Amore in a Gothic Vein: “La strage dei vampiri” (1962)


HE MIGHT HAVE BEEN A MIRROR IMAGE, IF IT WEREN’T FOR THAT VAMPIRE THING: Though they originate oceans apart, “La strage dei vampiri” bloodsucker Dieter Eppler is a virtual undead ringer, in his depiction of a vampire, for German Robles in the 1957 Mexican horror film “El vampiro”.

             “La strage dei vampiri”   (1962)

   Italy’s Golden Age of Horror may seem to have begun as an imitative movement  following the successful rejuvenation of the Gothic horror film by Hammer Films in 1957, itself modeled on the 1930’s Universal horror cycle -when, in fact, Italy’s initial foray into the field was Riccardo Freda’s “I vampiri”, whose release actually predated the initial relevant strangedeivampiri0Hammer film (Terence Fisher’s “The Curse of Frankenstein”) by a month. Rather than settling into a redundant formula which combined the recycling of the classic horror narratives and characters, disguising the regurgitation of increasingly overly familiar materials with such sensory distraction as lurid, blood-soaked color and a baser mercenary mindset which relied on the attraction of increased violence and heaving bosoms barely contained in ripped bodices, (All inclusive in the Hammer formula.) the Italian horror finds no fidelity to a singular formula. For instance, in the aforementioned “I vampiri”, places its story in a contemporary, urban setting, is photographed in atmospheric noirish black and white and has as its protagonist, not the masculine vampire model of Bram Stoker’s, but a female monster, more in line with Sheridan Le Fanu’s conception in “Carmilla”, sans the rather latent lesbian overtones. This is not to say that there weren’t several Italian horror films that slaughterofvampiresgif3didn’t take advantage of a saturated vibrancy of color (Mario Bava’s efforts in this arena are among the most memorable in film history) but there was no standard aesthetic formula adhered to as was the case with the Universal and Hammer cycles, which would have locked the films into a redundancy of visual realization. Nor were the Italian films fixed into either strictly Gothic incarnations of horror stories or new versions of familiar horror figures, as was the mainstay of the Hammer Horror cycle. Italian horror films, though certainly derivative, (as are many of the imitative industry’s genre explorations) also moved into more challenging directions which, in one creatively industrious form,  not only combined slaughterofvampiresgif4elements of krimi and horror into the iconoclastic hybrid of the Italian Giallo, but also approached the primal terrors of the traditional horror film though often emphasizing the psychological on an equal playing field with the strictly supernatural. Where classic American (and British, under the Hammer and later Amicus umbrellas) horror traditions, which are unalterably beholden to the Universal cycle- itself finding its greatest source of influence from German expressionism -are grounded in a cycle of perpetual folkloric European superstition, the Italian horror film (partially due to the fact, as if another mimicking of foreign genre- the western -the extension of expression was more attuned to fixating on the foundational visual characteristics of the vampire film itself rather than any specific contextual loyalties to narrative tropes) was able to find a wider range of expression than was possible when Hammer found disagreeable results in its own modernization of its own signatory franchise, whether adapted for contemporary settings or capitulating to the temporary Gothic popularity of the time. However, neither approach guaranteed a formula for success.

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About chandlerswainreviews

I've been a puppet, a pirate, a pauper, a poet, a pawn and a king, not necessarily in that order. My first major movie memory was being at the drive-in at about 1 1/2 yrs. old seeing "Sayonara" so I suppose an interest in film was inevitable. (For those scoring at home- good for you- I wasn't driving that evening, so no need to alert authorities.)Writer, critic and confessed spoiler of women, as I have a tendency to forget to put them back in the refrigerator. My apologies.
This entry was posted in books, Film, Hammer films, horror films, Italian cinema, movie reviews, Movies, Reviews, Romance, vampires, women, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Amore in a Gothic Vein: “La strage dei vampiri” (1962)

  1. So, perhaps I should attach some sort of aphrodisiac rating to the vampire movies?

  2. ghostof82 says:

    Hmm,hadn’t heard of this one before, one to check out I think. Great review.

  3. beetleypete says:

    An erudite and academic review of the highest standard, Chandler. I am reluctant to tarnish it with my own shallow observations, but I really only went to see such films for the heaving bosoms, (the bigger, the better) ripped bodices, and lesbian overtones. My bad.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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