The patriarch of a wealthy family fears that he will show up one day in vampire form. Should this happen, he warns his family to not let him back into his house, no matter how much he begs t... Read allThe patriarch of a wealthy family fears that he will show up one day in vampire form. Should this happen, he warns his family to not let him back into his house, no matter how much he begs them.The patriarch of a wealthy family fears that he will show up one day in vampire form. Should this happen, he warns his family to not let him back into his house, no matter how much he begs them.
Being about to revisit the former on account of Bava's recent centenary, I opted to re-acquaint myself with Ferroni's feature-length version as well – having already done similar duty with two films based on the same tale (also Russian in origin) which had inspired Bava's BLACK Sunday (1960). Incidentally, in my comments relating to the Maestro's take on "I Wurdulak", I had surmised about how padded Ferroni's rendition would be in comparison: however, he works around this factor, so to speak, admirably by updating the plot to our times (while retaining the essential Gothic feel and, thus, accentuating its inherent eeriness!) and bookending it with scenes inside a clinic, to where the disoriented protagonist (in this case, Gianni Garko) had been taken after barely escaping with his life from the clutches of the undead family unit at the core of the narrative.
There is no doubt that Ferroni had watched Bava's version – as its numerous shots of characters peering ominously through windows can attest – yet he opts to dilate what is perhaps its most chilling moment (the 'afflicted' child pleading with his mother to be sheltered from the cold, dark night and the woman being unable to resist her instincts lets him in, despite knowing full well that her offspring had just been laid down into the ground!) by having the mother merely go out to look for her in this case!! Other elements which tend not to work here are: the personification of the witch (who is the cause of the hero's getting stranded in the quasi-deserted Yugoslavian village to begin with!) and her face-off with the patriarch (himself – though reasonably authoritative – clearly no match for horror icon Boris Karloff, his counterpart in BLACK SABBATH) whose resolution is, thankfully, still left ambiguous; also, the fact that the family members get all giggly when, as vampires, they descend en masse upon the beleaguered Garko. That said, his somewhat hysterical characterization is poles apart from that of Mark Damon in the original – who remains decidedly (and, perhaps, unrealistically) cool throughout his ordeal! Even so, while there is a poignancy to Garko's murder of Agostina Belli – who he had thought had joined the vampiric ranks and was now seeking to add the hero to their fold in view of her feelings towards him (and suggesting how psychologically scarred he had been by the whole experience) – the sequence is rather clumsily handled overall, as the girl should have made it immediately apparent to him that she had not 'turned'!
The passage of nearly a decade between versions allowed for greater emphasis this time around on gory make-up effects; indeed, I recall having counted the film's entire ghoulish vibe (appropriate though it may be) as a drawback upon first viewing! Incidentally, even if I had long bemoaned my erasing of that preliminary copy, I realize now – via a side-by-side comparison of two prints floating about (another one, which I also own, is English-dubbed, subtitled in Japanese and has its few moments of nudity digitally-covered!) – that it was missing a surreal nightmare sequence at the very start!! By the way, director Ferroni – whose penultimate work this proved to be and whom I learned, from the accompanying Gianni Garko interview, was virtually deaf! – had previously helmed a key entry in the Italian Gothic Horror canon, i.e. MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN (1960). Interestingly, too, he died on my 5th birthday (17th August) in 1981 a date also shared by the original Italian release of BLACK SABBATH itself!
- Aug 20, 2014