Directed by: Fernando Mendez
UNCUT RUNNING TIME- 94 Minutes
EDITED RUNNING TIME- 84 Minutes
Starring: German Robles, Abel Salazar, Ariadna Welter
Starring German Robles as the blood-lusting Count Lavud, and his neck-bitten co-star Ariadna Welter, El Vampiro was the first new international adaptation of the Dracula legend since Lugosi’s 1932 incarnation.
Someone at Hammer studios likely saw El Vampiro before beginning the Christopher Lee vampire movies. German Robles plays the quintessential vampire, the aristocratic, natty, sensual Count Karol de Lavud (Mr. Duval). Robles would further refine his vampire in the subsequent role as the vampire Nostradamus. In many ways this movie is like a black and white precursor to the Christopher Lee vampire films. (In fact, it predates by a year those of Lee at Hammer.)
The dark threatening broody atmosphere, with its swirling fog, eerie woods, stark decaying dreary structures is similar to that of the Hammer films, some of Roger Corman’s, and (of course) the earlier Universal pictures. A foreboding tension keeps the viewer on edge. Abel Salazar, the producer, does a decent job in the role of the doctor who helps the heroine, Marta, played by the beautiful Ariadna Welter, attempt to stay away from Lavud’s fangs and control.
Marta has returned to her ancestral home in the Sierra Negra (Black Sierra) Mountains. Her beautiful aunt, Eloisa, played by Cuban born Carmen Montejo, has not aged since Marta last saw her, having succumbed to the charm of Lavud–a fate Lavud wishes for Marta. As an earlier commentator noted, this apparently is the first screen vampire with fangs. These are put to good use in one scene with his transformation to and from a bat and then attack on a small boy, which scene is riveting. The music matches the atmosphere–foreboding.
The film has rather good production values for the Mexican vampire genre (really for all vampire movies). The DVD (PAL only format) from Mondo Macabre is in Spanish (with and without English subtitles) and in dubbed English and is superior to the VHS version from I.S. Filmworks (available only in dubbed English). This film is not chatty; subtitles are easy to follow and not intrusive. Neither version is in widescreen. The DVD has somewhat better technical quality than the VHS. Other, noncommercial DVDs, in Spanish, with and without English subtitles, and dubbed can be found. Horror Theatre Video has both the Spanish with English subtitles and the dubbed English in quite good technical quality in DVD-R.