Atom Age Vampire (1960)

Unexpected Assembly

I don’t suppose many people have the time for watching bad movies in the hope of transcendent insights. If you are one of these, let me save you some time. This might be on your list.

Yes, I know it is yet another cheapo; made in Italy by hacks. It is even more incoherent now because of heavy censorship and bad dubbing. And yet, and yet… this has charm in a way because of the way they assembled the thing. It as if a child assembled the potatohead doll and put many of the pieces in the wrong place. If they had been in the right place, the thing would be dull. Wrong place for that ear, hmm, makes you think about ears, which are curious things indeed.

The story here seems simple: a pretty woman in a sex-related trade gets scarred then falls into the hands of an evil doctor, Frankenstein-like. Tragedy follows, ending in the standard death: at the end of the movie, the monster is on the ground. We see his torso diagonally in three quarters shot. (It is always this pose and angle.) Then we go through a stop-motion sequence where he is slowly turned back from monster to human.

But between the beginning and end we have a bizarre twist of the formula. This is not like what Ed Wood unknowingly did, accidentally shaping the profound out of the ordinary. This is more deliberate and very much in the mold of the Leone westerns, which consciously stretches and subverts the genre.

The mad doctor is the one who gets the curse here. Usually it is the girl. If it were an American film, the fact that she is a prostitute and stripper would doom her. Not so in Italy, she escapes with her manly sailor boyfriend. The idea that the doctor gets cursed and turns into a “vampire” is unique, I think. Since this is cinema, he has to look cursed, so we see horrible scarring. I think this copied “The Hideous Sun Demon” of the previous year in the makeup and notion of periodic, radiation-induced scarring (and madness).

Sure, the magic here is from radioactive stuff instead of some evil curse or force. We even have some explanation of the evil American bomb over Hiroshima, complete with genuine photos of victims. Very strange, knowing this comes from an Axis power and some of the same production team used in war propaganda films.

If you have the time, very weird, this.

Posted in 2005

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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