Monday, March 2, 2009
The Blood of Nostradamus (1962) review
THE BLOOD OF NOSTRADAMUS 1959 (1962 English version: Trans-International Films, Inc.) aka LA SANGRE DE NOSTRADAMUS
German Robles (Nostradamus), Domingo Soler (Professor Dolan), Julio Aleman (Anthony), Manuel Vergara Manver (Leo), Aurora Alvarado (Anna)
Directed by Federico Curiel; 82 minutes
"If by ten o'clock tomorrow evening I haven't got Wilkinson, you will be the only one responsible for what happens! I'll send pestilence...and death and hunger down upon the entire city! Don't forget it professor. If by tomorrow evening I don't have my hands on that man, I'll murder citizens by the hundreds!"
Nostradamus informs Professor Dolan that he is very much alive having substituted the ashes of one of his victims for that of his ancestors when Dolan threw them to the wind. The vampire then sends Dolan a mordant letter stating that the chief of police, Andres Rojas, is to be the next victim on his list.
Notifying the police of Nostradamus' threat, Professor Dolan receives a package that is instrumental in his pursuit to destroy the monster. Meanwhile, the chief of police nearly goes mad worrying about the possibility of his impending death. At the same time, Professor Dolan perfects his electromagnetic machine that nearly destroys Nostradamus. Inspector Rojas is killed anyways by one of his own men (with a little help from Nostradamus' dark powers) during a solar eclipse.
Failing to kill the vampire yet again, Dolan and Anthony go to see Nostradamus' next victim, Olga, a singer, who promptly discredits their stories of vampires. Amazingly, the vampire has gotten himself a date with the actress. She soon learns to her horror that her date is a member of the undead. Anthony tries to save her, but Olga is killed. Anna is attacked but saved by Anthony and his platinum bullets scare the vampire away. The arrogant vampire then proclaims a colleague of Dolan's, Tomas Wilkinson, as his next victim. When the Professor and Anthony prevent him from killing his target, Nostradamus states that if he doesn't claim his quarry by the following evening, he will wipe out people by the hundreds.
Later, Leo is captured and Tomas is hidden inside a church away from the clutches of the vampire. Tomas is killed by Leo, but Anthony manages to shoot the hunchback in the process. Nostradamus then uses his black powers to entrance the minds of those in the city to become suspicious of Professor Dolan and destroy his laboratory. The mad mob of citizens then plan to burn professor Dolan at the stake. This sets the stage for a final death struggle between the professor and the evil Nostradamus.
Some things you learn about Mexican vampires from watching these four films:
1. A Mexican vampire fears an Antioch cross.
2. A Mexican vampire is seriously weakened by platinum bullets.
3. Mirrors can be used to locate Mexican vampires by way of magic; preferably from characters named Igor.
4. High frequency waves can give Mexican vampires a serious migraine.
5. Magical canes are the only means to completely destroy a Mexican vampire.
This fourth and final installment is almost as good as GENIE OF DARKNESS (1962), but mildly loses its way during the police chief section. An effort is made to instill a lot more characterization for some of the human portrayals in addition to giving professor Dolan's daughter, Anna, something to do for a change. The chief of police is presented as a rude and boorish individual. Also, some attention is paid to a disbelieving songstress who has recently become infatuated with Nostradamus himself. The pervasive Mexican prince of darkness is longing for a date! While some scenes may have been eliminated from the English export versions, It's hinted at in the previous movie that Nostradamus longs for some female companionship much as the character of Dracula did in his many cinematic incarnations.
In the previous movie, it was the dead Nora Peyton whom Nostradamus desired. At the moment she refused him, he began his slow descent into self doubt of his own capabilities. This is pushed further in BLOOD OF NOSTRADAMUS when he hooks up with Olga, the singer at the club, the Golden Rooster. There is a great scene where Nostradamus is waiting for her in her dressing room just after she has gotten a visit from Dolan and Anthony. While she sits in front of her mirror, she happens to notice that her date casts no reflection! This leads to a great sequence that puts both Olga and Anna in danger.
Anthony arrives in the nick of time to save at least one of the ladies. It is here where you see Nostradamus bear his fangs (blood and all) for the first and only time in this series (at least the only time in the export versions). The bat effects, fake as they may be, are better than the stiff contraptions seen in many of Hammer's vampire pictures. The wings flap rapidly and on a couple of occasions, some animation is used for shots of the bat flying out of windows.
During the first two movies, Nostradamus possesses a confident and arrogant personality that nothing can impede his mission of vengeance. Everything he predetermines comes to pass, but near the end of the third chapter, the vampire begins to doubt his powers and his abilities to combat Professor Dolan. Initially, the vampires intent was simply to vindicate the name of his pedigree, but after restoring his ancestral name, Nostradamus continues in his crusade to destroy the professor and Anthony as the two proved to be worthy adversaries against his power. Nostradamus is in tears at one point begging his father to help him locate the victim he has designated since the location by which Wilkinson has been placed (inside a church), prevents the vampire from finding him.
There's a defining Bondian rapport between Nostradamus and professor Dolan. On countless occasions, Nostradamus could easily destroy the professor or make him a member of the undead. Instead, he prefers to use more diabolical means to do away with the professor. To simply kill Dolan outright would be "barbaric" or "uncivilized" when he could derive more pleasure by refuting, or terminating the professor in a more lavish manner. In this fourth film, Nostradamus plans to do just that by using the people in the city to kill the professor by burning him at the stake! Not only that, but it is here that the mad vampire plans widespread death and destruction.
But this mass annihilation is only out of desperation since Dolan has gotten the upper hand by hiding Nostradamus' next victim inside a church, a place where the vampire cannot reach. It seems that this series as a whole was constructed to be something more than just a typical string of horror pictures. As already mentioned, there is an attempt to do much more with the vampire character than merely a one dimensional force to be reckoned with. Far different than the more famous portrayals by Christopher Lee, sympathy and pathos for antagonists in such productions were few and far between.
There are some humorous moments, both intentional and otherwise. One funny piece of dialog comes near the end while Dolan, Tony and Anna work on the professors electromagnetic machine. A knock comes at the door which prompts the professor to say, "Why don't you answer it, Tony. It's not Nostradamus, he doesn't knock before he comes in." The hilarious dubbed dialog is here just as in all the prior entries, and much of it comes from the hunchback, Leo. However, there is one striking sequence found here. Nostradamus, sensing victory, calls forth the spirits of Hell to dance to his proposed triumph. He plays a violin while the shadows of damned souls can be seen dancing on the walls of his lair.
Ending on a high note, these four movies offer up some tawdry thrills and laugh inducing moments, but I can't help but think the original versions paint an entirely different picture than what is presented here by K. Gordon Murray. Nonetheless, all four movies are very enjoyable and worth the time of any lover of old horror movies. Despite the comical dubbing, there is undoubtedly a different approach to this material than was normally afforded these kinds of productions. It's a shame that the now defunct, yet excellent DVD company, CasaNegra never got around to restoring this quartet of vampire thrillers in its original language with subtitles as they no doubt would have brought a better appreciation for this series.