Sunday, November 12, 2017

THE VAMPIRE'S GHOST (1945) (Olive Films Blu-ray)


Label: Olive Films

Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 59 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: Full Frame (1.33:1) 
Director: Lesley Selander
Cast: Adele Mara, Charles Gordon, Emmett Vogan, Grant Withers, John Abbott, Peggy Stewart, Adele Mara

In the African village of Bakunda a bloodsucking vampire is quenching it's thirst for the precious crimson elixir of life, with the rash of mysterious deaths drawing the suspicions of the local indigenous people, while generally falling under the radar of the white folks, whom chalk up the native people's fears as primitive hokum. The vampire's identity is nearly immediately given away in the first few minutes of the film, a 400 year-old bug-eyed Englishman by the name of Webb Fallon (John Abbott) who runs the local gin club where sailors come to gamble, watch the curvy exotic dancer Lisa (Adele Mara) and drink cheap gin, occasionally brawling to relive the monotony. 

Our main characters aside from the pasty vamp are Roy Hendrick (Charles Gordon) and his gal Julie Vance (Peggy Stewart), the local missionary Father Gilchrist (Grant Withers), and a house servant named Simon Peter (Martin Wilkins). While the white people don't quite grasp onto what's happening around the village the indigenous people are wary of Fallon right from the start, sending messages to neighboring villages through tribal-voodoo drumming which are heard throughout the film. Eventually Roy begins to see Fallon for what he is, a bloodsucking vampire, when he pulls a spear from him to find there's no blood! However, he falls under the hypnotic control of Fallon, who plans to steal away pretty Julie and make her his vampire lover for all eternity. 

This vampire story has a cool mythology, we have some standard issue bloodsucker lore with some interesting differences; for starters he can walk in sunlight, but it hurts his eyes, so he wears sunglasses. He can be injured by a silver-tipped spear but can regenerate himself if he bathes in the moonlight with a small box of grave-dirt beneath his head. It's notable for these creative sparks throughout, and the African setting is also a novel one, mixing in some small elements of voodoo into the proceedings. He's also is weakened by the sign of the cross, so some of the old ways still work, but if you wanna kill this one you're gonna have to incinerate his body in a fire, a wooden stake through the heart just will not do the trick. 

I will say that I think this flick from the forties portrays the indigenous people with more enlightened respect than I was anticipating, which was cool. It also has a eerie voodoo/jungle atmosphere about it, though we don't get any actual bloodsucking, the horror is mostly implied, but we do get a cool scene of the vampire's shadow strangling a victim. Abbot is quite good as the vampire/gin-joint owner, though he's not the most traditionally attractive fellow to wear the fangs, his bug-eyed visage occasionally reminding me of Peter Lorre!   

Audio/Video: The Vampire's Ghost (1945) arrives on Blu-ray from Olive Films looking rather fantastic, framed in the original full frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The black and white image has good contrast and some pleasing fine detail. the grain structure can appear course at times but overall this looks great on Blu-ray. Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with optional English subtitles. Dialogue come through clean with no memorable distortions, the jungle-drum background pounding away in the distance throughout. There are no extras on the disc. 

This single-disc Blu-ray releases comes housed in standard Blu-ray keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork, not the original movie poster, but one of Olive's pop-art style mock-ups, the disc also features an excerpt of the same artwork. 

The Vampire's Ghost (1945) doesn't quite deliver on the ethereal horror promised by the title but I enjoyed it quite a bit, what we do get is a 40's vampire story that unfolds in the jungle, there's some very minor voodoo elements and a fiery finale that takes place in the ruins of a thousands of years old death-cult, at just an hour long it flies by and should please fans of vintage black and white horror.  

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