Horror, murder, mystery and mayhem make up the principal ingredients
of the Theatre de Morte. New director Phillipe Darvas [Christopher Lee], son of the old
director, vows to dedicate his life to the theatre, as did his father. At
the opening night cast party, patroness Mme Angelique [Evelyn Laye] requests that Darvas
give a preview of coming attractions, so Darvas asks Dani Gireaux [Lelia Goldoni] and
newcomer Nicole Chapelle [Jenny Till] to perform a scene from 'The Witches of Salem'.
Darvas first hypnotizes the scared Nicole who then performs so
realistically that Dani's boyfriend, Dr. Charles Marquis [Julian Glover], interrupts the
scene when it looks like Nicole intends to burn Dani's face with the hot
poker she is brandishing. Charles, a police surgeon recuperating from a
hand injury, is meanwhile investigating the deaths of 3 women, all stabbed
in the neck with a sharp item, all drained of blood, a situation known to
police as 'hemaphagia', to the public as vampire. Since the instrument
used seems to resemble knives used in one of the performances at the
Theatre of Death, Charles suspects that Darvas may be involved.
Meanwhile, Darvas takes a liking to Nicole and, thinking he can make
an actress of her, he begins to probe her life, her motivations, her inner
secrets. When Darvas asks Nicole to move into his theatre apartment with
him, Dani becomes upset. Her concern is that Nicole is too young and
vulnerable to get mixed up with Darvas, but Darvas sees it as jealousy and
fires Dani on grounds that she is mentally unstable, as she recently spent
two years in a mental hospital. When Charles gives Darvas a ride home and
probes him about the hemaphagiac murders, Darvas becomes agitated. Is
Darvas the vampire?
The next day, Darvas's cape is found covered with blood, but no body
is found. The murders stop but Nicole acts as though Darvas is still with
her. Is Darvas really dead? Is Nicole hiding Darvas somewhere? Charles and
Dani decide to 'babysit' Nicole. They move into the theatre apartment with
her and follow her everywhere, but she leads them nowhere. Suddenly, the
murders start up again--a prostitute on the dock, a young woman coming
home from a date. Then Darvas's decomposed body is discovered floating in
a pond. Whatever Darvas might have been, he isn't the hemaphagiac murderer.
One evening, Dani, Charles and Nicole have dinner in a Romanian
restaurant. Nicole plays her guitar for the patrons, and the restaurant
owners wife recognizes the tune as Romanian. The names Constantine and
Anna engraved into Nicole's guitar remind them of a gypsy family with whom
they escaped Romania in 1946 by crossing the Italian Alps in February. The
small caravan became entrapped by an avalanche in a little-traveled pass.
One of the men killed the horses, and they ate the meat. But Anna's baby
could not eat meat, so she killed one of the other children and fed his
blood to her child. That child's name was Nicole. Could Nicole Chapelle
and the gypsy baby Nicole be one and the same?
Then Dani discovers a script written by Darvas just before his death.
Entitled 'The Caravan', it tells the tale of a gypsy caravan caught in an
avalanche and of a mother killing one child to feed his blood to her baby.
Dani now knows for sure that the baby is Nicole Chapelle. Yes, Nicole
killed those women to satisfy her need for blood. Yes, Nicole killed
Darvas because he was about to unveil her story. Now Nicole must kill Dani
to safeguard her secret.
Nicole hypnotizes Dani to confess to all the murders, then she forces
Dani to stab herself. But Charles interrupts them in the nick of time.
Nicole escapes, runs to the theatre where she hides under the stage and is
accidentally speared during the final scene of the show. [Original Synopsis by bj_kuehl.]