Some old coot roots around a semi-ruined church strangely filled with mostly pristine religious icons. A caveman-like weirdo scares him into falling into an open ditch, which conveniently leads to a rather easily accessible, right out in the open tomb. He dies and credits roll.
His son (Andrew Prine) arrives on the island, encounters the usual hostility from the local yokels and befriends a local shopkeeper (Mark Damon) and his unusual-but-interesting looking sister (Patty Shepard). Eventually, Damon gets outed as a vampire worshipping satanist of sorts, the titular vamp (Teresa Gimpera) comes to life and lots of folks die. You’ve seen it all before, you pretty much know the score.
A questionable if admittedly quite atmospheric vampire horror from the early 70’s, Crypt of the Living Dead (which was it’s televised title) has previously seen release from Rhino (under the same title and with a very generic, budget disc style screen capture cover) and VCI (as Young Hannah, Queen of the Vampires). Compared to the latter, Vinegar Syndrome’s print runs an extra minute and upgrades the dark toned widescreen of the VCI version to a grainy but brightly lit and quite visible viewing experience.
The very presence of cult film favorites like Prine (Simon, King of the Witches, Barn of the Naked Dead, Grizzly, The Evil, Amityville II, the Cathy Lee Crosby Wonder Woman), Shepard (Witches Mountain, Slugs, My Dear Killer, Werewolf vs the Vampire Woman) and to a lesser extent, Gimpera (Night of the Devils, People Who Own the Dark) and Damon (House of Usher, Black Sabbath, Devil’s Wedding Night) makes this film worth taking a gander at, but there’s more to enjoy than that.
The naturally eerie island atmosphere is augmented by occasionally quite pleasant cinematography (particularly when judging against the standards of a TV movie of the era, which the film closest resembles), a haunting tune played by the local villagers and some oddly Greek/Russian Orthodox style Catholic iconography both in the otherwise ruined church setting and among the superstitious locals. It’s hardly horror of the first order, but it’s oneiric enough to work, particularly in its current, comparatively cleaned up state.
While an odd feel of 70’s TV (horror) movie hangs over the production (the savvy viewer will keep expecting a credit for Richard Matheson or Dan Curtis to appear at any moment), there’s no question that this is a worthy, if somewhat sleepy addition to the horror aficionado’s collection which lies somewhat at odds with its actual Spanish horror origins, but which does fit right in alongside other Prine efforts such as the aforementioned Simon or the Centerfold Girls.
There’s a bonus feature (for which no screen grabs were provided) called House of the Living Dead, a South African co-production period piece which revolves around local voodoo practices without featuring a single black face and nary a zombie in sight. Seriously, there are some swarthy gypsy types, but not one African face to be found. Hell, even paging Rachel Dolezal might have been an improvement in that respect…
Think of it as a Hammer film…well, maybe more like The Asphyx or even Quadroon, done apartheid style.
While somewhat muddier looking than the lead feature, House of the Living Dead comes off fairly well visually for a no budget costumer of its type, doubtless due more to the efforts of Process Blue’s restoration than any actual merits of the film itself. I mean, this film felt glacially slow and sleep inducing to me, and I loved both …And Now the Screaming Starts and The Black Torment, so you get the idea of just how boring this one is!
The plus here, of course, is that this film is likely seeing its first release in ages, or at least its first outside of some long forgotten multi-disc budget set at the bottom of a K-Mart bin somewhere, who the hell knows. Given the obscurity and style of this highly idiosyncratic affair, the release of same also gives hope that Vinegar Syndrome may turn it’s eye towards similar (if inestimably superior) films of its type such as Sleep of Death or the Mike Raven/Louise Jameson Disciple of Death – the former never released in the DVD medium and the latter well deserving of an upgrade.
Overall, this Blu-Ray/DVD combo is certainly worth a look, not only for the strangely obsessive upgrade crowd, but for the understandably played down inclusion of a seldom seen oddity that would have admittedly proved quite disappointing as a standalone release, but which comes as a rather welcome bonus incentive to upgrade your copy of its more likeable and atmosphere drenched main feature.