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An aging artist sees a beautiful young woman drowning near the beach and helps her. They become lovers. At first he is smitten by her youth, beauty and free spirit but soon he starts worrying that she might actually be insane.
Richard is a medieval nobleman. After his first wife dies in an accident and is buried in the family vault, he remarries and has children by his second wife. A mad longing for his first wife Leonor comes over him, and he sells his soul to the devil for a chance to get her back. But when she returns, she is a murderous vampire. Written by
Excellent film that has regrettably fallen into the cracks between art and horror
Although not strictly a vampire film, this is one of those interesting European combinations of horror and art, typified by "Daughters of Darkness" in the 70's or "Let the Right One In" more recently. The plot involves a a 14th century nobleman who loses his young wife (Liv Ullman) to a horseback-riding accident (and to primitive medical practices of the era). He re-marries and has children, but remains mired in grief and unable to forget his first wife (even though his new wife is played by a Ornella Muti, who would make most men forget their own name). Finally, in a kind of "Monkey's Paw" scenario he manages to actually will her back from the grave, but she's not the same, and a lot of local children begin to mysteriously disappear and it isn't long before his new family is threatened. . .
This is more an art film than a horror film, not surprisingly since it was directed by Luis Bunuel's son and features Ingemar Bergman's frequent lead actress and muse. It's more serious than a lot of Euro-horror films, realistically set against the background of the Black Death plague and seriously commenting on the prevailing superstitions of the time (i.e. the fool-hardy medical practices, the witch-burnings). The vampiric element is present mainly in the undead Ullman's predations on peasant children, which recalls the "Bloofer Lady" that the undead Lucy Westeridge becomes in Bram Stoker's original novel "Dracula", an element that has been left out of almost all the subsequent movie adaptations because it't just too disturbing. It's also really quite heartbreaking to see the maternal instinct so corrupted, and to see undying love gone so horribly wrong.
This movie has, unfortunately, kind of fallen through the cracks between art and horror. It is not as exploitative as Jean Rollins sex-and-blood-soaked vampire films, on one hand, but it is not quite as self-consciously arty as something like Ingemar Bergman's "Hour of the Wolf" either (if Bergman or the Bunuel father had simply put their NAME on this movie, it would no doubt be much more well-known today) . It deserves better though. Ulman and Piccolo are very good as the star-cursed lovers, and Ornella Muti is amazing (if WAY too beautiful to be forsaken for a dead woman). It is ripe material for a DVD release.
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