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Crypt of the Vampire (1964)


When I first watched Crypt of the Vampire (1964), it was to include it in an article about film adaptations of Sheridan Le Fanu’s novel, Carmilla. That was (gulp) nine years ago. Returning to it now, it’s like I watched a different movie! It’s a perfect example of the difference the quality of transfer makes… the difference between a crisp, clean Blu-ray and a rough, YouTube stream.

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That’s not the main reason I liked it more with this viewing, though. I liked the actual story and execution better, as well. In fact, I liked it a lot! With Carmilla and my article in the past, I was able to evaluate it on its own. However, it does seem to follow the story more closely than I originally thought.

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The movie opens with the death by vampire of Tilde Karnstein (Angela Minervini.) Her cousin, Laura (Adriana Ambesi) dreams of her murder and, as other Karnstein women are killed (although we only hear about these incidents), Laura’s father, Count Ludwig Karnstein (Christopher Lee) becomes more convinced that she’s possessed by Sera…

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…the old family legend that may indeed be a reality. With the housekeeper, Rowena (Nela Conjiu) making Laura participate in Satanic rituals, at least the first third of the movie convinces us Laura is the evildoer of the story. Then, however, Ljuba (Ursula Davis) arrives for a stay at the castle and by the time it’s all over, we may have been misled.

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Ludwig brings Friedrich Klauss (Jose Campos) to the castle to research Sera and find some evidence of her appearance to see if Laura looks like her. He’s instantly smitten with Laura, who seems to reciprocate. Ljuba arrives, though, and loses interest in him fast. The Carmilla story is about a lesbian vampire, you know.

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I quite enjoyed a scene where Laura goes on and on about Ljuba to Friedrich as if he’s chopped liver. She says that before Ljuba arrived, life didn’t seem like living. He offers to help her feel less lonely. She replies, “But I’m no longer alone.” Besides a little light touching and hand holding, the movie never goes far into lesbian themes, but they’re there.

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Crypt of the Vampire features some gorgeous black-and-white cinematography. Its budget shows during shots of the castle when it’s supposedly storming. They obviously use two images: one with the sky light and one with it dark (the castle doesn’t quite stay in the same place.) But the effect is interesting, kind of like an original and a negative flashing back and forth.

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The screenplay also offers some depth beyond the main storyline. Ludwig is having an affair with Annette (Vera Valmont), the blonde servant. I enjoyed a scene where they have some cutting dialogue like the exchange I described above. She’d like to get married, but he scoffs that he’s old enough to be her father.

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There’s a lot of clever dialogue. For example, Laura says, “We rarely have visitors here… it’s like living in a tomb.” Lyuba says:

It's so beautiful here. Perhaps nature has purposely set the stage and is waiting for the actors to enter. But who knows if the play is farce ... or tragedy.

The hunchback beggar (because, well, the movie just needed one) says, “In some houses, death is a tenant, as well as something that includes what’s probably my favorite phrase:

A hundred years, two hundred, three hundred... what are they? A blink of eternity's eyelid.

It’s a fun movie. Ludwig isn’t a very interesting character, but it’s hardly noticeable with Lee’s gravitas. The rest of the cast is good, as well. I watched the dubbed version; the subtitled seemed not to be from an original print. Gratefully, Lee did his own dubbing, which he didn’t always do. It makes a big difference.



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