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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tempi duri per i vampiri (1959)

... aka: Agárrame ese vampiro (Grab Me That Vampire)
... aka: Dracula Is My Uncle
... aka: Hard Times for Dracula
... aka: Hard Times for Vampires
... aka: Les temps sont durs pour les vampires
... aka: My Uncle, the Vampire
... aka: Uncle Was a Vampire

Directed by:
Steno

After inheriting a huge seaside castle, Osvaldo Lambertenghi (Renato Rascel) decides to sell his ancestral estate to the Atlas Corporation, who want to turn it into a resort hotel. He gets 80 million lira out of the deal, which doesn't do much for him since he has to immediately hand the entire check over to the treasury to pay off a family debt. To be kind, the castle's new owners decide to keep him on there as a bellboy after they renovate and open the hotel. That same luxury may not be afforded to the sweet gardener Lilena (Antje Geerk), whose family has tended to the castle grounds for over a century, and she may now lose her job. Osvaldo receives a letter from his estranged uncle, Baron Roderico da Frankurten (Christopher Lee), who's currently living in Carpathian mountain region of Germany and says he'll be stopping in at midnight for an extended visit. Since the letter refers to him as his "heir," Osvaldo assumes some good luck (and money) may finally be coming his way. Instead, he just gets a heavy, coffin-shaped box with his bloodsucking relative inside. And Uncle isn't too happy about the current state of the family home; particularly that the crypt he was so looking forward to resting in has been converted into a bar.







Other guests fill in to the hotel for the weekend. We get two glamour models; redhead Kay ("Kay Ficher" / Kai Fischer) and platinum blonde Susan (Susanne Loret, star of the following year's ATOM AGE VAMPIRE) and their dates Paolo (Angelo Zanolli) and Nino (Franco Giacobini), who are both hoping to get lucky. And then there's teenager Carla (26-year-old Sylva Koscina), whose disapproving parents Luigi (Federico Collino) and Letizia (Lia Zoppelli) have drug here there to keep her away from her boyfriend Victor (uncredited Rik Van Nutten). Victor, who's a musician with hit records like "Okie Dokie Calypso," shows up at the hotel anyway and the two lovebirds plot to run away together. There's also some old military dude named "The Commander" (Carl Wery) and, rather conveniently, Dr. Hans Strickler (Franco Scandurra), a German professor whose plans for a relaxing weekend are continually interrupted when he's forced to translate an old German book on vampires the Baron has brought along with him.








Because his nephew keeps getting in his way, hangs garlic all over the place, draws crucifixes on the walls and attempts to stake him while he's sleeping, Roderico turns him into a vampire simply so he'll leave him alone. Osvaldo then spends his entire first night as a bloodsucker sneaking through windows and biting every single attractive woman in the place. The next day, wives and girlfriends are all in daze and want nothing to do with their significant others. Instead, they desire Osvaldo and want him to keep on biting them. The finale features the scorned males running around the hotel with stakes and hammers on a vampire hunt and Osvaldo - who's actually in love with nice girl Lilena, of course - having to save the object of his affections from Roderico. But let's be real here: the real hero is a rooster named Giovanino.







This extremely silly screwball comedy - which had seven (!) credited writers - is a difficult one to evaluate. There are a few genuinely funny moments in here, many more jokes that misfire and, because the English-language dubbing is so wretched, sometimes it's hard to tell what's funnier because of the awful dubbing and what gags would have worked better in the original-language version. The VHS print I viewed was presented in annoying pan-and-scan and the poor print quality made the already-muted Technicolor look even murkier. The laughs rely heavily on slapstick and sight gags, with lots of 'old dark house' trappings like trap doors and secret passageways, and the 6'5" pale-faced Lee towering over the entire cast, particularly the 5'2" lead. Rascel mugs and goofs his way through his bumbling idiot role (whoever dubbed him is a really awful actor), while Lee (also dubbed even in the English version) plays the vampire completely seriously yet is actually the funniest person in the movie.




Steno (born Stefano Vanzina) directed and / or wrote over 100 films from 1939 until 1988 and is best known for his work in the comedy genre. His one other horror-comedy was the Edwige Fenech vehicle Dr. Jekyll Likes Them Hot (1979). I think I actually spent more time cross-referencing and researching the cast trying to figure out who played who than I did actually watching the film. On numerous sites (including IMDb), most of the characters aren't listed, and some of the wrong actors are assigned the wrong parts. I think I finally got it all worked out, but I wish I could say the same thing for the crew. Again, the credits on the film don't match up with the credits on IMDb. The name Steno is nowhere to be found on the credits of the film I watched (though he uses his real name as one of the writers) and it's Pio Angeletti (listed as production manager on IMDb) who is credited director on the actual film. Future director Emilio P. Miraglia - who later made The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971) and The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972) is credited as the assistant film editor on the movie but as script supervisor on IMDb. Rascel was one of the writers, plus gets credits for the music and "songs" (though there is only one song in the movie and none listed on IMDb). I'm not sure what is what there.





Sinister Cinema initially distributed this one on VHS and there have been several DVD releases in recent years. The one from PR Studios, which pairs it up with Horror Express (1972) and was released in 2011, presents a black-and-white version of the movie. The one from GI Studios, titled Dracula Is My Uncle and released in 2013, is in color.

★★1/2

2 comments:

Gerald Fnord said...

The cock's name would be spelt 'Giovanino'---'Little Johnny'. I'm pretty sure that in the original he crows only after Osvaldo threatens to caponise him, not after he calls him a capon. That's funnier, and I'm sticking to it.

Though my Italian is close to nonexistent, I found the Italian version much preferable: as you stated, Rascel's English dubber is awful. Seeing the dub once, and with some basic Romance language vocabulary, it's comprehensible, and the performances much better.

Watching the Italian, I have to wonder what it was like for some of the older audience members, especially in the North, to hear a nasty-sounding German shouting in heavily-accented Italian.

Note: horror writer Kim Newman titled his Anno Dracula book set in late-50s Italy Dracula Cha-cha-cha after the song from this film...I couldn't get it out of my head until I learned enough Italian to understand it.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Can't believe I misspelled the true star of the film. Gah!

Makes you wonder why a version that's in Italian with English subtitles doesn't exist. I guess since they already had an English-language track they didn't even bother with this one.

Hell, I wonder how audiences would have reacted if they were aware that the same actor had also appeared in Nazi propaganda films!

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