The Vampire’s Coffin (El ataúd del Vampiro) (1958)

The_Vampires_Coffin_(1958)‘This is not a vampire; it’s a normal man. I admit he used to like to drink a little blood occasionally, but that’s all.’

An overzealous doctor decides to do a little grave-robbing, but unwisely chooses a notorious vampire as the subject of his (unexplained) experiments. Unfortunately, the criminal assisting him removes the stake from the body and…

Abel Salazar knew a good thing when he saw it. After hitting box office gold with ‘El Vampiro’ (1957), he spent the next few years producing and starring in a series of Mexican horror films. Legendary U.S. entrepreneur K. Gordon Murray bought the films, laid down a U.S. dub track at his Florida Studios and sent them out to the drive-in circuit. Everybody won.

This film is actually a sequel to ‘El Vampiro’ (1957), with all the principal actors returning, but with the gothic atmosphere of the original sacrificed in favour of some rather lame humour. Events are set almost exclusively inside a modern hospital and, although some of the action does take place in a wax museum, it’s featured so briefly that it looks like a leftover from another film. Plot-wise we’re in familiar territory with the Vampire (Germàn Robles) trying to hook up with heroine Ariadna Welter, who has been working as a nurse (with her very own bedroom in the hospital!), but is really a dancer at a local theatre. I can’t help thinking something may have got lost in translation there!

The_Vampires_Coffin_(1958)

‘It’s not that I don’t like your mother, dear, but do we have to see her tonight? I had plans…’

It would be interesting to see the original version of the film, rather than the K. Gordon Murray adaptation, as there are some moments of real quality amid the mediocrity. Particularly noteworthy is some stunning use of light and shadows in the brief exterior scenes, but little else is likely to linger in the memory. Story development is pretty non-existent once we have the basic setup and there are no real surprises to come. There is a suspicion that it was knocked out quickly to ride the coattails of the first movie’s success.

Salazar went on to ‘The Black Pit of Dr. M’ (1959), ‘El Hombre y el Monstruo’ (1959) and ‘The Living Head’ (1963), but earned his place in the pantheon of horror as ‘The Brainiac’ (1962). Robles starred in a long running TV show as the vampire Nostradamus, which was later cut into a series of films (no worrying about typecasting for him!)

Mexican horrors quickly became more outlandish as the years passed and this early example seems a little tame and unremarkable in comparison when viewed today. It has its moments, though, and is an acceptable time passer.

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