Tempi duri per i vampiri (1959)
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In "My Uncle Was a Vampire", Christopher Lee parodies his vampire roles with moderate success. The idea is clever, but the film, at times, is overlong and has trouble maintaining momentum.
When the film begins, the vampire, Rodrigo (Lee), is leaving his home and going to live with his Italian nephew, Baron Oswaldo (Renato Rascel). Little does he know that Oswaldo has fallen on hard times and the government is forcing him to sell his castle to pay back taxes. And, by the time Rodrigo arrives, Oswaldo is just a lowly bellboy in the new castle hotel. What follows is a strange little comedy--with Lee playing it straight and diminutive Rascel handling the humor. At one point, Oswaldo becomes sort of a part- time vampire---and a lot of other strange canon busting things occur in this one.
While I like the idea of the film (sort of like a precursor to "Love at First Bite"), the film is overly long and Rascel alone isn't funny enough to keep the film moving along at a good pace. Still, it's pleasant and diverting...and the ending is pretty cute.
I love a lot of Italian cinema from the 50s through the 70s. I enjoy Italian Gothic horror, Gialli, Spaghetti Westerns, Eurospy, Poliziotteschi, Peplums, war movies, cannibal movies, zombie movies, and even some straight up dramas. But, with a few exceptions, I've never been a big fan of Italian comedies. Maybe something gets lost in the translation, but the broad approach to comedy taken in most of these movies just doesn't work with me. And that's my main problem with Uncle Was a Vampire. Most, but not all, of the comedy doesn't work on me. I didn't find most of Rascel's brand of comedy appealing. Instead, Rascel annoyed me not what you want in a comedy. Sure, there were bits a pieces that worked all the women going nuts over Osvaldo, all the men in the hotel running around with wooden stakes, and some of Rascel's scenes with Christopher Lee. Overall, however, the comedy was inconsistent at best.
Speaking of Christopher Lee, he's quite good in Uncle Was a Vampire. For the most part, he plays it straight and it works. Standing next to the diminutive Rascel, Lee looks huge and menacing. Lee probably has more vampire screen time here than in any of his Hammer films. The cast also includes the lovely Sylva Koscina. While her role is more limited that I would prefer, as I've said before, any movie with Sylva Koscina is better simply because she's in it. Uncle Was a Vampire is worth watching just to check out Lee and Koscina. As a result, I'll be generous and rate this movie a 5/10.