Monday, March 11, 2013

The Vampires Night Orgy (1973) review



Jack Taylor (Luis), Helga Line (The Countess), Dianik Zurakowska (Alma), Fernando Bilbao (Giant), Sarita Gil (Violet), Fernando Romero (boy)

Directed by Leon Klimovsky

***WARNING! This review contains images of nudity***

"...only these villages buried between mountains can boast of meat of such excellent... quality... no other place will you find a roast like this."--the mysterious Major vaguely hinting at the Inn's chief ingredient. But we know what's in the meat!

The Short Version: Genre vet Leon Klimovsky directed this tightly shot, EC style horror story involving a spooky, isolated hamlet, ghouls, ghosts, vampires and cannibalism. Marinated in a Grand Guignol style, these ingredients are braised into a delectable dish of unique Euro horror flavor topped off with a peppery hint of black humor. The gore calorie count is low, but the taste is filling. The recipe is recommended especially for the palettes of 1970s European horror specialists. 

A myriad group of people all on their way to begin work under the employ of a wealthy aristocrat encounter trouble when their bus driver suddenly dies from a heart attack. Traveling on, they decide to take a shorter route to a town called Tolnia to rest for the night. Curiously, the town isn't on their map, and when they arrive, they find the place deserted. The following day, the visitors discover the hamlet does indeed have villagers, and they're lorded over by a woman known only as The Countess. With their bus broke down, the Countess offers the stranded travelers free room and board, and also pays them for their inconvenience. However, the town of Tolnia harbors an evil secret, and as each night passes, more of the travelers disappear.

Veteran horror director Klimovsky has made a number of serviceable Euro-horrors (a few with Paul Naschy), and this tale of ghouls and vampires is one of the creepier ones. The anemic logic of European made spookers is surprisingly absent here, making the plotline of more interest than many of these movies, and recalls other, non Euro titles of a similar nature.

Regardless of the lack of cohesion, or common sense in most Euro horror pictures, one of their strongest assets is an oppressive atmosphere of impending doom. This aura of dread isn't created on a soundstage, but in real locations dripping with a dank, Gothic ambiance. This atmosphere is one of the highlights of THE VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY.

The director is very successful in this respect. Klimovsky takes this feeling of danger further by populating this isolated village with a murderous bunch of individuals whom all possess eerie visages made all the more pronounced by macabre camera angles and close ups. The faces of these villagers are unique, and recall similar grotesque human imagery seen in Leone's westerns, and also those of Corbucci.

Klimovsky's thematic inspirations are unknown, but similarities can be drawn from a few possible foreign horror subjects such as Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), Herschell Gordon Lewis's 2000 MANIACS (1964), CANNIBAL GIRLS (1972) and, to an extent, MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973). Arguably the most blatant inspiration would have to be the 'Midnight Mess' segment from THE VAULT OF HORROR (1973). The storyline of that 15 minute tale of horror from one of Amicus' last anthology films is stretched out to feature length here, but with some nerve-jangling alterations.

When the townsfolk finally make their appearance (they're unaccounted for at night, later claiming to gather in the cemetery!), they seem normal enough upon first glance. None of them are given names. Most have no dialog, but speak volumes simply by observing from afar with disturbingly sinister countenances.  When members of the cast are separated from the others, these curious acting locals come out and attack en mass recalling the cannibalistic villagers from the excellent MESSIAH OF EVIL. The nighttime scene aboard the broken down bus is a highlight.

With nothing to feed this motley bunch of victims-to-be, the problem is solved by relieving certain villagers of an arm or a leg which are then cooked as meaty dishes to the unsuspecting guests! These delectable moments are served up with a blackly comical relish that wasn't common among such European horror pictures. This predilection for the macabre works wonders in the script, and in Klimovsky's direction. This is one time where Euro-horror cinemas "dream logic" is dutifully applicable, and the instances of the unexplained only enhance the peculiarity of the proceedings. 

The opening of the film sets this uneasy, nightmarish tone the rest of the picture maintains. In it, we see a funeral procession, but we never see the faces of the mourners. The casket accidentally falls and breaks open revealing a rotted corpse covered in maggots. The mourners turn and run away, but we never see their faces.

The script carefully unveils one clue after the next that our unwary travelers are not going to end up well. After the bus driver has a heart attack, they all disperse the bus to figure out what to do. The little girl Violet, walks away from the others momentarily and finds a small boy. She talks to him, but he doesn't say much. She turns away and then back again and the boy is suddenly gone. This boy pops up a few more times and it's obvious he's some apparition of sorts, although it's never clear what his connection is with the hamlet of horrors. 

One of the best scenes involves a bit of ingeniously gruesome foreshadowing as the boy lures(?) Violet away to the cemetery. The boy has this swell idea to bury her doll, but leaves one of the dolls hands exposed through the earth. What follows is one of the films most disturbing sequences.

The Countess (listed as The Lady in the end credits), who holds sway over this mysterious village, is played by Euro cinema favorite Helga Line. Familiar to many from numerous Sword and Sandal and Italian western movies, Helga Line made an imprint on the Euro horror scene as well. She puts in what amounts to an extended cameo here, possibly racking up approximately 10 minutes of screen time total. 

We learn just enough about who she is and how she came to be so wealthy, but her real function is to act as the Queen V. And she bares her fangs (among other things) on a few occasions. It's also worth mentioning that The Countess is the only member of this vampire cult that seems to have fangs. Others who are transformed into members of the undead only have noticeably large sets of teeth that give them an added ghastly appearance.

The gargantuan Bud Spencer lookalike, Fernando Bilbao, plays The Countess's main subordinate. He's not given a name, either. The credits list him simply as The Giant. He skulks around the town with his axe collecting limbs under orders of his vampiric mistress. He's easily the most Grand Guignol of the bunch. One scene is especially sardonic wherein he has his axe sharpened, then proceeds to chop off the arm of the man who performed the service!

The finale is also noteworthy in its revelation via Jack Taylor's dialog as to how this breed of vampire were able to walk in the daytime. Curiously, throughout the entire film, we never see any rays of sunlight. However, once the survivors escape the clutches of the hellish creatures, we glimpse the films only moments of brightness. The closing sequence packs a particularly ghostly punch. Where most movies of this sort would end after our heroes make their escape, Klimovsky's picture gives us one last surprise or two.

Along with Helga Line, Jack Taylor is the most recognizable face in the cast having amassed a great many credits to his name spanning Mexi-horror, lucha libre action and Euro genre fare from a gaggle of familiar horror directors. This is one of Taylor's best roles allowing him to be the lead hero and not some cold-natured professor type he was often associated with. He also has a lascivious side to his character. Upon finding a peephole in the wall of his room, he frequently watches Dianik Zurakowska (herself appearing in a handful of Euro genre offerings) undressing for bed!

The films one major misstep is a woefully unremarkable soundtrack. A few cues are pleasing, but all of them are canned tracks, and most of them do not fit the onscreen action at all. The few cues that have a Euro flavor to them are welcome, but the bulk of the library tunes chosen here would sound more at home in a lounge, or elevator somewhere.

Like the film this is paired with, DR. JEKYLL AND THE WOLFMAN (1972), this is the unclothed, international version of THE VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY. There are a few nude scenes to amp up the trash quotient, but gore is kept to a minimum. The story is quite good, and Klimovsky's direction looks far more assured and focused than it normally did. The recent Code Red DVD is an essential purchase for horror collectors, and especially for those with an affinity for European lensed spookers. This orgiastic double header definitely satisfies.

This review is representative of the Code Red double feature DVD paired with DR. JEKYLL AND THE WOLFMAN.

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