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Retromedia presents
Slaughter of the Vampires (La Strage dei vampiri/Curse of the Blood-Ghouls) (1962)

"You only fear the dark when you're not used to it."
- Louise (Graziella Granata)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: October 19, 2005

Stars: Walter Brandi, Dieter Eppler, Graziella Granata
Other Stars: Paolo Solvay, Gena Gimmy, Alfredo Rizzo
Director: Roberto Mauri

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence, sensuality, vampirism)
Run Time: 01h:15m:27s
Release Date: October 18, 2005
UPC: 014381284621
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-D+C- D

DVD Review

In the wake of such works as I Vampiri (1956) and Black Sunday (1960), Italian horror began to really flourish. Several vampire pictures on the vampire theme were made in the early 1960s, including The Playgirls and the Vampire and this picture, itself a loose but highly sensual adaptation of Dracula.

Newlyweds Wolfgang (Walter Brandi, who also starred in Playgirls) and Louise (Graziella Granata) are renting a fixed-up old castle. Unfortunately for them, there's a vampire (Dieter Eppler) living in the wine cellar. The vampire crashes their house-warming party and Louise immediately succumbs to his charms. Later that evening the vampire returns to her embrace and she becomes his more than willing slave. The local doctor is mystified by her condition, and suggests that Wolfgang contact Professor Nietzsche (Paolo Solvay) for assistance. The professor suspects the true state of affairs, but by the time they return, Louise is gone: not just dead, but missing altogether.

Slaughter of the Vampires (prefixed by "The" in the onscreen titles) is the US television version of the Italian original. There were likely some sexy segments that have been snipped, since there are numerous abrupt and jarring cuts just as things get interesting. This version was released theatrically in the US a few years later under the lurid and misleading title Curse of the Blood-Ghouls, cut down even further to 72 minutes. It would be nice to see the uncut original, because what's here really sets a high standard for the concept of vampirism as a metaphor for forbidden sexuality. The interaction of the nameless vampire and Louise is highly intense; she is breathless and writhing in ecstasy at his bites, all but orgasmic at his touch. Even without any nudity these sequences are smoldering hot.

Lead Walter Brandi is fairly ineffectual and bland, although the women are more intriguing. Granata, aided by a plunging neckline, plays the part of the vampire's love slave to the hilt. Her governess, Corinne (Gena Gimmy), also is memorable in a supporting role; through the use of the camera and slight shifts to her eyes she makes it amply clear that she knows more about what's going on than she is telling. What isn't told is why exactly a married woman has a governess, but perhaps that's just a mistranslation in the English dub. Paolo Solvay is suitably eccentric and driven in the Van Helsing role; he is not satisfied with helping Wolfgang, but is determined to exterminate the race of vampires from the earth with a genocidal fury. According to the liner notes by Mirek Lipinski, Eppler was a regular in the German krimi films; he makes a wonderfully effective if slightly doughy rather than gaunt vampire. The only issue is the set of fangs he was issued is rather too large for his mouth, making some of his scenes a little ridiculous. He does seem a little oddly earth-bound; that's more an issue with the script, however, which limits his supernatural abilities far more than one usually sees in such movies.

The picture gets help from some first-rate production values, with real castle settings and Hammeresque Victorian dress. There are some interesting uses of light and shadow, particularly a repeating diamond motif that is seen as a shadow in numerous spots. Perhaps this symbolizes the four-sided tug-of-war between Wolfgang, Louise, the vampire and Corinne for affections; each of them has an intimate relationship with the others of varying nature and the three others all focus on Louise as their primary love object (though that of Corinne is mostly just implied).

Those looking for a gorefest will be severely disappointed; there are a few drops of blood, but no more. Even the climactic stakings are blood-free (though there is use of a clumsy lap dissolve to a skeletal form in one instance). One of the most effectively creepy scenes doesn't even directly involve the vampires, but rather the mysterious playing of a tune that Louise wrote , coming from the piano downstairs; director/writer Roberto Mauri plays upon what the audience knows to create a nifty little suspense scene that has a truly unexpected conclusion. The film depends on its mood and atmosphere, and although it gets talky it has a visceral intensity in spots that make it worth seeking out.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: The presentation is what appears to be pan and scan; in several scenes peripheral characters are cut in two or lopped off the sides completely; one stark example is the sequence where Wolfgang reads to Louise; he's barely visible at the side of the screen as he reads. Contrasts are a bit high, and there's substantial wear present, with damage, tears and specks appearing throughout. In places the print has a slightly dupey character, and there is substantial flicker in others. The black-and-white photography comes across fairly well, though lacking in detail; the greyscale ranges from decent to minimal depending on the scenes.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The English dub sounds fine, although there's substantial crackle and hiss on the optical track. A mild electrical buzz can be heard at reference levels as well. Aldo Piga's creepy score, with theremin elements, sounds rather tinny most of the time, with limited range. At reel heads missing frames and splices cause nasty jumps in the audio continuities.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The sole extra is the trailer for the Curse of the Blood-Ghouls version. It's a chaotic mess that means surely those who expected a lurid gorefest would have been sorely disappointed. Chaptering is adequate, though there is no menu for chapter stops.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

It's a cut television print in pan and scan, but since it's the only way to see this sensuous vampire film in English, it will have to do for now. Little is present for extras.


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