7 OCTOBER 1972, Page 22


Blood will out

Christopher Hudson

If vampire films are to survive they will clearly need an infusion of blood. Since The Vampire Lovers, released about eighteen months ago, there hasn't been 3 single one worth seeing. Possibly the fashion is over that began in 1958 with Hammer Films' remake of Dracula with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Polymorphous perversity is paramount, and the sudden crop of weak mutations suggests that the stock has nothing more to supply. We have wrung the changes on lesbianism and veiled incest (Twins of Evil), and I don't suppose it will be long before Kenneth Williams is fitted out with fanged dentures and blood capsules for a Carry On in Transylvania. Already there is a James Bond/Vampire miscegen in preparation, and Blacula, promising racial intercourse at its most sanguinary, is on its Way from the States.

Two very weak mutations opened in London a little while ago. Disciple of Death ('X' New Victoria) tries to parody the genre, without realising the pointlessness of caricaturing something already risible — the reason why Polanski's Dance of the Vampires was relatively a failure. It ends up looking silly, and is in any case extremely dull. Dracula AD '72 ('X' Columbia) is another silly variation on the theme, this time bringing it up to date With King's Road teenyboppers celebrating a Black Mass. All that can be said for it is that it brings together again Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, as established now, in their field, as Frank Muir and Denis Norden. But the only humour is scraped from the unintentional: "There is evil in the world. Satan exists." "That's why we have a police force, sir."

It is of incidental interest that the vampire film is the only popular medium in Which Christian symbolism survives unchallenged. Dracula AD '72 observes most of the remedies — . sunlight, silver, unmersion in clear, running water — but it Is the cross on the defenceless girl's bosom Which burns Dracula's fingers, and the grave strewn with crucifixes in which he Writhes after being forced down into it by the Catholic holy water thrown in his face. Such is the emphasis on otherwise unfashionable Christian solutions that I Wouldn't be surprised if the World Council Of Churches doesn't privately subsidise these Transylvanian melodramas in order to keep simple faith alive. But the spirit has gone from the genre, just as it had gone in 1948 when Bela Lugosi, once the rnost terrifying of Draculas, found himself Playing Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. It was ten years before — brighter, bloodier, sexier — vampire films Made a comeback.

Endless Night ('AA' Carlton) is adapted from an Agatha Christie story which uses as its theme these lines from Blake Some are born to sweet delight, Some are born to endless night. The film reviewer, of Course, is born to the second; and feels the darkness never so acutely as when he has to sit through rubbish like this. Hywel Bennett, sound but lacklustre, plays a rather boorish chauffeur who marries, as !tick will have it, a beautiful, sweet, Innocent, elfin young American girl who ,turns out to be one of the world's richest neiresses. With the help of a brilliant Swedish architect called Santonix he builds his dream house by the sea, and everything appears to be sailing along as sMoothly as a National Westminster Bank cornmercial. But trouble looms — in the Shapes of an ancient, soothsaying harri a luscious German tutor and a canny ?Id American lawyer who uncovers secrets [roni the past. No film can be altogether dull if it Leatures Per Oscarsson, Britt Ekland and tieOrge Sanders (respectively the architect,

the tutor and the lawyer) in its cast: not to mention Hayley Mills as the elfin, if not consumptive, poor little rich girl. But like many of Agatha Christie's stories, this one is so dotty that it doesn't add up to being a proper thriller. None of the characters makes sense, and the plot is full of glaring inconsistencies which are hardly excused by the announcement at the end that we have been watching one of several possible versions of the story. Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliatt could do worse than go back to making films about St Trinian's.

At the Curzon, Alexandre ('A') is a light-hearted, charming, beautifully photographed, well-acted French comedy about a peasant farmer and his wily dog. It stars Philippe Noiret, Frangoise Brion and the delightful Marlene Jobert, and there is absolutely nothing else I can think to say about it.