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John Llewellyn Moxey
In a sleepy town in Britanny, Armond du Moliere, the Count Sinistre, and his Gypsy bride Tanya, vampires, control everything through a dark, bloody cult. English tourists disturb their cave coffins and must die, but Paul Baxter escapes and takes with him the count' golden bat talisman. To retrieve it and exact revenge, the whole cult follows to England, lusting for blood, a cover-up and new recruits, which also causes jealousy. Written by
I had never heard of this one when it was announced as part of the revived "Midnite Movies" line of DVD releases paired with the renowned WITCHCRAFT (1964); frankly, I was disappointed that this obscure title was chosen over, say, NIGHT OF THE EAGLE (1962) which would have been the ideal companion to Don Sharp's film. In any case, it did seem rather intriguing from the colorful stills posted on Internet sites which reviewed the disc(s) but, all in all, it emerged as pretty goofy, with risible accents and several instances of wildly dated 60s modishness; in fact, an unexpected degree of camp is present in the lengthy pre-credits gypsy dance sequence, when depicting the 'degenerate' lifestyle of a group of ostensible bohemians (read bitchy lesbians and buffoonish, tipsy gentlemen) and the climactic Satanic ceremony!
The narrative, then, provides an unholy mishmash with little rhyme or reason of popular horror themes: vampirism, witchcraft and, most bafflingly, body-snatching are all called upon by the oddly female screenwriter. Clearly, this was made by people with no proper knowledge of genre convention: consequently, the end result is aloof and forgettable, if undeniably good-looking (particularly prevalent are the vivid, velvet robes sported by the Satanists) and eminently watchable; in essence, this lies somewhere between the generic output of Hammer and AIP. Predictably, most of the characters initially skeptical author William Sylvester comes into contact with turn out to be members of the devil/vampire cult. In the same vein (pardon the pun!), the police inspector investigating the various mysterious deaths and disappearances starts off as hostile but gradually becomes sympathetic not to mention, a believer in the supernatural! Unfortunately, the film's slow-moving 88 minutes (misprinted as an even heftier 124 on the DVD back cover!) are capped by a rushed and altogether weak climax.
Sylvester makes for a likable if wooden lead; he had already appeared in another notable horror film DEVIL DOLL (1964) and would later feature in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968). Hubert Noel, though lacking most of the qualities one typically associates with a bloodsucker (not that "Le Comte Sinistre" sees much action in this respect since all he seems concerned about is to recover his precious talisman!), along with Carole Gray (as the intended gypsy bride of the vampire who, for whatever reason, is jilted by him in favor of the former!), make a rather arresting pair of villains. The belatedly-introduced Tracy Reed is a striking, redheaded heroine she is Carol Reed's niece, Oliver Reed's cousin and director Anthony Pelissier's daughter, and is best-known for portraying George C. Scott's bikini-clad secretary in DR. STRANGELOVE (1964)! Curiously enough, as I lay watching, I pondered on how it would have effected the film had Gray and Reed exchanged roles...
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