El Vampiro Negro

It sounds like a horror flick made in Mexico in the early 60’s and reworked by K. Gordon Murray, inexplicably but plangently dubbed by radio announcers in Coral Bay, Florida, and released as a third feature lagniappe on a Santo-driven Saturday all-night Southern California neighborhood screen.

But it’s not……any of it.

Instead, it’s a gripping, non-supernatural 1953 reworking of Fritz Lang’s 1931 jewel “M” that’s actually scarier than the original.

Director Román Viñoly Barreto replaces Peter Lorre’s remarkable performance in the original with a gang of sterling actors from a larger portion of the planet’s population (women in the key roles – whatta concept!)

  • Olga Zubarry is earthy and anxious, vulnerable, but fierce, and she does what the police cannot.
  • Nathán Pinzón is pathetic and pitiless and readily tearful.
  • Nelly Panizza is energetic, hot in her lingerie, and fears neither the authorities nor repercussions…and near to whom it is not safe to be.
  • Roberto Escalarda is cool, cruel, perfectly groomed, and perfectly hypocritical. He also gets my laugh-out-loud line of the film as the prosecutor; “Round up the usual suspects.”

I believe film-makers watch films……duh.

It would not be a surprise to me to find out Barreto was impressed by Tod Browning’s FREAKS (1932). There were moments during the stalking of the killer when I almost started chanting; “Gobbo-geebo, Gobbo-geebo, now we make you one of us.” And the final corralling of the villain in the sewers smelled much like the demise of Orson Welles in Carol Reed’s brilliant THE THIRD MAN (1949).

It also would not surprise me to learn that the West German 1960’s film interpreters of the Edgar Wallace canon had been exposed to this film. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that homeless blind match-seller before and I was expecting Klaus Kinski to jump out of the shadows at every turn.

I was also arrested by the long shots of shoes walking the rain-shiny nighttime cobblestone streets. A similar sequence opened Koreyoshi Kurahara’s excellent flick; I AM WAITING (1957).

Film-makers watch films.

Two other odd thoughts…

This film, according to the always thoughtful analysis of Eddie Muller, was part of a golden period of Argentine film-making in the early 50’s. That productive time was truncated by government turmoil and the strangling sunami of films from Hollywood. Argentine films continued to be shown and win awards in Europe, but few made it to the States. This economic imperialism was replicated in other parts of the film world. While I’m pleased that the US product was so well-done and well-received, I wonder if the price of losing variety and diversity was awfully high.

<< sigh >>

Something we’ll never know…

Also…

There’s a scene on a roller coaster; usually a happy choice for me.

I love roller coasters and wish to ride them all…but I didn’t care for this one. It was a coaster that only held two people in each gondola for each ride and only one gondola for each ride. The two riders were genuinely terrified, as I would be. It’s one thing to be hurled to destruction doing a foolish thing along with a crowd of brave fools. It’s quite another to be a solo fool.

Perhaps that explains lemmings.

Perhaps that explains political rallies.

I need to cipher on that a bit.

The film is quite fine. If you get a chance to see it…lucky you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s