The Vampires' Night Orgy
Version: censored Pagan DVD release
Medium: film
Year: 1973
Director: Leon Klimovsky
Writer: Gabriel Burgos, Antonio Fos
Keywords: horror, vampires
Country: Spain
Language: Spanish
Actor: Jack Taylor, Dyanik Zurakowska, Jose Guardiola, Charo Soriano, Helga Line, Manuel de Blas, David Aller
Format: 80 minutes
Website category: Foreign language
Review date: 1 June 2002
That title is the biggest mistake anyone could make with this film. Dunno about you, but I was expecting Vampyros Lesbos-style gore and sleaze. Instead I found myself enjoying a stylised, elegaic piece of filmmaking that might have been made in the thirties. There's so little blood you've got to look carefully just to notice it, and there's only about two seconds of on-screen nudity (and they're incredibly small breasts, too). Like I said, this isn't a sleaze-fest. Man, this movie needs a less misleading title.
The Vampires' Night Orgy is so far removed from the modern, conventional idea of horror that it kinda sneaks up on you and spooks you out through sheer unpredictability. You hear lots of horror reviewers talk about dream-logic, but that would be a glib and inaccurate description here. This ain't no Phantasm. On second thoughts, it might be better just to say that the director is clearly off his rocker.
For starters, what's with the music? It's as if Leon Klimovsky did it on a bet. You've got this hilariously inappropriate combination of bad Bond films and seventies porno, with at one point some cheesy synth techno dance shit for what would otherwise be a spooky death scene. When a vampire pops out of her sarcophagus late on, there's a plinky-plonky thing of four tings, clangs and comedy boing sound effects. Sometimes the music sorta works, as part of the film's whole offbeat vibe. But sometimes it's just plain weird.
Other oddnesses abound. Klimovsky's idea of a rampant sex romp is to make the actors rub their hair on each other, then hastily zoom the camera out of focus and cut to the next scene. Or might it not have been straightforward sex? I could buy either possibility. When two characters fall into the vampires' hands, their deaths are shown by excessive facial groping.
Sometimes the film's peculiarities turn out to be plot points. It looks as if these vampires can come out during the day... or is it just bad day-for-night filming? Or at one point, terrible continuity? You don't know, but just when the film's almost over and you've written it off as yet more goofiness - abracadabra, an explanation!
The English-language dubbing was distracting in the opening scene (broad American accents on mustachioed Spanish peasant types) but I soon got used to it. There's a side benefit in that it helps inoculate us from the worst of some classic child acting, though nothing could save "mommy mommy mommy mommy" when a little girl gets trapped in a graveyard. But having said that, the children add to this movie. They're pretty tolerable, all things considered, and there's one brilliant moment of strange child logic where they're trying to decide what to do in said graveyard. They're kids. They have a doll. They bury it!
Though I still don't understand the resolution of the little girl's plot thread. What happened there, eh? I can think of at least two contradictory explanations, each of which leaves big questions hanging.
But of course you want to know about the vampires! Personally I thought they were great. Most of 'em are blank-faced Spanish peasants and eerie as hell, more like zombies than vamps. We only get into classic Hammer territory with the Countess (I'm afraid so), played with almost no presence whatsoever as the dumbest bloodsucker ever to come down the pike. She's surprised every time when people freak out at seeing her goofy fangs, and as for her demise... well, let's just say that she'd have done better to make her move a few minutes earlier.
But this isn't a movie to watch while wearing your plot-analysis head. It's not particularly goof-ridden (though watch for an amazing up-and-down car window near the end), it's just an atmospheric little piece that works more like a ghost story. I give it big, big points for not giving us the expected "surprise" twist at the end, going instead for something altogether more surreal.
This movie's most horrible moments don't involve the undead but merely a huge, hairy guy with extreme ideas of hospitality. There's quite a bit I'm unclear on, but I know I enjoyed this film. It wrings a fair amount of atmosphere from its elegant peculiarities and Spanish-peasant visuals. And the girl who goes topless is, while under-endowed, admittedly very pretty.
POSTSCRIPT. After writing this review, I learned that a fleshier version of the film exists. I haven't yet had a chance to watch this other cut (released on VHS in the States by Sinister Cinema), but Spanish cinema often did clothed and nude versions of the same films, one for foreign consumption and one for the highly censored home market. There may or may not also be more violence, but apparently anyone with this more explicit cut can expect to enjoy more nudity from Dyanik Zurakowska and Helga Line.