Crypt of the Living Dead

Crypt of the Living Dead, aka Hannah Queen of the Vampires
Crypt of the Living Dead, aka Hannah Queen of the Vampires

Aka Vampire Woman, La Tumba De La Isla Maldita, Queen Of The Vamires, Hannah Queen Of The Vampires
Director: Julio Salvador (credited to Ray Danton on some prints)
Story: Lois Gibson
Screenplay: Lou Shaw
Music: Phillip Lambro
Executive Producer: Wolf Schmidt
Producer: Lou Shaw
Cinematography: Juan Gelpi
Editor: David Rawlings
Production design: Juan Alberto [Juan Alberto Soler]
Filmed in Turkey
Cast: Andrew Prine (Chris Bolton), Patty Shepard (Mary), Mark Damon (Peter), Frank Brana (Abdul Hamid), Ihsan Gedik (The Wild Man), Mariano Rey (Professor Bolton), Teresa Gimpera (Hannah), Edward Walsh (Ali), Jack La Rue jr (Adnan), John Alderman (First Fisherman), Shera Osmans (Girl), Jem Osomanogiou (Boy)

Professor Bolton, an anthropologist, discovers an ancient tomb on a remote island. Before he can investigate further he is attacked by some shadowy figures, who crush him to death beneath the sarcophagus.

Chris (Andrew Prine), his son, soon arrives to try and recover the body with the help of his engineering skills. He soon meets Peter (Mark Damon), an author, and his sister Mary (Patty Shepherd), both of whom had been friends with his father. They tell him that the Professor had been researching the ancient customs that are still maintained on the island from it’s distinctly pagan past. These deeply suspicious fisherfolk believe that the tomb is that of Hannah (Teresa Gimpera), an aristocrat who had become marooned on the island in the fourteenth century and fallen victim to the endemic curse of vampirism.

Chris is understandably skeptical of all this and determines to raise the tomb and free the corpse. When he succeeds in this he discovers Hannah to be perfectly preserved. She is, of course, a real life bloodsucker, and it doesn’t take her too long before she’s sinking her teeth into the locals.

Meanwhile, there’s also a bizarre Neanderthal running around who seems to have a perfectly natural interest in Mary, and Peter is beginning to behave in an increasingly erratic fashion. Pretty soon the undead are popping out of the woodwork all over the place, and it’s up to Chris to stop the curse from running rife once more.

This is, like Return of the Evil Dead, another dose of Hispanic phantasmagoria. Unlike that film, however, I found it much more enjoyable upon second viewing. It’s definitely contains nothing as eye-catching as the discordant scenes of the blind dead riding across the lush countryside, but there’s a quite effective portrayal of an isolated, and insular, community at it’s heart. Indeed, with their reliance on pre-Christian beliefs and their complete alienation from the ‘civilised’ world, this secluded but self-sufficient community reminded me of that portrayed in The Wicker Man. Unfortunately, this aspect of the story line is pushed out of the way once the monster is allowed into the action.

And what a monster. It has to be said that Teresa Gimpera’s Hannah has to be one of the most unfortunate fiends to have ever (not) lived. She only gets to kill about one person, spends the last third of the movie being chased around by odd people in hats and is eventually burnt horribly to death. At no point does she ever seem particularly threatening (even with her party trick of turning into a wolf). I have my suspicions that the reason they eventually incinerate her is as punishment for over-plucking her eyebrows, a form of penalty that would be entirely justified if applied to the similar (albeit orange) ladies working in the cosmetics department of Debenhams.

Teresa Gimpera gets the traditional vampire treatment in Crypt of the Living Dead
Teresa Gimpera gets the traditional vampire treatment in Crypt of the Living Dead

Frank Brana has a reasonable role in this, playing a blind fisherman whose pronouncements of upcoming doom are wholeheartedly ignored (probably because he insists upon playing the accordion). Andrew Prine, who has all the personality of a dishcloth, still crops up in films today (he had a decent role in Gettysburg (93)). Patty Shepherd is at her most Barbara Steele-like and Mark Damon adds another eccentric performance to his already impressive CV (someone interview this man, quick!).

Beyond that, the production values are perfectly reasonable. Actor Ray Danton is credited as director on the American version, although it’s unlikely that he was responsible for much more than an insert or two – if his input was greater than this he should be congratulated on making an entirely Spanish looking film. This post-production trifling is probably responsible for the rather choppy feel to the proceedings, as well as the much commented upon ludicrosity of revealing Damon’s Peter as a secret devotee of the vampire before the opening credits have even rolled. It could also account for the presence of US character actors Walsh (Count Yorga, Vampire (70), Johnny Handsome (89)), La Rue (Young Nurses (73)) and Alderman (Love Camp 7 (69), The Stuntman (80)), none of whom appeared in any other Euro productions, in the cast.

The main problem with the copy under review (the British Video release on Apex) is that the nighttime scenes are rather dark – although that could well be a fault of the print.

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