August 30, 2006

LADY VAMPIRE (1959) Confused Japanese vampire

LADY VAMPIRE (1959, Japan, Onna-Kyuketsuki)

The lady is a vamp!

Who told us that Japanese movies were sexier and gorier than Hammer films? Here's a Japanese horror from the year after Hammer's classic Horror of Dracula that's neither.

It's more like a tame lesson in what was naughty in the fifties in Japan. Artists models wearing baggy swimwear. Young ladies naked backs. Whipping. OK that's naughty for the fifties, now it's commonplace.

It's in black and white, and dramatically framed in Tohoscope 2.35. There’s a few actresses with heaving busoms, a confused mythos, and not much action. It's more of a dry run for Dark Shadows rather than a homage to Hammer.

It's also an early example of a vampire in a modern-day setting - instead of getting Van Helsing, they set the police on him, but the result isn't a patch on the 'police v vampire' action that you get in The Night Stalker movie or House of Dark Shadows (both from director Dan Curtis).

I've learnt that in Japan, bad guys wear shades and bad women wear big earrings and too much make-up. Our vampire villain (not the title character) turns into a vampire when the moon is full (surely some mistake) and bites to kill rather than to drink. He has a mute dwarf sidekick, an old ghostly witch sidekick, and a bald muscleman sidekick. None of them eat flies and they're all pretty useless at their jobs.

He’s gots a whip, and a fencing foil, pre-dating the swordsman/vampire of Hammer's Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter, but here the fight scenes are more 'school play' than excitement.

The gently Freudian torture scene where Drac prods a lady victim with a candelabra stand, can only prove that L.S.D. must have reached Japan in the late fifties. Aptly, this film was made the same year as Ed Wood's Night of the Ghouls, about the most positive comparison I can make.

The director (Nobuo Nakagawa) did a much better with The Ghost of Yotsuya the same year, but
here appears to have run out of money. The final fight scene takes place only in a wide master shot, with much of the struggle happening off-screen!

If you really must see this, it is at least available in 2.35 widescreen with english subtitles, from Satsuma, for instance.

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