10/21/08

CT007 Blood of the Vampires

(1966, Horror, color)

I may be undead, but I’ve never felt more unalive!

Rating: ****

In a Nutshell:

A family of Filipino/Mexican plantation owners fall victim to a vampire curse.

Summary:

That's all of it, right there.Escodero Dad is a rich, cantankerous old Filipino gentleman who rules a Gone with the Wind-style Southern United States plantation somewhere in nineteenth century Mexico. He invites the neighbors over for a party; while everyone boogies the night away, his daughter Escodero Sister slips off with her Charming Fiancé to pledge vows of eternal love. They head back to drop the good news on Dad, but Dad has also snuck away to visit his vampire wife in the dungeon. Sister and Fiancé surprise him coming out of the dungeon’s hidden entrance. He suffers a heart attack and dies.

That is, he dies a week or so later, after a bunch of convoluted plot stuff has happened, starting with his refusal to allow the marriage of Sister and Fiancé. I think his refusal has something to do with Vampire Mom, but no efforts are made to explain this in any sort of coherent detail. Vampire Mom is also the reason Dad requires that his estate be put to the torch upon his death, something he explains to his son Escodero Brother when the latter takes issue with that little provision. Brother watches his Dad and the Blackface Butler whip Vampire Mom for a little bit, eventually fleeing the dungeon in consternation. The next night, Sister wanders in to watch too, with a similar reaction.

Some time later, Brother wanders down while Dad isn’t looking for a little tête-à-tête with his undead Mom. Seeing that his large, decorative crucifix makes her uncomfortable, he discards it; a bad idea, seeing as how she pounces on him and drinks his blood just as soon as the opportunity arises. Dad and Blackface Butler arrive to rescue him, but Vampire Mom escapes again a day or so later. Dad chases her into the countryside. She almost kills him, but Blackface Butler catches up just in time to impale her with a fencepost. Dad burns the body and returns to the mansion, where he runs into his newly be-vampired son, on his way out to terrorize the local populace. Nearly an hour into the film, Dad finally drops dead of the heart attack he suffered in the very first scene.

All hail Spon-Sor, demon god of sobriety!Escodero Brother runs out to bite, rape and otherwise assault a Helpless Wench (a.k.a. the sister of Charming Fiancé). Fiancé swears revenge, but his father and sister prevent him when Escodero Brother offers to marry her. Helpless Wench becomes a vampire as well soon after the wedding. Meanwhile, Charming Fiancé has been sneaking onto the Escodero estate to resume wooing the lovely Escodero Sister. He runs into Escodero Brother on the grounds and beats him within an inch of his life. Escodero Sister offers to run away with him if he’ll let Escodero Brother live, and Charming Fiancé agrees. This is not to be, however. Escodero Brother sabotages their carriage before they can make their getaway. It falls off an embankment during their escape and kills Fiancé.

The injured Sister wakes up surrounded by doctors and vampires. When the doctor departs, her vampiric brother tries to make his move, but the benevolent ghost of her Fiancé foils him. Fiancé’s Ghost is strongly implied to be sent by the Almighty to make good on Fiancé’s promise to love and protect Sister forevermore, but this actually turns out to be only sort of intermittently forevermore. As soon as Fiancé’s Ghost departs, Sister gets bitten en masse by her Vampire Brother, Vampire Wench, and all the Vampire Blackface Maidservants. Just as she’s starting to turn into a vampire herself, Blackface Butler arrives with a whole congregation of torch-wielding Catholics to burn the rest of the movie down. Brother and his undead harem die horrible, agonizing deaths, while Fiancé’s Ghost returns to impale his sweetheart and elope with her spirit back to heaven. So yeah, it’s a happy ending.

Thoughts:

Only one of these lovely ladies will be crowned Miss Hate Crime 2009.Wow. Where to even start with this thing? I guess we could begin with Blood of the Vampires’ strangest feature. Instead of black actors, the filmmakers used Tagalog day players dipped in black (not brown) body paint. During the viewing I surmised that there may not have been any actors of the necessary ethnicity available, but a quick bit of Internet research indicates that there are, in fact, plenty of black people in the Philippines, so I dunno. Is it racist? By modern American standards, yes, very much so. But then, these characters don’t act like any of our popular stereotypes. They don’t act like much of anything, really. With few lines and very little independent action, they’re more like furniture than characters. Combine this with the fact that this picture was probably never meant to be seen outside the Filipino market, and I’m guessing we can chalk this ludicrously inappropriate little racial faux pas up to some rather extreme cluelessness.

“Clueless” is the best word I can think of to describe Blood of the Vampires as a whole, actually. Oh, it’s bad, make no mistake about that. Bad and weird, but not in an “Ooh! Spooky! Look how bizarre and twisted we are!” sort of way. It doesn’t seem like the filmmakers are trying to offend or bemuse with all that black body paint, the six-day heart attack, the mom-centric whipping, the horrifying Catholic icons, the attempted incest or the intermittent ghost. As far as I can tell, they thought they were making a scary, straightforward horror flick with a genuinely uplifting finale. Unintentional weirdness of this extremity is rare, precious and exquisite. It deserves to be savored and enjoyed. And mocked, of course.

Of course much of the mockery centers on the painted plantation servants. Near Blackface Butler’s first appearance, J. Elvis says, “I’d be less offended if they strapped a great big nose on him and called him ‘Jew-Face’”. When artificially darkened maidservants carry flowers across a courtyard, Trace comments, “Only one of these lovely ladies will be crowned Miss Hate Crime 2009!” As Blackface Butler runs through the night after Vampire Mom, Frank says, “I’ve got to be careful not to sweat off my ethnicity.” There are some good non-blackface-related jokes as well. While five vampires take turns biting Escodero Sister, Joel notes, “She’s going to be all backwash,” while Mary Jo says, “She seems to be the most popular item on the menu. I hope they made enough of her.” They stop the movie only once, for an inexplicable gag about Frank’s all-seeing AA sponsor. It’s pretty much the only part that isn’t all that funny, and it’s over quickly. The other 99%, however, is hilarious. Blood of the Vampires is by far their best release yet.