Sunday 7 October 2007

Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952) John Gilling

Oh my goodness, this one's a notable piece of nonsense! The version I'm watching is called My Son, the Vampire, which makes no sense whatsoever, the bizarre title song notwithstanding ('My son, the vampire, he will leave you pale. All he does is drink your blood cause he don't like ginger ale'). The original title is Mother Riley Meets the Vampire, which makes far more sense, given that this is a film in the Mother Riley series of musical comedies starring Arthur Lucan in drag as the old Mrs Riley, and he/she is up against Bela Lugosi, who made this to make enough money to get back to the States after a failed stage version of Dracula in London.

Lugosi plays some sort of mad scientist by the name of Van Housen, who apparently descends from a legendary vampire. Since his arrival in England, five young and beautiful girls have gone missing and the papers are full of vampire stories, though there's no immediate connection between them. He's just busy sleeping in his coffin and plotting to take over the world. He even has a robot on its way from his secret factory in Ireland, but through the inevitable mixup it gets delivered to Mrs Riley, who runs a small grocery store in London while the inheritance from her uncle Jeremiah goes to Van Housen.

Needless to say the production quality is hardly high. Light levels change noticeably from one shot to the next, some shots are of still photographs and the script is just plain nuts. The jokes are mostly tired, the songs are worse and the only saving grace is the fact that this is possibly the only time Lugosi plays a vampire and a mad scientist at the same time, with mummies and a super robot to boot. He was doing it strictly for the money but he does do his best regardless and he is the only watchable thing in the entire film.

This was the last of 17 Mother Riley movies, though apparently plans were afoot for Old Mother Riley's Trip to Mars before Lucan dropped dead before a stage performance. Given the quality, it's surprising it made it this long. Given that Lucan generally appeared alongside his wife Kitty, but relations between them had deteriorated to the point that they had to be filmed on different days for the previous film, Old Mother Riley's Jungle Treasure and she didn't appear in this one at all, it has to be wondered whether that would ever have come to pass anyway. It has also to be wondered why anyone would have cared.


Anonymous said...

There were 15 Mother Riley films - Arthur Lucan, who played the character, did appear in another two films, but not in drag.

tarquin fortiscue hetherington said...

What would be the exact specific definition of the phrase "UNWATCHABLE CELLULOID ABOMINATION"?, i know, any "Old Mother Riley" movie!!!. Yes, they really are that appalling.