I Vampiri (1956)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Costume Horror  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - France, Italy, Senegal  |  
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While I Vampiri is more important for its place in history than for it ultimate effectiveness as a film, it is nevertheless an entertaining horror flick. Vampiri is generally credited as being the film that jump-started the "Eurohorror" movement of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as for being the film that introduced Mario Bava as a cinematographer and director with a special affinity for the genre. Being the progenitor, it's not unusual that Vampiri itself is not as distinguished or as totally satisfying as some of the films that followed in its wake, but its flaws are forgivable. Part of the problem is simply that it was a low budget feature shot on a very short schedule, and that lack of time and money shows occasionally. There's also the fact that the lead character is not especially engaging, nor is the actor (Dario Michaelis) who plays him. Finally, despite its title, there aren't actually any vampires in the film -- merely demented figures who drain blood in order to create an astonishingly effective youth potion. That said, the strengths of Vampiri compensate for its weaknesses to a large degree. Gianna Maria Canale is a delight, Paul Muller is a worthy murderer, and Antonio Balpetre is a fine mad scientist. The gothic atmosphere created by Bava and co-director Riccardo Freda, as well as their set designer, is so lurid it simply drips off the screen. The photography is startling and effective, and includes a marvelous transformation seen in which the effects are created solely through the use of changing lights. Vampiri's story loses itself in a few places, but it's so sprintingly paced that few will complain.