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OK, 2018 film review catch-ups start here. I'm self-imposing a rule of one paragraph-long post per film to help myself get them done. Except for this mini-paragraph here, that is - this is meta.

This is a Hammer vampire film which isn't part of their Dracula sequence. I saw it once over twenty years ago, but hadn't remembered much about it other than the ending in which the vampires are defeated by a swarm of bats. This, I learned more recently, was originally intended to be the ending for Brides of Dracula (1960), and indeed is in the novelised version of that story which I read recently but was vetoed by Peter Cushing during production. Hammer were nothing if not frugal, so they just rolled it over into their next vampire film. The opening sequence consists of an as-yet-unidentified man thrusting a spade into a coffin to kill its vampire occupant, whom we learn later is his daughter. This must surely have been inspired by a very similar stake-through-a-coffin scene at the beginning of Blood of the Vampire (1958), itself a second-rate rip-off of Hammer's earliest technicolor Gothic films, and along with the recycled ending speaks of a film at the more cheap-and-cheerful end of Hammer's production spectrum. Nonetheless, it's worth watching, I think especially because of the way it explicitly frames vampirism as a religious cult - something hinted at (only very subtly) in Dracula (1958) and given a single line of dialogue in Brides, but developed more fully here. The Ravna family, who are actual vampires, have a whole coterie of apparently-human acoltyes dressed in white robes who process after them in cultic fashion, presumably reflecting contemporary fears about new-age cults, communes and the like. A couple of aspects of the story didn't entirely make sense to [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 and I when we watched it, though, including why we never saw who the female heroine (Marianne) had heard crying when she was locked in a room and found the older male vampire (Dr Ravna) lying as though dead, and why at the end of the film the vampires just seemed to sit there rather than chasing the human characters who were escaping from their house. Looking now at the Wikipedia entry, it's possible that the answer to those questions is 'because we were watching a cut version', but I don't think it was the alternate version described there either, as I don't remember any scenes with a family called the Stanghers. The version we saw was recorded off the Horror Channel, so I will look out for opportunities to see it in different contexts in future, and try to pay attention to the running time so I can figure out exactly what version I'm seeing when I do.


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