Movie Review: Vampyres (1974)

vampyres_1974_poster_03-1Vampyres (1974)
Directed by Jose Larraz
Starring Marianne Morris, Anulka Dziubinska, Murray Brown, Brian Deacon, Sally Faulkner, Michael Byrne, Karl Lanchbury

In our continuing journey to help dig up some lost or forgotten films to new viewers, we offer up this vampire morsel that is a little different your normal blood sucking fare. While it is probably not like many vampire film you’ve seen before, it will give you something that most fanged features don’t give you…something that will sink into your brain, as well as your neck.

Vampyres is a film that no heterosexual male could watch and not remembered; especially if they saw it at a young age, like I did. At face value, the film is filled with intense scenes of eroticism, coupled with brutal acts of violence and bloodshed. Did I mention there is a bit of nudity in the film as well? 

The opening scene shows two lovely ladies enjoying each other’s naked bodies, only to be surprised and gun down by an unknown assailant. Did these two become vampires after their violent deaths? Or is this sequence really the end of the film but played in the beginning? If Tarantino would have edited this film, people might have looked a little deeper into the storyline. And that is one of the beauties of it, since there might be a few different ways to interpret this movie. We’ll get a little more into those thoughts and ideas a little later.

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After the opening death scene, we follow the same two alluring women we just saw killed, Fran (Marianne Morris) and Miriam (Anulka Dziubinska) as they lure men into their large home for a night of drinking…in more ways than one. But when Ted (Murray Brown) picks up Fran, she decides not to finish him off just yet, much to the disapproval of her companion Miriam. Instead, after a night of hot sex and feeding on his blood, Ted awakens alone, dizzy and disorientated, and with a large gash on his forearm.  He tries to leave, but when he comes across a couple that are camping on the grounds, he stops by to see if they could help him the cut on his arm. Afterwards, he goes back to the house, waiting for Fran to show up to learn more of this strange woman. After she arrives with her companion and another ‘friend’, they continue their party. As the night progresses and he becomes weaker and weaker, he starts to realize the danger that he might be in.

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The film was written and directed by Spanish filmmaker José Ramón Larraz, even though D. Daubeney is credited as writer. That was Larraz’s wife’s name, and they felt it would sell better with an English sounding name for the writer. Go figure. Larraz came from a comic book background, so his films always had a very visual style and look to them. He would also incorporate different things or moments from his own life into his pictures. One example here is the scene where Ted wakes up to see Fran laying next to him staring at him. But she is actually asleep with her eyes wide open. Larraz said that when he was younger, he had slept with a woman who did that same thing and it scared the crap out of him. So he wanted to used that image here to hopefully create that same feeling that he had years ago. There are other scenes like that where it may seem strange or even a little disjointed and you’re not sure if you actually know what is going on. Maybe we’re not meant to. In any case, it’s one that can stay with you, for multiple reasons, long after the movie is over.

We’re never really sure if Fran and Miriam are real vampires, meaning of the supernatural ilk, or just a couple of ladies with a serious blood fetish. The only real hint of something supernatural going on here is that the clocks seem to stop during their presence or while in the old house. They do move about in the daylight hours, though not in direct sunlight. It’s usually in the evening, usually when they are making their way back through a cemetery, or out on the road looking for potential victims. So yes, they do have a blood lust, but is it supernatural or just psychosis? We never are told, and I think that is where the beauty lies in this movie.

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However you take the storyline, there is no getting past the sheer ferociousness and wildness these two attack their victims. They lure them in with wine and sex, only to jump on them like rabid dogs, biting, stabbing, licking and sucking the crimson rivers that flow. As Larraz puts it himself, “I always associate the vampire with brutality. I don’t believe in that romantic kind of vampire. When I put these two girls in those parts I imagined them like two wild animals, urgently taking the blood they need. That is why my film is so brutal.” These two characters are so different than what we’re used to, especially when it comes to beautiful vampire women. We think of being seduced and then seductively being bitten. But now with these two.

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The two stars of the film, Anulka Dziubinska and Marianne Morris give their roles such an intense and haunting performance that they are hard to forget. The way they attack their victims and go after the spilled blood, it is as if we’re watching two wild animals who haven’t fed in weeks. This was also back at a time when actress didn’t have to be so damn skinny you could almost see through them. They both have such stunning and hypnotic gazes, especially Morris. They stare at you with both a look of desire and hunger.

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The house that was used for the exterior shots was the same house that Hammer Films used to use in quite a few of their pictures, such as the house used in Rocky Horror Picture Show.  The interiors for this picture were shot at another location. Also, the music from James Clarke is perfect, adding tension and suspense to the picture without using the usual trappings.

Now if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want anything spoiled for you, then please stop reading now. But if you have seen it, continue to read and see how your thoughts on it compare with mine.

*  *  *  S P O I L E R S  *  *  *

I’m sure the first few times I watched this film, a lot of the little things were lost on me. I was too busy being entranced by all the sex and violence. But the more I watched the film I started to look deeper into it and started to think that maybe this is not edited in a lineal fashion but broken up and played out of sequence, like Tarantino did in his first couple of films. The more looked at different scenes and started rearranging them, coming up with a storyline that seems to make sense. Now, I have no confirmation on any of this and is just my opinion. See what you think.

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The film opens up with the murder of the two women, gunned down by an unknown assailant.  Then we see Ted (Murray Brown) show up at a hotel asking for a room. The old hotel clerk there says he remembers him coming to the hotel from some time ago, but Ted sternly denies that he had ever been there before. This is where I believe the non-lineal editing first starts.

I believe this is a jump in the time line between those two scenes.  The murder of the two girls actually takes place years BEFORE we see Ted checking into the hotel.  Basically, here is how I break down the movie in key scenes as it would happen if it was edited in lineal fashion:

  1. Two Campers drive by and see the vamp girls hitchhiking
  2. Vamp girls pick up guy and kill him
  3. Next day, Ted picks up Fran and has a wild night of sex
  4. Ted wakes up next morning, alone and dazed.
  5. Ted goes to campers for first aid, then goes back to the house to wait for Fran
  6. Fran and Miriam show up with another guy, another night of sex
  7. Ted wakes up again, still disorientated and weak, leaves, comes back and gets stuck in basement.
  8. Fran and Miriam come back and find him, this time after sex with Fran and passes out, her and Miriam feed on him.
  9. Fran and Miriam slept too long and instead of running to the cemetery where they sleep, they hide in the house’s cellar.
  10. Female camper sneaks in house and discovers Fran sleeping there, Miriam hides from her.
  11. Ted wakes up and staggers out of the house to the campers, who are going to take them to the hospital.
  12. Fran and Miriam kill the male camper and drag the female one back to the cellar and kill her. But once they go to get Ted, it’s too close to sunrise and head towards the cemetery.
  13. Ted escapes, but then comes back that night and shoots them.
  14. Years later, he comes back to a hotel, where the old clerk thinks he remembers Ted being there some time ago, but Ted denies it.
  15. Ted goes back to the house and parks on the grounds, to the scene of the crime, drinking wine, and remembering what had happened.
  16. The realtor wakes him up and tells him to get of the property, telling the two clients about an unsolved murder of two young women.

Now one of the key elements or clues to my theory is near the end of the film, when Ted is staggering towards his car to escape, he has blood on the left sleeve of his white shirt. When he is woken up by the realtor, while he is wearing a white shirt, there is no blood on the sleeve. Continuity error? Possibly. Or maybe not.

It also helped that on the audio commentary of the film, director Larraz states that Ted was in fact the mysterious killer, who comes back to the scene of the crime to remember what he had done in the past. That was what really got me thinking about how the story was really edited in a disjointed way.

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Of course, if these two girls were really just psychotic killers with a blood lust, it does not explain the thing about the watches stopping when they are in the house. Since at that time, they had not been shot yet by Ted. So I’m up for any thoughts on that part, unless Larraz was just throwing some strange shit in there to keep us guessing.

But none the less, no matter what your take or theory on this movie, what really is happening, are they real vampires, it is not going to take away any enjoyment of watching this great movie. There is plenty enough here in to please anyone watching. So seek it out, watch it with an open mind and see what you think. We’d always love to hear your thoughts on it.

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