the name Malenka, Fangs of the Living Dead was written by Spain’s Amando de Ossorio, who is best known for his Tombs of the Blind Dead series of films and for his contributions to 1970s horror. Such a heavyweight in horror would almost make Fangs of the Living Dead essential viewing, but the version I sat through was a poorly edited and dubbed cut. Indeed, this movie was awful in its presentation, and although there is a fully restored version available, I feel that this is a minor entry of Amando de Ossorio’s resume.

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The story centers on Sylvia (Anita Ekberg), a fashion model who learns that she has inherited a lush castle. Sylvia promises her fiancé Dr. Piero Luciani (Gianni Medici under the moniker John Hamilton) that she will be back within the week, but she soon finds herself beguiled by her uncle, one Count Walbrooke (Julian Ugarte).

The bulk of the tale has Sylvia unraveling the mystery of her family. It turns out a biochemist in the distant past (that would be alchemist, right?) learned the secret to immortality: vampirism. The results of such experimentation is the handsome Count Walbrooke, who has since infected various relations and others with vampirism. It then up to Luciani, along with his sidekick Max (Cesar Benet under the moniker Guy Roberts) to rescue poor Sylvia from the clutches of Walbrooke and his bevy of luscious vampire women.

Fangs of the Living Dead is classic eurotrash, benefiting from tongue-in-cheek writing, luscious eye candy, deft direction, and fun performances. Amando de Ossorio’s screenplay has plenty of wit, which for some goes haywire, particularly during the film’s closing credits, which border on self-parody. There’s very little tension on display, but the film remains fun to watch.

And then there’s the eye candy. Start off with Anita Ekberg, a cult sex symbol from Sweden. Throw in beauties such as Diana Lorys (1962’s The Awful Dr. Orlof), Rossana Yani (1969’s Sadist Erotica), Andriana Santucci, and Juanita Ramirez, and it’s clear that this film carries more than its share of eye candy.

Hardcore horror fans may find it difficult to sit through this film, as there is little tension or overt horror on display other than some excellent gothic sets and some baring of fangs. There is hardly any blood and no gore, with most of the killings take place off screen (with the on-screen deaths played as gently as possible). The camp may prove too much for some, who will hate the movie from its very first reel. Another major issue is the dubbing, which makes many of the characters caricatures.

As a fan of eurotrash and of Amando de Ossorio, I was able to enjoy Fangs of the Living Dead. If you have a soft spot for campy films with plenty of gothic ambiance and eye candy, then you should have no problem watching this one.

Fangs of the Living Dead can be purchased as a standalone item or on anthologies, such as Classic Drive-In Series Horror, one the DVDs from the Let the Nightmare Begin Horror ultimate collectors edition (50 movies).

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