Friday, March 4, 2016

As Sete Vampiras (1986)

... aka: Little Shop of Terrors
... aka: Seitsemän vampyyriä (Seven Vampires)
... aka: Seven Vampires, The

Directed by:
Ivan Cardoso

A large shipping crate containing a purple, poisonous, Audrey-style carnivorous plant that doesn't talk but must be fed raw meat every three hours arrives in Rio de Janeiro from Africa. Botanist Frederico Rossi (Ariel Coelho) has it shipped to his greenhouse / lab, where his paranoid dancer / choreographer wife Silvia (Nicole Puzzi) takes an instant dislike to it and begins to worry about what it may do to her husband. Just in case something were to happen, Fred whips up an antidote for the plant's poison. Unfortunately, he doesn't even have a chance to try it out as the plant, which has numerous snake-like appendages with separate mouths, minds and appetites of their own, eats him. When he doesn't answer the phone, Silvia rushes to the greenhouse only to find what's left of her husband; ripped up clothes in the plant's mouth and an eyeball. One of the tentacles then chews up her arm and she flees. Because of the traumatic incident, Silvia withdraws from her dance classes, stops talking to her Marilyn Monroe-like best friend Clarice (Susana Matos) and becomes a bitter hermit who stays holed up in her country home. She's also been infected by the plant bite, which makes her age rapidly, but takes the last antidote and all appears to be well after. Well, maybe...

Two months later, a series of blood-draining murders being committed by a vampire-killer are being investigated by the local police force. Elsewhere, Silvia is visited by Rogério (John Herbert), a businessman friend of her late husband's, who shows up with a proposition. Since gambling's been banned, his night club is failing and about to close its doors for good. Silvia agrees to put together a show to help draw in a crowd. She auditions and hires some entertainers and a septet of beautiful young women to perform in something she calls “The Transylvanian Follies.” Opening with magician Fu Manchu (Wilson Grey), who does an amusing disappearing / pickpocket act, we're then on a graveyard set where a grieving man who's lost his love Nayara goes to a cemetery where a Satyr statue comes to life and leaves behind his flute. The man plays the flute and then we're treated to “The Dance of the Seven Vampires;” where seven topless ladies in capes and g-strings flash their fangs before Nayara sinks her fangs into the guy's neck. The show is a huge hit and revitalizes the club.

Rogério is in love with the beautiful main dancer, Ivete (Simone Carvalho), who's a gold-digger and refuses to reciprocate his love unless he signs over everything to her, which will leave Silvia out on her ass. As Ivete takes a long and thorough shower before the two, uh, consummate their contract, a masked maniac sneaks in and slashes Rogério's throat. The same masked maniac later shows up at a cemetery trying to kill Ivete, but she escapes and goes straight to comic book-obsessed private detective Raimundo Marlou (Nuno Leal Maia), who agrees to shadow her at all times for 100 dollars a day. Raimundo shows up at the club snooping around, but there's another murder and he can't be seen around there too much or else he'll blow his cover, so his secretary / love interest Maria (Andrea Beltrão) goes undercover there as a hat check girl. Hated by the flustered police chief (Bene Nunes) and pretty much everyone else he works with, dimwit Inspector Pacheco (Colé Santana) also wants to prove himself by cracking the case.

There are a lot of other characters who make up a huge roster of possible suspects. There's slutty old maid Rina (Zezé Macedo), who tries to coerce every man she encounters to screw her or else she'll cast a voodoo spell on them. Then there's creepy, bald, woman-hating doorman Silas (Felipe Falcao) who's frequently shown lurking around and shares some kind of mysterious meat with his cat. And Baron Von Dyck (Ivon Cury), a rich celebrity schmoozer who helps social climber wannabe actress Eliza Machado (Lucélia Santos) get a gig as one of the vampire dancer girls. And voyeuristic young stage hand Pedro (Pedro Cardoso), who has the hots for Eliza and spies on her through a peephole looking into her dressing room. And sleazy girlie photographer Luiz (Carlo Mossy), who attempts to blackmail the killer once he discovers his / her identity. You get the idea.

Director Cardosa clearly loves, and knows a lot about the history of, cinema. Maybe too much for his own good in this case. Seven Vampires doesn't so much have style as it does everyone else's style stuck in a blender and mixed to a bloody pulp. There are constant nods to 20s – 50s genre films, from expressionistic shadows to film noir / detective stories to old dark house mysteries to adventure serials, as well as a generous blood flow more in tune with 80s slasher flicks and loads of (sometimes full) female nudity that would be more at home in 70s Euro soft porn. There are bits of Raymond Chandler, Little Shop of Horrors, The Phantom of the Opera and Elizabeth Bathory in the plot and too-numerous-to-mention film and pop culture references. Alfred Hitchcock (in a clip from his Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV series) even makes an appearance re-dubbed to talk about how thrilling this movie is and, in another scene, the leading lady drives in the rain, hears voices in her head and Bernard Herrmann's theme music from Psycho is heard.

Going right along with the variance of influences, this doesn't completely commit itself entirely to any particular time, though it usually appears to be set sometime in the 1950s. Clothing styles change frequently, characters are seen driving around in vintage automobiles and there's a 50s-style singing group led by Bob Rider (Leo Jaime) and His Rhythm Sensation who perform an entire musical number. The 1957 Top 40 hit “Little Darlin” by The Diamonds (also heard in HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II) is one of several “borrowed” songs on the soundtrack. Other elements of the film appear modern. Well, modern for the 80s. The film is all over the place as a result and a bit much to take in. Some scenes play out seriously, but there are also constant comedic moments that don't help matters because most of them aren't particularly funny (or clever).

In Brazil, this was a big hit in theaters, was nominated for numerous film awards and even spawned a comic book. The first Brazilian home video release was on the Phoenix Home Video label. It then somehow found its way into Japanese video stores of all places (courtesy of Sony Exc!t!ng) under the new title Little Shop of Terrors. Here in America, there was a later English-subtitled VHS release from Something Weird Video, but that's it as of this writing. In January 2014, Camp Motion Pictures (known primarily for releasing no budget 80s SOV horrors) announced they were going to release all of Cardoso's genre films (including this one) on DVD for the first time here in America. Not surprisingly, here it is now over two years later and that has yet to happen.

Other films in Cardosa's horrorography include the 27-minute Super 8 short Nosferatu in Brasil (1970), the 26-minute Coffin Joe documentary The Universe of Mojica Marins (1978), The Secret of the Mummy (1982), THE SCARLET SCORPION (1990), O Sarcófago Macabro (2005), The Werewolf of the Amazon (2005) starring Paul Naschy and A Marca do Terrir (2005; a compilation of Cardosa's early shorts).

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