Sunday, February 27, 2011

You Say Vampire, I Say Garbage Hobo

Because it has been far too long, for you and for me, today’s film will, once again come from my giant Mill Creek box set. Much in the vein of Teenagers From Outer Space, I will be reviewing a film that’s title has intrigued me since I first set eyes on it. Today’s film is the curiously named Atom Age Vampire. But will it contain anything about the Atom Age OR vampires? We shall see.

Atom Age Vampire is an Italian horror film that tells the story of a scientist who falls in love with the disfigured patient that he has sworn to help. To help restore her looks (using the very real Derma 28 – well, you’ve probably seen it advertised during daytime TV, as the latest in wrinkle reducing cream), he must keep her alive with the glands that he takes from other women that he murders (he is able to do this with a touch of the ol’ Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, thanks to the judicious use of Derma 25). His love for her is tested in a race against time, the police and her Marcello Mastroianni lookalike boyfriend, Pierre.

And yes, as this is an Italian horror film made in the 1960’s, we get both badly dubbed English AND a car that bursts into flames within the first 5 minutes, so I think I’m going to like where this is going. We also get what is apparently a badly edited/censored jumble of awesomely bad science, awkwardly shoehorned in love scenes and an Igor who looks more like a slightly manlier clone of Marty Feldman than anything. It’s not all bad though, as we get this awesome line, when Dr Levin first sets eyes on his patient’s disfiguring scars; “it’s like a cancer that is out of control, like leprosy.” Of course, since we are talking about a film that seems to have had a budget of 600 lira, her disfigurement looks like it was created by half a roll of sticky tape. This could be because the rest of the budget went on the (awesome for the time, no doubt) stop motion effects for the serum’s effect and his change into the titular monster (well, I say titular, as he is only called a vampire the once, and only in passing is the connection to the Atom Age even made).

As Dr Levin lets his feelings for Jeanette take over his life, turning him into a jealous, possessive, murderous monster (literally and figuratively), she starts to plot an escape, enlisting  Levin’s put upon gardener, Sasha. Soon enough, she is reunited with Pierre, but only briefly as Levin and Sasha beat up Pierre and take her back again. This leads the police to Levin, who tries to push them off his trail by making them suspect Sasha. As Pierre and the police close in on Dr Levin, he continues killing other women to keep her looks, eventually curing Jeanette for good. The film then ends how you would suspect it would.

I have no idea how the movie is paced in its original form (as I would suspect is the same for anyone outside of Italy), but it manages to move forward at both a cracking pace and a snail’s pace. Lots of quick edits, location changes and half hearted character development that 9 times out of ten manages to say next to nothing at all. At least, until the serum starts to reverse and Dr Levin gives in to the urge to murder other women so that he can keep Jeanette under his control – then the film pushes into overdrive and pretty much stays that way until the end (it’s not an edge of your seat thrill ride, but the amount of padding sharply decreases).

All in all, I don’t really know what to make of this film. Sure, the story was pretty clear, but I think due to the editing/censorship that this film had to go through for an English language release, the final product that we get is a confused bundle of “I’ve seen this all before”. I really should stop wanting to see films based on title alone.

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