Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Travel Advisory: Town not on the map? DON'T STOP THERE!

The Vampires' Night Orgy (1974)
Starring: Jack Taylor, Dianik Zurakowska, Jose Guardiola, Charo Soriano, Fernando Romero, Sarita Gil, and Helga Line
Director: Leon Klimovsky
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

After the driver of their bus dies of a heart attack, a collection of domestic workers on their way to new jobs at the castle of a wealthy Eastern European recluse detour to a village off the highway in a shadow-shrouded valley. Although it is not on the map, the citizens seem friendly enough, particularly the Countess who owns the entire settlement (Line). But that's only until the sun sets, at which time the outsiders become what's for dinner.

"The Vampire's Night Orgy" is one of those movies that is entertaining and scary almost despite itself. The characters are universally bland and ill-defined;--except for the "hero" who first noticed the heroine while peeping on her as she undresses, and who continues to secretly watch her even after they've met... and who ultimately decides to save his own skin over that of a little girl who may or may not still be alive; the script is a jumble of barely explained and completely unexplained events--the town is home to vampires but it is also home to some sort of spirit that looks like a little boy spirit and that seems to be at odds with the vampires, and then there's the cop-out ending to the film; the soundtrack is one of the most inappropriate and badly done I've come across, with Musak-style easy listening tunes playing as a vampire attack happens; and, finally, the acting is sub-par, be it on the part of the original cast or the voice actors doing the dubbing.

However, the film's pacing is perfect and clever staging and editing of scenes, plus decent cinematography go a long way to make up for the crummy actors. (Out of all the performers, only Jose Guardiola and Helga Line are any good... probably because they were called on to play parts like ones they've done before where they are called upon to seem friendly yet still carry a mysterious and undefinable sinister air about them.)

Also, despite the fact that one of the story's secrets is given away in the title--there's going to be an abundance of vampires showing up at some points, and what better place than a town where the sun never shines and that isn't on the map?--the way the vampires are deployed as the film unfolds is handled very well. For someone who's watched as many vampire movies as I have, it was particularly refreshing to have a scene where a vampire woman is chasing a half naked man around the bedroom instead of the other way around. It's a little thing, but it's one of the many quirks of this film that makes it fun.

Another thing that's well-handled is the use of children in the film. Often-times, children are annoying in horror movies, either because the child actors aren't any good or because their use in the plot is predictable. While the screenwriters Gabriel Burgos and Antonio Fos must not be parents, must not have had siblings, and must have been raised by wolves with the way they portray children and parenting in this film, they did manage to create a very horrific graveyard sequence build around the mysterious ghost/demon child and the young daughter of one of the traveling domestic workers. As the scene unfolded, I grew increasingly apprehensive for the girl, because I thought I knew where it was going... even if I was equally certain that there was no way the filmmakers were going to dispatch a child in the way it looked like they were going to. And yet they did! It almost makes up for the fact that earlier in the picture, the girl witnesses a man being brutally mutilated yet says nothing to any of the adults. (I'm not going to go into details about the graveyard scene involving the little girl... it has to be experienced.)

The touches of black humor throughout the film are also adeptly done, especially those revolving around the meals served at the inn while the characters are staying there. I can't offer any details without spoiling the movie, but it'll make you think twice about eating any "local delicacy" while traveling ever again.

The strengths of "The Vampires' Night Orgy" almost make up for its weaknesses. If a little more effort had been put into giving it a decent ending, I would probably have given it a Six or Seven Rating. It's well worth checking out, especially if you're looking for a vampire movie to round out a Bad Movie Night that can be seen by young teens.