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Friday, April 5, 2019

CURSE OF THE VAMPIRES -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

 (This Blu-ray disc is part of Severin Films' "Hemisphere Box of Horrors" Collection along with THE BLOOD DRINKERS, THE BLACK CAT/ TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM, and BRAIN OF BLOOD.)

Somber and absorbing, with the old-school Gothic atmosphere of a classic horror film, CURSE OF THE VAMPIRES (Severin Films, 1966) is satisfying stuff for those who enjoy the spirit of the old Hammer vampire flicks.

Not as top-drawer as the early Hammers or as visually sumptuous, this earnestly-told vampire tale, shot in the Philippines with Filipino actors, takes advantage of its Spanish villa location for added production value as well as a fine cast and able direction by Hemisphere Pictures veteran Gerardo de Leon (THE BLOOD DRINKERS, TERROR IS A MAN, MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND, BRIDES OF BLOOD).

The stately pace allows us to appreciate every element of the story as it unfolds around two aristocratic Spanish families, with fervent lovers Leonore Escudero (Amalia Fuentes) and Daniel Castillo (Romeo Vasquez) denied permission to marry by Leonore's dying father.

He gives no reason for his denial, but we soon find out that there's a history of vampirism in the Escudero family.  Very recent history, in fact, since a hidden underground chamber contains the coffin of Papa's living dead wife (Mary Walter in a stunning performance).

Mama, it turns out, is a snarling, bloodthirsty vampiress who will eventually escape her captivity and start spreading her hideous disease amongst her own family members, one bloody bite at a time.

Leonore and her headstrong brother Eduardo (Eddie Garcia) clash over their father's dying wish that the house be burned to the ground upon his death.  Eduardo also butts heads with Daniel, a clash that is intensified when Eduardo turns into a vampire, attacks Daniel's sister, and then forces her to marry him.

The whole "family vampire curse" thing also leads Leonore to call off her own marriage to Daniel, further adding to the film's enjoyably rich sense of pure melodrama. How their story resolves itself leads to a satisfying conclusion that reminded me a bit of "Wuthering Heights" of all things.

It's all quite lively and suspenseful, yet CURSE OF THE VAMPIRES maintains its old-school atmosphere by holding back on the blood and violence while offering plenty of stunningly staged vampire action. 

Mary Walter makes a particularly effective vampire (closeups of her during the opening titles are chilling), while Garcia's Eduardo comes to the fore as the film's chief purveyor of undead villainy.

The print itself looks good, especially for an old Eastmancolor film.  Dialogue was filmed in Filipino and dubbed into English, with English subtitles available.  As usual, Severin Films offers a full menu of enjoyable extras which are listed below.   

CURSE OF THE VAMPIRES eventually finds Eduardo and his creepy vampire progeny beseiged by an army of crucifix-carrying townspeople in a final clash between good and evil.  For those who enjoy their vampire tales in the Hammeresque old-school style, featuring snarling, fang-baring bloodsuckers stalking the living amidst classic Gothic trappings, this is one you'll definitely want to indulge in.

Order the stand-alone disc from Severin Films

Order the Hemisphere Box of Horrors From Severin Films

Special Features for Curse of the Vampires:

    Cursed Vampire: Interview With Actor Eddie Garcia
    The Market Of Hemisphere: Interview With Marketing Consultant Samuel M. Sherman
    Audio Commentary With Philippine Genre Documentarian Andrew Leavold
    Partial Audio Commentary with Sam Sherman
    Deleted Scenes
    Beast of Blood / Curse of the Vampires radio spot


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