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October 27, 2006

I Vampiri


Riccardo Freda - 1956
Image Entertainment Region 1 DVD

While waiting for the Vampire Blog-a-thon scheduled for October 30, I had the opportunity to finally see I Vampiri. Cited as the first Italian horror film of the sound era, the film is perhaps better known for being the work of credited director Riccardo Freda and cinematographer Mario Bava. In spite of the title which translates as "The Vampires", the film is not a true vampire film. The story concerns a duchess who temporarily assumes a much younger identity through the transfusions of blood from younger women. Her reverse aging is courtesy of her cousin, a doctor with a basement laboratory similar to those found in the Universal Frankenstein films from the Forties.

The film plays devotes more time to the persistent reporter investigating the "vampire killings". What is worth seeing are the subtle special effects used to make Gianna Maria Canale age, or get younger, on screen. The film also follows Wandisa Guida (seen above), in her film debut, as a schoolgirl who stumbles upon the horrors of the Duchess' castle. Of more interest than the story are the CinemaScope black and white images of secret passageways, scientific paraphernalia, the family crypt and other shadowy goings-on. Both Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava made some more interesting, and in Bava's case, great films. There are times when I Vampiri seems like the first draft of a genre film, unknowingly waiting for the discovery of Barbara Steele.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at October 27, 2006 05:54 PM