Monday, October 10, 2022

THE HORRIBLE SEXY VAMPIRE (1971) (Mondo Macabro Blu-ray Review)

aka El Vampire De La Autopista
aka The Vampire of the Highway 

Label: Mondo Macabro
Region Code: Region-Free
Duration: 90 minutes
Rating:  Unrated 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Audio: Spanish and English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Director:  José Luis Madrid
Cast:  Wal Davis, Barta Barri, Patricia Loran, Ada Tauler, Luis Induni, Anastasio Campoy, Susan Carvasal, Victor Davis

The Horrible Sexy Vampire (1971) is a Spanish modern Gothic set in a snow-covered Stuttgart, Germany. The film opens with a couple travelling by car and stopping off at a hotel for some rest. While the husband takes a shower an invisible invader attacks him, choking him to death, when his wife comes to check in on him she too is choked to death herself by the invisible culprit. The cops attribute the murders to the work of an active serial killer in the area, but after examining the bodies the coroner says he thinks it's the work of a vampire whom he says has been active for centuries. The investigators laugh this off initially, but like most of these sort of things, they comes around, even if it's only right before they die! 

There's a nearby vacant castle whose owner, a local Baron,  died decades earlier, and it's rumored by the locals to be home of a local vampire, it seems to be the logical place to start looking for a vampire, and sure enough when the cops search the burial vaults in the basement they find a vampire lurking the catacombs - and he's none-to-pleased to have his personal space invaded, dispatching them quickly. Not long after Count Adolf Oblensky (Wal Davis, Jess Franco's Love Camp), a descendant of the Baron, moves into the castle, where he thinks seen his deceased relative lurking about, but he chalks it up to too much drink. He eventually catches wise to the vampiric happenings and in the finale arms himself with a wooden stake and a bad-ass snakeskin jacket, decades before Nic Cage made it cool in David Lynch's Wild At Heart, hunting his bloodsucking ancestor in the castles catacombs and up and down the winding staircase. 

What a strange, strange slice of European exploitation, the film is padded to the nth degree with scenes of cars travelling to and from, mundane police procedural investigations and expository dumps, but it's also littered with copious amounts of gratuitous nudity, which might be reason this cult-film is supposedly a "holy grail" item for collector's, its certainly not because of the charismatic lead and vampire carnage. More interesting to me and even curiouser is the bizarre screen presence of star Wal Davis aka Waldemar Wohlfahrt, once he shows up with his shock of bleach blond hair things get more interesting for all the wrong reasons. He has a look about him, I'm not sure what that look is, but he has IT in spades. He has all the charm of a plank of pale wood with white wig nailed to it and a weird facial expression stenciled onto it. No charm to speak of but his facial expressions, which were not always appropriate to the scene at that moment, were a gift that kept on giving. Wal is pulling a dual-role here as well, as he plays the vampire, too. 

The novelty of an invisible vampire is more or less wasted here, not sure why it was even part of the story as the invisibility comes and goes at odd times, and doesn't figure into anything all that important. In a way I think it might have been a way to save money, or maybe they were shot in re-shoots and Wal was not available. It's a strange thing indeed. Also, we see bite marks on the necks of the victims but we never do see the vamp suck blood, I don't actually think we see his fangs, and it's not because he's invisible either, he doesn't ever bare them. Thankfully we get plenty of nudity throughout, none of it particularly sexy, mostly just attractive women disrobing prior to taking a shower shortly before dying, which I am sure the coroner appreciated - no one wants to clean a corpses ass. Anyway, this is not a comedy despite than curious title which makes it sound like it should be a sequel to Roman Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers, it's played straight, a bit too straight. 

Audio/Video: The Horrible Sexy Vampire (1971) debuts on region-free Blu-ray from the euro-cult spelunkers at Mondo Macabro, presented in 1080p HD widescreen (2.35:1) and advertised as being  "brand new 4k transfer from 35mm materials, digitally restored". Given the description of the elements and the appearance of the scan I would say it's from a good-looking 35mm theatrical print. Colors are dreary but look accurate, black levels are solid, and fine detail and texture is pleasing, but not 'from the OCN' pleasing. There's some blemish to be seen throughout inherent to the source material but it's minimal and generally looks great. Audio comes by way of both Spanish or English-dub DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono with optional English subtitles. Both are well-balanced and clean sounding, the Spanish track probably has the edge in the fidelity department, but I found both quite acceptable. The score from Ángel Arteaga (The Frenchman's Garden) also sounds pretty great on both tracks. 

Not a ton of extras for this one, we get an Audio commentary from David Flint and Adrian J. Smith that I found quite knowledgeable and entertaining as they talk about the translation of the title, the bizarre life and career of star Wal Davis aka Waldemar Wohlfahrt, the weirder elements of the film, the career of director José Luis Madrid, the exploitation elements and comparing it to Hammer films of the era. We also get a 4-min Animated Press Book and Publicity Stills, a trailer for the film, plus the usual 13-min Mondo Macabro Preview. The single-disc release arrives in a standard keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork featuring pretty cool retro-Gothic illustration by Casaro. 

Special Features: 
- Brand new 4k transfer from 35mm materials, digitally restored.
- Audio commentary from David Flint and Adrian J. Smith.
- Animated press book and publicity stills (4 min) 
- Mondo Macabro Previews (13 min) 
- Trailer (3 min)

The Horrible Sexy Vampire (1973) is more a cult-curio than a cult-gem in my opinion, but Mondo Macabro do good working spiffing it up for it's worldwide HD debut. It's got plenty of nudity, which helps a bit, and the presence of Jess Franco collaborator Wal Davis might give it some appeal for the Franco-philes out there, or if you're just a connoisseur of weird cult-cinema, Mondo Macabro's release has got you covered. 

Screenshots from the Mondo Macabro Blu-ray: