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Monday, March 2, 2009

The Genie of Darkness (1962) review

THE GENIE OF DARKNESS 1959 (1962 English version: Trans-International Films, Inc.) aka NOSTRADAMUS, EL GENIO DE LAS TINIEBLAS

German Robles (Nostradamus), Domingo Soler (Professor Dolan), Julio Aleman (Anthony), Manuel Vergara Manver (Leo), Jack Taylor (Igor), Aurora Alvarado (Anna)

Directed by Federico Curiel; 79 minutes

Igor informs Dolan and Anthony that the key to Nostradamus' existence is held within a mysterious parchment that is hidden in an unknown location. Meanwhile, the vampire takes Anthony under his control and sends him to get information as to what Dolan and Igor are up to. Using his magic to discover the location of the hidden scroll, Igor discovers that an old witch, Rebecca, the mother of Leo the hunchback, possesses the document.

Anthony reports back to Nostradamus that the whereabouts of the lifeblood of his lineage has been known. Nostradamus then retrieves the scroll and kills Leo's mother for her insolence. Later sent to kill Igor, Anthony is rescued from the vampire's magic by Igor's magical cane. The stage is set for a final confrontation between Igor and Nostradamus. With the help of Leo, the vampire triumphs over his adversary.

With his most powerful enemy out of the way, Nostradamus threatens to make Nora Peyton, a woman, as his next victim. When this effort again proves futile for the determined vampire, a chance meeting with a painter causes Anthony to recall the exact location of Nostradamus' coffin. Professor Dolan, Anthony and the Society members converge on the mansion. Leo alerts his master and the two make their escape. Finding his coffin empty, Dolan states that they must take the ashes from his resting place as the vampire sustains his life from lying atop the ashes of his ancestors. By removing them, the creature will be destroyed by the time the sun rises. Dolan delivers the ashes to Dr. Schiller, which in turn, sets up the wicked vampires next victim.

This is easily the best film out of the entire quartet. The film packs an amazing amount of atmosphere and action in its brief 79 minute running time. With so much going on, this is the most episodic of the four pictures. The first portion deals with the location of the sacred parchment and the departure of Igor. It turns out that Leo's mother is a witch living in a ramshackle cabin adorned with cauldrons and candles affixed atop human skulls. The goofy dubbing rears its amusing head yet again as Rebecca the witch is voiced with a New York accent. When the vampire shows up he's not pleased by the fact that his adversaries have discovered his scroll, nor Rebecca's hateful comments. To punish her, Nostradamus burns her alive in her hut.

The action continues when Igor discovers Anthony has been under the creatures power. He saves him and takes off to duel with his nemesis alone. What follows is easily the funniest sequence of the entire series. Igor looks to Nostradamus stating, "You are looking at your Rival!" The vampire, with a piercing stare, retorts with, "Prisoner!" The camera then zooms in on Igor, his eyes nearly bugging out of his head and yells out "Rival!" The camera then zooms out from Nostradamus who again yells "Prisoner!" and yet again from Igor. The two partake in this brief yelling match before Leo sneaks up behind Igor and breaks his back.

The presence of Jack Taylor will no doubt bring a bit of excitement to Euro horror fans as he has appeared in a slew of Spanish horror pictures as well as two of the Mexican vampire films described here. Some of Taylor's more recognizable roles were in several of Amando De Ossorio's moody and atmospheric horror movies like NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS (1973) and THE GHOST GALLEON (1974). Taylor can also be seen in a handful of Paul Naschy movies such as DR. JEKYLL & THE WEREWOLF (1972) and THE MUMMY'S REVENGE (1973). He also appeared in two films for J.P. Simon, THE FABULOUS JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (1976) and the nasty giallo/slasher exploitation classick, PIECES (1981). Taylor often played roles as a professor of some sort and these suited his demeanor.

The next segment has professor Dolan and Anthony taking off to protect Nostradamus' next target, Nora Peyton. They meet this bizarre woman who demands they leave. Upon explaining, the two are allowed to stay. They find letters to Nora from Claude, her lover, and searching the house, it appears no one has lived in the mansion for quite some time. To their surprise, they learn from a policeman that the woman has been dead for over three months! We soon find out that it was Nostradamus that has resurrected her body to claim her as his undead bride. Refusing his advances, he orders Leo to bury Nora's corpse. It is here that the powerful villain begins to doubt his ingenuity and ability to destroy professor Dolan.

The third portion of GENIE OF DARKNESS has Anthony meeting a painter in the street. Carrying a canvas of a castle, Anthony suddenly recounts the whereabouts of the vampires coffin. The Society For the Abolishment of Superstition, now convinced that Dolan hasn't lost his mind, heads out to the citadel to obtain Nostradamus' ancestors ashes. Taking the remains to Dr. Schiller, Dolan rather foolishly sets up his friend as the next victim. In the meantime, Dolan has been experimenting with new methods to snare vampires. One is a type of sonar device that emits an incredibly high frequency sound that will cause the creature great pain. Leo the hunchback is also given more to do here than any of the other movies and the sequence where he slyly manages to snatch a new coffin for his master is humorous in addition to being well thought out for a man of his limited abilities.

The movie closes with Nostradamus hypnotizing Schiller's assistant, Charlie, into killing him. This scene is pretty violent as Charlie smashes Schiller with a stool. Schiller then shoots him twice before Charlie shatters the stool over his cranium for a second time. Nostradamus is present in bat form shortly before Dolan and Anthony arrive believing they've beaten the vampire as they toss his ancestors ashes out into the open air amidst the rising sun. Of course, they haven't won as there is still one more movie to go.

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