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Saturday, July 18, 2015

THE VAMPIRE (1957) -- Movie Review by Porfle

THE VAMPIRE, aka "Mark of the Vampire" (1957) is a low-budget but nicely-done sci-fi/horror flick about a mild-mannered smalltown doctor (John Beal) who accidentally turns himself into a bloodthirsty maniac when his daughter gets his headache tablets mixed up with some highly addictive experimental pills concocted by a local scientist who died mysteriously.

The case is investigated by Beal's friend, detective Kenneth Tobey, but no one suspects kindly doctor Beal when people start to get murdered and drained of blood.

One of the film's strengths is the superb acting by Beal, Tobey, Dabbs Greer as another scientist sent to salvage the dead man's research, and lovely Coleen Gray as Beal's caring nurse. 

Scenes between Beal's doomed character, who is a widowed father, and his young daughter Lydia Reed are heartrending. 

Some of Dabbs Greer's dialogue, especially in relation to his eccentric assistant Henry (James Griffith), is hilarious.  I love the scenes between Beal and Greer--both are excellent actors whose natural style makes what they do look easy.

Screenwriter Pat Fielder also wrote the excellent RETURN OF DRACULA, which seems to be set in the same small town.  Both are directed by Paul Landres and scored by Gerald Fried (PATHS OF GLORY, "Star Trek: The Original Series"). 

When finally revealed to us about halfway through the film, Beal's grotesque makeup is cheap-looking but effective.  There's even a rudimentary transition scene (a la Lon Chaney's Wolf Man). 

The creature that Beal transforms into is one of the most vile and nightmarish characters in all of shock cinema. 

In one scene he returns to the scene of the crime after murdering an old woman in the street, and, while looking on from afar as people crowd around the body, can be seen grinning hideously at his grotesque handiwork. 

This is in stark contrast to the devoted father and trusted doctor that is Beal's character when not under the control of the horribly addictive drug that brings out his most bestial tendencies.  It is indeed one of the most tragic of all 50s sci-fi/horror flicks.

THE VAMPIRE scared me when I was a kid--the scene in which the maniac stalks a frantic Coleen Gray as she walks home at night is truly frightening--and it's still a lot of fun to watch.


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