El Vampiro (1957)

El Vampiro (1957)‘We have been brought to a halt in the middle of this strange bridge that extends between the end of life and the beginning of death.’

A young woman returns to her hometown after her aunt dies, apparently mad and raving about vampires. At first sceptical, she starts to investigate with the assistance of a handsome young stranger.

Here it is, the film that kick-started the Mexican Horror Industry, as both a domestic phenomenon and a viable export to territories north of the border. Actually, it’s a fairly familiar riff on the old ‘Dracula’ tale, but the smoke-filled interiors provide for some atmospheric visuals and the production is slick and well-mounted.

The cast help too; pretty Ariadna Waller makes for an appealing heroine, and Abel Salazar shows plenty of screen presence as our hero. This was a watershed moment for Salazar as the huge domestic box office of the film launched him on a career of horror, as he starred and produced a series of the films in the genre. There’s nothing very radical about this one, but a better than usual level of creativity does keep things fresh and it’s nicely paced. The bats do look pretty phoney, though, and SFX are generally at a rather basic level.

El Vampiro (1957)

Wakey! Wakey!

It also looks as if king vampire Germàn Robles has exhumed Bela Lugosi’s ‘Dracula’ costume intact, but it obviously worked for him as he played a variation of the character as ‘Nostradamus’ in a hit TV show which legendary American distributor K. Gordon Murray turned into a series of 4 films! He also got to appear in direct sequel ‘El Ataud del Vampiro’ (1958), along with Salazar and Waller, although it was a weaker effort.

The debt to the Universal classic horrors of the 1930s and 1940s is obvious, of course, but there’s enough imagination and professionalism on display for it to stand on its own two feet. The personalities of the cast and the strength of their performances paper over the few cracks on show, and help to deliver an enjoyable, if not original, horror.

It’s easy to see why this was such a domestic hit, and its legacy was a whole industry of homegrown horrors that soon took on a pretty bizarre and offbeat sensibility, involving monsters, masked wrestlers, and aliens.

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