‘In no other place can you find a roast like this.’
A group of domestic staff on their way to a job get sidetracked when their bus driver dies of a heart attack. They stop for the night in a remote town that seems to be empty but find it fully occupied the next day. However, they soon become suspicious of their hosts and, when they go to leave, their bus won’t start…
Disappointing Euro-Horror that combines cannibalism and the undead to little effect. Despite an impressive location, complete with cemetery, there is little in the way of atmosphere, suspense or chills in the final results with a lot of the blame resting at the door of the jumbled, poorly developed script by writers Gabriel Moreno Burgos and Antonion Fos.
Travelling by coach to their new jobs somewhere or other, a team of domestic staff are somewhat inconvenienced when their driver drops dead at the wheel. Wrapping him up and putting him on the backseat, they contemplate their next move. During this process, Raquel (Charo Soriano) is happy for her young daughter (Sarita Gil) to play outside, so she’s not traumatised by what’s happened. On the roadside, Gil meets a young boy (Fernando E. Romero) who says nothing and suddenly disappears when it’s time to get back on the bus. The group travel on with Chauffeur, Ernesto (Gaspar ‘Indio’ González) driving, but decide to stop at a nearer town that’s off the grid, rather than pushing on to their destination.
Arriving at the old world mountain community of Tolnia, they find it apparently occupied, but empty of people, apart from Luis (Jack Taylor) who is just passing through. Romantic sparks fly immediately between him and ladies maid Alma (Dyanik Zurakowska), and they take rooms next to each other when the group decide to spend the night. This proximity is particularly handy for Taylor as it turns out there’s a spyhole in the back of his closet which he uses to perv on Zurakowska as she gets ready for bed. This doesn’t affect the plot in any way and provides no real insight into Taylor’s character (and, yes, he is our hero!), but it does provide an excuse from some casual nudity early in the film.
The next morning when they come down for breakfast, the tavern is jumping with a full complement of staff and customers. The explanation for their absence is entirely feasible: they were all at a funeral. I guess they take place in the middle of the night in this part of the world. Taylor and Zurakowska are introduced to the town Mayor (José Guardiola) who is only too keen to share the local cuisine. We have a pretty good idea what’s on the menu by now, and the grub doesn’t disappoint, particularly when Zurakowska finds a human finger on her plate at a later sitting.
However, Guardiola isn’t running the town; that role’s taken by the beautiful Countess (Helga Liné), whose family have been the local aristocrats for many centuries. She’s happy to invite our role call of victims up to the big house for a spot of tea and buns and takes a particular fancy to tutor Cesar (David Aller). She invites him to stay behind for some Shakespeare recitation which naturally ends up with the two of them between the sheets before Aller ends up on the pointy ends of Liné’s dentalwork. Meanwhile, back down in the village, the residents are closing in on their supper. Understandably, Taylor and Zurakowska decide to get the hell out of dodge.
Ok, where to begin? Well, from a technical point of view, the film is perfectly adequate. The cast is fine, and the location is impressive, even if director Leòn Klimovsky doesn’t manage to conjure much suspense or atmosphere from the town’s narrow streets or the bleak mountain slopes that surround it. The soundtrack’s composer is uncredited, which may mean that the musical selections were lifted from a library, which would go some way to explaining why the cues often feel inappropriate and distracting. But the biggest problem here is the story. Boy, does it raise a lot of questions.
The concept of a ‘Vampire Brigadoon’ is not necessarily a bad one, but the film fails on its own terms due to a complete lack of logic and clarity. Are the entire population of the town supposed to be vampires, or are they merely cannibals serving Line’s undead queen? In both cases, why don’t they overwhelm our vastly outnumbered heroes as soon as they arrive? Why string them along? Is it because they like to play with their food? And if they are only cannibals, then aren’t they going to run out of food pretty quickly in a remote village with an infrequent tourist trade? After all, we see them cutting each other up so they can put something on the plate for the travellers at the tavern. Why would they do that? And who is the young boy supposed to be? Is he a ghost? Why does he try to protect the young girl, and what happens to him in the end? So many questions….
There are also other problems with the script that display a distinct lack of care and attention. As the film opens, the fact that someone needs an entire team of new domestic staff would seem to be highly significant. Who is this mystery new employer and do they have sinister reasons for replacing their complete household? Well, don’t worry about it, because we never get to find out. It’s just an excuse to put some people on a bus so they can get lost in the mountains and become food for the undead. There’s no character development for any of these individuals either; we never find out the first thing about any of them. They are only defined by their jobs: the gardener, the teacher, the cook, the chauffeur, etc. etc.
There are several possible explanations for all these shortcomings. The most likely is that the film was rushed into production and begun without a finished script. It’s also possible that the film ran out of money during filming or that it was poorly edited for a Stateside release, although there are none of the telltale signs of those kinds of issues. The story progresses logically enough; it just fails to tie anything up in a satisfactory way, the oh, so predictable ‘twist ending’ providing no significant closure at all. Of course, it could also be down to this being two separate scripts that were smashed together, one involving a town of vampires, the other a town of cannibals. That possibility makes the most sense when watching the finished film.
Taylor was a stalwart of the Euro-Horror scene for many years with an impressive resume of credits in the field. He began his career in the Mexican film industry under the name Grek Martin before moving to Europe in the mid-1960s and landing the title role in excruciating Eurospy adventure ‘Agente Sigma 3 – Missione Goldwather’ (1967). But it was his role in Jess Franco’s ‘Succubus’ (1968) that turned the tide in his favour. More work with Franco followed including ‘Count Dracula’ (1970) with Christopher Lee, and ‘Female Vampire/La Comtesse Noir’ (1973). He also took one of the title roles opposite Paul Naschy in ‘Dr Jekyll vs the Werewolf’ (1972). Other projects include Javier Aguirre’s Giallo thriller ‘The Killer Is One of 13’ (1973), Amando de Ossorio’s ‘Blind Dead’ episode ‘The Ghost Galleon’ (1974), further films with Naschy and titles such as ‘Exorcismo’ (1975) and ‘Swedish Nympho Slaves’ (1977). He even graced more mainstream projects such as ‘Conan the Barbarian’ (1981), Ridley Scott’s ‘1492: The Conquest of Paradise’ (1992) and ‘The Ninth Gate’ (1999) for director Roman Polanski.
Liné probably deserves the title of ‘the hardest working actress in Europe’ in the 1960s and 70s, appearing in almost too many cult titles to count. Although she could shine given the opportunity, her roles were often of the same kind of quality she gets in this film. There’s one dialogue scene when she chats with the travellers, one nude scene and a handful of others where she wanders around in fangs and old-age makeup. If her decision to take roles that were obviously beneath her abilities seems a little puzzling, then the explanation is simple. It was all about the paycheck. She was a single mother bringing up two children at the time, and she needed the money. She’s probably best remembered for her starring roles in the films featuring the evil mastermind ‘Kriminal’, and ‘Horror Express’ (1972) with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. She also took the title role in Armando de Ossorio’s ‘The Loreley’s Grasp’ (1972), even though, by her account, she did not enjoy that particular experience.
A weak and poorly developed Euro-Horror with a lot of story issues.