• The Vampire Collection (Casa Negra) DVD Review



    Released by: Casa Negra
    Released on: October 31st, 2005.
    Director: Fernando Mendez
    Cast: Abel Salazar, German Robles, Ariadne Welter, Carmen Montejo, Yerye Beirute, Alicia Montoyo
    Year: 1957
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    The Vampire Collection – Movie Review:

    While these films have been released on DVD previously (the first by Mondo Macabro on a PAL disc for the European market, the second in a shoddy unauthorized release from Beverly Whilshire Filmworks), this two disc set from Casa Negra marks the first time that El Vampiro (a.k.a. The Vampire) and its sequel, El Etaud Del Vampiro (a.k.a. The Vampire’s Coffin) have been released properly on DVD for the NTSC market.

    THE VAMPIRE:

    Filmed completely on some magnificent sets built at Azteca Studios, El Vampiro is probably the best regarded of the Mexican vampire films that were made from the fifties on up. An atmospheric and creepy piece of film full of mist and shadows, it’s an extremely well photographed movie that holds its own and at times surpasses Lugosi’s classic Dracula and that predates Hammer’s Horror Of Dracula by a year.

    The story revolves around a young girl named Marta who travels back to the village of her childhood home. She meets a mysterious doctor named Enrique (played by Mexi-horror stalwart Abel Salazar of The Brainiac) on the train and he accompanies her back. When they arrive, they find that her aunt is under the control of Count Luvad (German Robles), an evil vampire who has come to the area to bring his dead brother back to life. She’s also very upset to find that the house that she once lived in is now more or less in shambles.

    Unfortunately for the count, his brother’s tomb is now part of the house that Marta’s family owns, making things a little more difficult for him. But once he sets his sights on Marta he decides to seduce her aunt and bring her under his control and it doesn’t take long before Marta’s aunt is out running around the countryside with Luvad, feeding on the blood of the innocent. And it also doesn’t take long before Luvad decides that he’d like to control Marta as well….

    Full of creepy atmosphere and loads of gothic class, El Vampiro is a wonderful trip back in time and features some of the best direction and atmosphere that Mexican horror cinema had to offer. Robles is, hard as this is to admit, just as good as Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee as Count Luvod, and the always reliable Salazar turns in another solid performance as Dr. Enrique. While the plot is similar to many other vampire movies, the sets and the mood that

    THE VAMPIRE’S COFFIN:

    Shot directly after the first movie, which proved to be quite a success in its home country, this second film continues the storyline laid out by its predecessor. Marta is recovering nicely in a local hospital with Enrique watching over her when one of Enrique’s colleagues, Dr. Marion (Carlos Ancira) with some help from his assistant Manson (Yerye Beirute), swipes the Count’s coffin to use in his studies. Of course, it isn’t long before Manson has accidentally pulled the stake out of the Count’s heart, freeing him from his tomb and inadvertently becoming the Count’s new man-servant in the process.

    Count Luvad takes off, with Manson in tow, and decides to camp out in the dark and dreary basement of the local wax museum. He’s only got one thing on his mind, now that he’s been resurrected, and that’s to find out where Marta is and take her for his bride. Marta, now more or less full recovered, is training to be a dancer at the theater in the area and when the Count gets word of this, he’s back to his old tricks again and more than happy to suck the blood out of anyone who gets in between him and his prize.

    Although this second film is faster paced, that comes at the expense of actual horror. The movie is more of an action film at times than it is a creepy scare movie though, as with the first movie, there is a whole lot of atmosphere here to dig on. The film’s photography makes excellent use of the sets and the shadows that populate them and everything looks quite nice here. The performances, many of which are from the same cast that starred in the first movie, are pretty decent as well with Salazar and Robles stealing the show in their respective parts. While The Vampire’s Coffin isn’t quite as good as the movie that inspired it, it definitely has a lot going for it and is worth a look for fans of the genre.

    The Vampire Collection – DVD Review:

    The movies look like they were shot for a fullframe presentation which is how they are shown on this set, with brand new transfers that have been taken from restored vault elements and completely re-mastered to very fine condition. Casa Negra has obviously put some serious effort into making these transfers as clean and as nice as possible and it shows (except for the first few minutes of the first movie which does look pretty rough). Those who have only seen the film by way of the crappy beyond words Beverly Whilshire DVD release a few years back are in for a treat as Casa Negra’s transfer is very, very nice (surpassing the Mondo Macabro release of El Vampiro). Print damage has been all but completely eliminated save for a trace of grain here and there, and the black levels stay strong throughout. Detail levels are strong and contrast appears to be set properly. There aren’t any problems with edge enhancement or mpeg compression though some aliasing does rear its head in a couple of scenes.

    The original Spanish language tracks are here in Dolby Digital Mono as are the less impressive English language dub tracks (though these are not listed on the packaging, they are there). Dialogue is clean and clear and there aren’t any problems with hiss or distortion. There are spots where things sound just a little flat but that’s not surprising considering the age of the movies and there really isn’t anything to complain about here in terms of the audio presentation. The English subtitles are clean, clear and easy to read.

    First up, as far as the extra features are concerned, is an audio commentary track for The Vampire with author Robert Cotter who wrote The Mexican Masked Wrestler & Monster Filmography. While at times this talk tends to be more genre specific rather than narrowed in to the film at hand, this is never the less an interesting discussion even if the delivery is a little on the dry side. Cotter gives us a nice overview of the production history of the movie, talks about how Robles ended up playing the part of the vampire and points out some interesting details in the movie. Not an essential track but an enjoyable and interesting one that is worth checking out.

    Also included on the first disc is a fun radio spot used to advertise the U.S. theatrical run of the film, text biographies for the key cast and crew members, a gallery of promotional artwork including posters and still photographs, and a newspaper clipping that contains an obituary for Abel Salazer. Also included on this disc is an essay from David Wilt entitled Fear A La Mexicana! Mexican Horror Cinema, 1953 To 1965 which gives a nice look at the horror films of the era by way of some interesting photos (the poster art for La Bruja is great!) and some interesting background information. There’s also a fun Casa Negra promo reel that features clips from some of their past releases as well as from a few upcoming discs.

    The second disc doesn’t have a commentary track, unfortunately, but it does have a U.S. radio spot, another decent gallery of promotional artwork and still photographs and, for the DVD-Rom equipped out there, the complete French photo-novel version of the movie in PDF format (in black and white with a great painted color cover). The Casa Negra promo reel that was on the first disc is included here as well.

    Inside the disc is another Casa Negra lotteria card and the packaging, as has been the norm for the Casa Negra line so far, contains reversible cover art that contains English language text on one side and Spanish on the other. Likewise, the menus are available in English or Spanish on both discs.

    The Vampire Collection – The Final Word Review:

    The two films in this set – The Vampire and The Vampire’s Coffin - are entertaining and well-made Mexican horror entries that deserve to find a wider audience and Casa Negra’s excellent release should make that happen.