31 October 2014

Crypt of the Vampire (1964)
84 min.
Directed by Camillo Mastrocinque.
With Christopher Lee, Adriana Ambesi, Ignazio Balsamo, James Bright-Oman, Carla Calò, José Campos, Nela Conjiu, Véra Valmont.
Gothic horror films of the 1960s - especially European ones - tend to be polarizing: you either love them or you hate them. (We love 'em.)

In this one, the aristocratic Count Ludwig Karnstein (Lee) is worried about his troubled daughter Laura (Ambesi). He's concerned one of his relatives from centuries ago - a malevolent witch named Sira Karnstein - placed a curse on his family for generations to come.

And so he hires genealogist Campos to research the notorious Sira. More to the point, he wants to know if his lovely Laura has been possessed by the demented spirit of the restless Sira. Could it be possible? If not, why are people turning up dead, their bodies entirely drained of blood?

Based on the early vampire novella Carmilla written by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu in 1872, this Eurohorror is a solid number. There's mood, mood, mood to spare, Lee is terrific as a good guy, and Ambesi delivers an oddly compelling turn as Laura.

There's even an unexpected, powerhouse little scene with a poor hunchback who's been murdered, hanging from a bell tower, killed for knowing just a *little* too much about the Karnstein family!

Again, Crypt won't appeal to all tastes. Some will find its plotting too standard, its characters too faintly drawn. But if you've got an itch for some gloomy, cobwebby Italian-made goth terror, check it out.

Aka Terror in the Crypt. Italian title: La cripta e l'incubo.

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