Riccardo Freda was the director who started I vampiri, but it was cameraman and future legendary director Mario Bava who finished it after Freda got huffy and quit the movie after filming for ten days.
That might not seem like such a big deal, but Freda had made a bet with the money men behind the movie that he could shoot it in ten days! Mario swooped in and finished everything up in 48 hours, apparently “padding” the film to its anemic 78 minute running time by using stock footage and those swirling newspaper headline scenes that are mandatory in movies about a crazed killer stalking a city.
Someone or something is on the loose in Paris and is killing off young hotties. Whenever their bodies turn up, they are drained of all their blood. Which is pretty much the effect this movie had on me.
Since there are blood-drained bodies laying around all over town, a nosy reporter starts nosing around. His name is Pierre Lantin, a blonde guy prone to hunches, wild goose chases, and unfounded accusations that usually turn out to be correct.
Pierre runs into his old pal, Giselle. She is the niece of a duchess and she has the hots for Pierre. Surprisingly and rather unconvincingly, he rebuffs her advances and throughout the movie talks about how even though she wants him, he doesn’t want her.
The only reason for this is that years ago, Giselle’s aunt, the duchess, tried to get her hooks into Pierre’s father with no success. That’s the first time I ever heard of a guy rejecting a chance for a hook up just to impress his father!
Pierre’s boss eventually becomes irritated that since Pierre has begun this investigation, the only thing he’s managed to do is question pretty girls about the whereabouts of their pretty friends so he reassigns Pierre to the society beat.
Pierre is miffed, especially since he’s going to have to cover a ball that the duchess is putting on. Apparently Paris only has one duchess and she just happens to be putting on a ball while she’s in the midst of some kind of blood-draining killing spree.
While Pierre is off enjoying himself at the ball, one of the pretty young things he was flirting with during his investigation goes and gets herself kidnapped by the duchess’ henchmen. How could she be so dumb, you ask? Well, she’s walking down the street and falls for the old “blind guy needs letter delivered to old abandoned house” con. That gets the sexy babes every time!
Pierre’s investigation leads he and the police to the castle, but the cops find nothing and the captain threatens to run Pierre in for the fourth of fifth time. Just as they’re about to leave though they find something suspicious and the case is finally solved.
This movie has a significant boredom factor and you’re amazed that the Italians even bothered making any more horror films after this early one. There’s no gore, no interesting people, and a rather uneventful story that makes you appreciate that later generations of Italian horror filmmakers realized that in lieu of story and/or three dimensional characters, audiences would accept drills through heads, guts puked out of mouths, and of course the standard maggot storm.
Bava does do a nice job behind the camera as usual, giving you moments that look a lot better than a movie of this caliber deserve and he is occasionally able to evoke the old Universal Horror flicks of the thirties and forties with his shots of the old ratty castle the duchess inhabits.
Bava also does a remarkable job with the make up effects that age Giselle before our eyes, through a combination of creative lighting and greasepaint that will leave you straining to see how he did it without the time lapse stuff they used in movies like The Wolf Man.
You can see the beginnings of a man who knows his way around the camera in this film, skills he would put to good use later in his career in much better films. I Vampiri though is an uninspired effort at best, but it’s not fair to blame Bava since he only was in charge of the movie for two days and was responsible for the film’s best aspects.
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