Blood Of The Vampires (1971)

aka Curse Of The Vampires
Directed By Gerardo De Leon
Image Entertainment DVD

Poor Eduardo.

With Blood Of The Vampires, fab director Gerry De Leon returns for his second and final atypical vampire film for Hemisphere Pictures. Like The Blood Drinkers (1966), De Leon presents an offbeat, tropical take on vampire film conventions, incorporating a streamlined version of the artsy color effects that saturated his previous film and placing the focus on emotions, rather than bloodshed. While that approach is certainly welcomed, it doesn’t always equal a full-on hit. On the other hand, if you let yourself buy into it, there’s a really swell concept to think about: If there was a live vampire roaming around in “real life,” chances are his weekend would go something like this movie.

Eduardo and his sister Leonor have arrived at their father’s dank castle in a small Filipino village. After a ballroom dance and some curious nighttime shrieks, dear ol’ Dad, who has suffered a heart attack, changes his will and orders that the entire estate be burned upon his passing. Eduardo stumbles onto a secret passageway (of course!) and discovers the reasoning behind the will redux: Mom is a vampire! The geriatric vamp puts the bite on Eduardo, who in turn joins the fold. What follows is a series of Eduardo’s vampiric misfortunes, which involve attacking and taking a bride, killing his father after the old man stakes his mom, and lusting after Leonor. Leonor recruits the help of boyfriend Daniel, who keeps punching Eduardo. This sets forth a series of events, leading to ghosts, more family struggles, and some torch-bearing villagers.

As you can see, Eduardo has it pretty rough. On top of all that unwanted drama, the guy can even see himself in a mirror! Ouch. Leaning on the more natural side of things, De Leon steeps the entire film in reflections on love, family, and the always expected battle between religion and the undead. The ending gets pretty deep, at least as deep as you can expect from a cheap vampire film. Those reasons alone set this film apart. Unfortunately, much of the visual flair and atmosphere seem to be missing this time around. Despite the colored gel signifying vampire attacks, the photography is flat and the camera rarely leaves the interior of the castle, save for the last twenty minutes or so. The result is a see-saw between a passionate script and stage-like set pieces, which not surprisingly, tend to drag after awhile.

The full frame print, presented uncut from the original negative, is perfectly acceptable, but nothing extraordinary. The colors are a bit washed out and white speckles appear throughout most of the film. The mono sound was heavy on the bass distortion, especially where dialogue is concerned. Sam Sherman explains the rareness of this uncut print in his commentary track; it runs ten minutes longer than any previous home video version, including Retromedia’s early disc under the title Curse Of The Vampires. Knowing that, the print looks great.

In addition to the supplements that appear on all of Image’s Blood Collection series (Blood Island still gallery, Eddie Romero interview, Blood Island trailers, perfect liner notes by Jim Arena), Sam Sherman provides his sixth and final commentary track on the history of the Hemisphere Pictures legacy. Talk regarding Blood Of The Vampires is brief, as Sam focuses on the dissipation of Hemisphere after founder Kane Lynn’s passing, the company’s later focus on softcore films, and how the Blood Island films were marketed to television. He also touches on his first student film, The Weird Stranger (1958) and mentions that it may hit DVD one of these days. Put it out!

If you’re looking for something different, Blood Of The Vampires just might hit the spot. Casual viewers of Philippines horror might not get it, but the film serves as a nice companion to Gerry De Leon’s earlier The Blood Drinkers.