Vampir Cuadecuc (E) | Home Ents Review
Dir. Pere Portabella, Spain, 1970, 69 mins, 59 mins of extras
Cast: Christopher Lee, Herbert Lom, Soledad Miranda, Maria Rohm, Jack Taylor
Review by Colin Dibben
A uniquely uncanny experience, Vampir Cuadecuc ticks all the boxes while transcending them in a very strange fashion.
Shot on the set of Jess Franco’s 1970 vampire film, Count Dracula, Vampir Cuadecuc looks like many films.
Featuring beautiful women with big hair and maxi dresses, Christopher Lee as Dracula, cobwebby high-arched crypts and dark and misty woods, this looks very much but not quite like a classic Hammer horror film.
Vampir Cuadecuc tells the same story, in the same linear fashion, as the Franco film – which seems to be a relatively straight version of Bram Stoker’s novel. But Vampir Cuadecuc has no dialogue (except right at the end) and is shot in black and white from non-optimal angles with a small mobile camera. It’s a bit like Bowfinger crossed with the international version of a European silent film (back in the silent period, the international version would be shot by a camera standing next to the primary camera and be slightly edged out of the frame of the composed shot). Then there’s the found/ concrete music soundtrack of out-of-synch hammerings and jet engines, slight tinkles of cheesy 70s music.
The story is reconfigured in this highly striking way and interspersed with shots of cast members stepping out of character at the end of a shot and observations of lighting setups and how basic horror movie effects are made. If you like the idea of being winked at by Christopher Lee or Soledad Miranda, you should probably watch this film.
On the one hand it’s a movie that distances the viewer from the fictional narrative of the film, showing how the film and indeed any film is constructed. But it is also utterly engaging, telling the story from a new angle, quite literally, and in a new ‘cobbled together’ way that creates a different type of engagement for the viewer.
It helps that the story and the lead actor are so recognisable but I can’t help wishing that more film makers would use this approach. It feels fresh and engaging at all times, while the experience – here anyway – is also very eerie indeed.
Vampir Cuadecuc is out on Blu-ray and DVD on 9 October 2017.