Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE (1958). Director: Henry Cass.

Donald Wolfit plays an unusual kind of vampire, Dr. Callistratus, in this interesting variation on a theme. Although mistaken for a traditional vampire a la Dracula, Wolfit actually has a rare blood disease and needs frequent transfusions, making him seem demonic to the superstitious townspeople. After being dispatched via a stake through the heart, he is brought back to life by a heart transplant (not being an actual vampire, simply removing the stake won’t do the trick – the damaged heart has to be replaced). A few years later he’s the head of a prison for the criminally insane. One of the prisoners is a doctor (Vincent Ball) who’s been framed for killing a patient, and Wolfit has him help him with his experiments -- hiding from him the more dastardly stuff going on in the cellar. The doctor tries to escape to disastrous results, his girlfriend (Barbara Shelley) gets a job as a maid in the asylum, and Wolfit tries to drain the latter’s blood as his love-sick (for Shelley) hunchback helper Carl (Victor Maddern) looks on in horror and ultimately gets his revenge. Wolfit is fine and the other performances perfectly credible in a "vampire" movie with perhaps a more interesting plot than usual. Wolfit’s large, upraised eyebrows seem to have a life of their own. Absorbing and fast-paced, if directed by Cass with no special flair. Written by the prolific Jimmy Sangster.
Verdict: Good old horror film. ***.

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