Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Playgirls and the Vampire (1960)

THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE (L’Ultima Preda Del Vampire ["The Last Prey of the Vampire"], 1960). Written and directed by Piero Regnoli. Cast: Walter Brandi, Lyla Rocco, Maria Giovannini, Alfred Rizzo, Marisa Quattrini, Leonardo Botta, Antoine Nicos, Corinne Fontaine, TIlde Damiani, Eirka Dicenta, Enrico Salvatore. Made in Italy as L’Ultima Preda Del Vampire (”The Last Prey of the Vampire”), THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE was picked up for American distribution and dubbed by Richard Gordon (THE HAUNTED STRANGLER, ATOMIC SUBMARINE), then released in the U.S. in 1963. The American version, 7 minutes shorter than the Italian original, was released as an “adults only” picture with a poster suggesting that it might be a “nudie cutie” feature, though patrons expecting plentiful pulchritude doubtlessly felt cheated. There is a female vampire in it who prowls a castle in the buff looking for victims, but her body is repeatedly obscured by shadows and camera angles.

The playgirls of the title are not playgirls at all, but rather showgirls who are being bused to their next engagement when the driver learns that a storm has rendered the road impassable. The driver takes a fork in the road and winds up at the castle of Count Gabor Kernassy (Walter Brandi). They ask to stay the night and Kernassy takes little interest until he sees Vera (Lyla Rocco), who looks to be the reincarnation of Margerhita, the woman with whom his ancestor had fallen in love. Regnoli’s most effective horror moment comes at the very beginning when he borrows Tod Browning’s famous shot of a vampire’s hand emerging from an opened coffin, here restaged with a stone sepulcher. The vampire in the crypt is Kernassy’s look-alike ancestor who seeks fresh blood to sustain his immortality. Kernassy warns the troupe not wander about the castle at night, but the next morning the body of Katia (Maria Giovannini) is found dead on the lawn, apparently having fallen out of the window. Lack of originality is one of the main problems that plagues THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE. Unlike Freda, whose films explored perverse sexuality such as necrophilia and sadism, Regnoli offers only showgirls lounging around in negligees, teddies, and stiletto heels. Additionally, there is minimal characterization (the three other showgirls are given no real personalities) and minimal plot as well.

81 MIN

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