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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Atom Age Vampire (1960)


These days, you often have to leave the North American film industry in order to find interesting and entertaining horror fare.  While some of these imported films may be as cheesy as those offered by Hollywood, many of them are still interesting because of the different things they bring to the genre.

After suffering a horrible auto accident, Jeanette is persauded by a mysterious woman to undergo experimental treatment in the hopes of regaining the beauty she once had.  Soon, however, she is part of a world where love, desire, and murder are all part of the recipe that is behind the special serum that keeps her beautiful.

"Atom Age Vampire" is an Italian film originally titled, "Seddok," and was quite entertaining- its apparent cheesiness hiding some rather clever thinking, and an interesting mix of the vampire and Jekyll/Hyde tales.

The main cheese factor was the dubbing the Italian over into English.  The dialogue sounded like it was being read- or even improved.  This is a mixed blessing/curse.  One one hand, it detracts from the movie being taken with a serious look- while on the other, it can be seen to give the movie a bit more entertainment value for B-movie fans like myself.  Personally, I felt "Atom Age Vampire" was more fun because of the less than natural dubbing.  Even the screams sounded like the voice actor came to the line, "insert scared scream here" and screamed on cue.

The acting could also be described by North American viewers as belonging to a B-movie.  Part of this can be attributed to the dubbing, while some could also be put down to differing styles of acting from country to country.

Alberto Lupo- who plays Professor Alberto Levin, was pretty good at being menacing, possessive, and driven.  He was passionate and energetic in his role.  Susanne Loret as Jeanette Moreneau, was both beautiful and  well suited to the role.  I'll admit that some of her scenes felt a little stiff, but not so much as to detract from my enjoying myself.  Franca Parisi plays Professor Levin's assistant, Monique Riviere.  I thought she was gorgeous and well suited to the strong willed character she played.  Personally, I couldn't see how, when he had a hot looking lab assistant like Monique, why he'd be so determined to win Jeanette's heart.  Mind you, I do have a weakness for independent woman in glasses...

Of the cast, the only one that I had problems with was Sergio Fantoni as Pierre Mornet- Jeanette's boyfriend.  I just didn't like the character.  He was just blah and a bore... but he did have nice hair I thought.

There is some pretty decent camerawork in "Atom Age Vampire" as well- especially in the transformation scenes.  While they're certainly not as slick as what we see today, they still run fairly smoothly.  I was quite impressed with not just the camerawork in these scenes, but also the continuity of make-up from one shot to the next.

The make-up for the "vampire" was also quite interesting, I thought.  I could definately see how viewers back in the early 1960's could find it disturbing.  Even I found myself going, "eeewww" when I saw it.  It was certainly well enough done that I was able to overcome my disappointment when I realized just how much it limited the movement of the actor's lips when delivering dialogue.  His lips could hardly move, but fortunately, he doesn't do much talking in those scenes... and I'm sure he appreciated that fact too.

Some people seeing this will say, "HEY!  There's no vampires in this movie!  WTF?"  True, there aren't any vampires as we're used to them, but there is one.  Rather than being an undead creature that needs to feed on the living, there is a person who needs the blood of women to restore the woman he love's beauty.  This person "sucks" the victims dry, and then "feeds" his love's the serum in the hopes of winning her love- a sort of psychological vampirism.  Plus, there is the woman he's giving the serum to.  Without this serum made from the blood of women, her beauty would fade, so in a sense, she is a vampire as well- although an unwitting one.

This look at the vampire was quite clever, I thought- as was the use of the Jekyll/Hyde archetype of character.

In order to obtain the blood he needs for the serum, Professor Levin uses another serum to transform into a monstrous looking creature so he could avoid his normal identity being linked to the murders... much the same way that Dr. Jekyll transformed into Mr. Hyde in order to do naughty things without it reflecting badly on his Jekyll identity.

The mixture of the vampire and Jekyll/Hyde elements are what really elevates this above most B-movies.  If it wasn't for the rather lame acting of Sergio Fantoni, I would put this into "The Good"- but it'll have to settle for being one of "The Bad"...

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