Every Sunday in October, Film School Rejects presents a horror film that was made before you were born and tells you why you should like it. This week, Old Ass Movies and 31 Days of Horror team up to present:
Blood of the Vampire (1958)
Synopsis: In what totally isn’t a vampire movie, Dr. John Pierre (Vincent Ball) is sent to prison for doing a blood transfusion (an illegal practice in the 19th century) where he starts working for the mad scientist Callistratus (Donald Wolfit). Callistratus has his own sorted past with blood – notably that he was actually staked through the heart as a vampire and only remains alive through the blood experiments he’s done and a sweet new heart. Luckily, he’s got a ton of prisoners to kill and steal the red stuff from.
Killer Scene: Although there are several great scenes, the opening is probably the best at creating the tone for the rest of the movie. In a suggestively shot ritual, an older man and an executioner (complete with sledge hammer and black death mask) ram a stake into a motionless body. It all happens off camera until the title scene pops up amidst the blood-covered stake and chest cavity. Cue the dramatic music, we’re ready to get this damned thing on its way.
Violence: There isn’t all that much violence, although Callistratus does take several prisoners in to experiment on, and there’s a decent amount of technicolor blood. Oh, and a guy slaps another guy. That totally counts.
Sex: Unfortunately for fans, Karl The One-eyed Hunchback does not get naked. But Barbara Shelley (who appears later in Village of the Damned) is gorgeously buxom.
Scares: The scares present here are almost all atmospheric and sadly dated, but Karl is sufficiently creepy, and the situation demands a daring escape complete with great dramatic tension.
Final Thoughts: I have a feeling that a movie like this will please everyone. Some people will laugh at how easily they can mock it, and the others will enjoy it on its own merit. It’s essentially a non-Hammer-made Hammer film that has about the same production value and a similar storyline. A familiar storyline for classic horror fans that seems to work every single time. It’s grotesque at times, but it’s more like an action adventure that just happens to feature the classic Mad Scientist figure (with the vampiric need for blood thrown in as a clever twist of the phrase). For hunchback fans and blood-spilling enthusiasts, it’s definitely a fun detour back in time to see what was scaring people in the late 50s.