• Gabe Powers

The Horrible Sexy Vampire Blu-ray Review


Mondo Macabro

Blu-ray Release: October 11, 2022 (standard edition release)

Video: 2.35:1/1080p/Color

Audio: English and Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English

Run Time: 90:14 minutes

Director: José Luis Madrid


A series of murders is being committed and the police think it is the work of a serial killer. The coroner doesn’t think it’s so simple. He has been studying the case and has discovered that, for nearly a hundred years, people have been killed in the same way and in the same city district. He believes the killings to be the work of a supernatural creature – a vampire. Soon, a stranger arrives in the area, claiming to be the sole descendent of the long dead baron who was, himself, believed to be a vampire. He accompanies the police into the burial vaults of the ancient castle, where a dreadful sight awaits them. (From Mondo Macabro’s official synopsis)



A product of the same era of Eurocult filmmaking that produced Jess Franco, José Luis Madrid was never the prolific multinational, low-budget hitmaker some of his contemporaries were, but he did follow the popular trends, which allowed him to work across several different genres as a writer and director. This included off-brand spaghetti westerns Tomb for an Outlaw (Spanish: Tumba para un forajido, 1965), Who Killed Johnny R.? (German: Wer kennt Johnny R.?, 1966), and Ruthless Colt of the Gringo (Spanish: La venganza de Clark Harrison, 1966), Bond rip-off Somebody’s Stolen Our Russian Spy (aka: O.K. Yevtushenko; co-directed with James Ward, 1968), and two giallo adjacent thrillers starring Paul Naschy – Seven Murders for Scotland Yard (Spanish: Jack el destripador de Londres, 1972) and The Crimes of Petiot (Spanish: Los crímenes de Petiot, 1973). Nestled between these would-be action epics, and sex comedies was a solitary horror film called The Highway Vampire (Spanish: El vampiro de la autopista, 1971), released internationally under the cheekier title of The Horrible Sexy Vampire.


Like Naschy’s late-’60s/early ‘70s canon, The Horrible Sexy Vampire somewhat apes the established styles of British and Italian Gothic horror, though on a smaller budget. He’s no Amando de Ossorio or Carlos Aured, but, what he lacks in technical panache, Madrid makes up for in ambition and by moving the story to a contemporary setting (though this, too, was probably a means to save money). The competent, occasionally evocative direction and solid lead performances are amusingly undermined by Madrid’s silly and undercooked screenplay, which attempts a great many twists on vampire lore – such as implicating a character’s alcoholism as the possible cause of his vampirism, an immortal villain instructing his descendant to stake him in order to end his curse, and framing the story as a murder mystery – but can’t quite follow through on a single coherent theme.



The funniest/strangest/greatest choice is to give the title monster the ability to turn invisible, allowing him to menacing the cast as an unseen force and leading to delightfully goofy sequences of actors awkwardly struggling against thin air. However, he attacks in a corporeal form just as regularly, making the choice seem all the more arbitrary. Perhaps it was meant to be practical decision, given that Madrid hired the same actor, Wal Davis (aka: Waldemar Wohlfahrt, a future cult icon in his feature debut), to play the murderer and his descendant, and that the two have scenes where they battle each other.* Other odd choices, such as the vampire strangling his victims to death and never drinking their blood on-screen or the fact that most (not all) nude scenes take place apart from main characters and location (i.e., women strip in hotel rooms and are killed by the invisible version of the evil Baron), were probably related to Franco-era censorship, since it would have been simple to delete these scenes without affecting the already loose narrative.


* Some might assume that The Horrible Sexy Vampire was meant to rip-off Pierre Chevalier’s more famous invisible killer Eurocult classic The Invisible Dead (French: La vie amoureuse de l'homme invisible; aka: Orloff and the Invisible Man, 1970), but Madrid shot his film in 1969, meaning that it actually predates or at least coincides with Chevalier’s.



Video

I can’t find evidence of The Horrible Sexy Vampire being released on official US VHS or Beta tape, but VHS-quality transfers have appeared on Amazon Prime streaming and Mill Creek budget multi-movie collections, so something was on the market somewhere. Curious stateside fans seem to have traded bootlegs of an Italian TV version of the longest cut available, but they can throw those in the trash, now that Mondo Macabro has put together the film’s Blu-ray debut. The box states that this 2.35:1, 1080p transfer was created using a 4K scan of 35mm vault materials and, based on color quality, artifacts, black levels, and grain structure, I’m guessing these were printed elements. It’s a little gritty, details and gradations are a little mushy, and some of the colors are a little desaturated, but the overall effect is tight and tidy. Aside from some small flecks and vertical lines, the print is clean, the occasional fuzziness fits with cinematographer Francisco J. Madurga’s photographic choices, and, though they cut back on detail a bit, the crushy black levels are appropriately moody.


Audio

The Horrible Sexy Vampire is presented with English and Spanish audio options, both in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono. As is usually the case for this type of film, it doesn’t appear that any audio was recorded on set and the international cast may have been speaking different languages to each other while filming. In this case, the lip sync works better in Spanish. Otherwise, the two tracks are almost identical, though the Spanish dub is a little louder and the dialogue slightly more distorted. The incessant, but extremely catchy Wurlitzer theme is credited to Ángel Arteaga and it comes off better on the English track, due to cleaner layering.



Extras

  • Commentary with David Flint and Adrian J. Smith – Flint (editor of Sheer Filth!: Bizarre Cinema, Weird Literature, Strange Music, Extreme Art; FAB Press, 2014) and Smith (horrorpedia.com & moviesandmania.com) take their typically jovial approach to this particularly obscure title. Given the lack of behind-the-scenes information, the commentary sticks to stuff, like the greater context of vampire movies during the era, the state of Spanish horror in particular, the inspirational role Hammer Films played, and the lives and careers of the cast & crew. They also do their best to work out the nonsense plot and verify my suspicion that the nude scenes were designed to be easily removed.

  • Publicity and stills slideshow

  • English export trailer

  • Mondo Macabro trailer reel



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