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Wednesday, 10 October 2007

The Vampire (1957) Paul Landres

After My Son, the Vampire aka Mother Riley Meets the Vampire, it just couldn't get any worse in the vampire genre (or so I'll think for probably many long months until I see something equally awful), so it bodes well for The Vampire aka Mark of the Vampire. No, it has nothing to do with the 1935 Mark of the Vampire, which was a decent if not stunning Bela Lugosi/Lionel Barrymore vampire movie, or even another film called The Vampire or El Vampiro, made the same year as this one in Mexico, which seems to be highly regarded. That's what happens when you pick such generic titles.

Some lab researcher called Dr Matt Campbell is dying but he has the secret to something. Unfortunately he can't tell Dr Paul Beecher before he dies, so all he has is a bottle of pills. Of course a quick mistake means that he takes some of the pills by accident instead of his migraine pills, and it becomes a case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Vampire, except without any of those hopping Chinese kind. Dr Paul Beecher is just a good old American 1950s vampire, respectable doctor by day and marauding prowler by night. Maybe I should have called it Dr Jekyll & Mr Wolfman: that fits the makeup better.

Needless to say, this has very little to do with vampires. The pills come from vampire bats but there are no capes, crosses, coffins or other vampire mythology beginning with C, or any other letter for that matter. You could call it a mad scientist yarn except there aren't really any mad scientists. The closest to that category would be the closest to the vampire category too, but he's just a victim. I really don't think the screenwriters had a clue what they were supposed to do and my impression is that they just tweaked a little detail in a pretty decent if basic story whenever someone on high gave them a clarification.

The Little Minister notwithstanding, I remember lead actor John Beal as a sort of junior version of Franchot Tone. He still looks a little like him here but half the time sounds much more like a slightly deeper Jimmy Stewart. Regardless of who he reminds of, he's always been a pretty solid actor and it's good to see someone of his calibre in a film like this. This is late in his career, when his output had seriously dropped. From 19 films in the thirties to 13 in the forties, by the fifties he was down to five, then one per decade from then on: 1960, 1973, 1983 and finally 1993 for The Firm. 41 movies is hardly prolific for a 60 year film career, and 4 in the last 33 is downright reluctant. I wonder why he didn't make more.

Then again, many of them may have been like this, which could explain it. It looks like Oscar winning material compared to Mother Riley Meets the Vampire but up against anything else, it's just there.

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