If Only He Had the… – Blood of the Vampire (1958)

Blood of the Vampire
is a horror film that while horrific in some aspects, does not feature any vampires within, at least not those that most viewers would expect. The

movie even begins with a bit of text during which a body is being buried and staked by some men about how vampires are ‘the most loathsome scourge ever to afflict this Earth.’ That too makes it seem like those who watch this picture are going to be seeing some of those bloodsucking, sharp-toothed demons and yet, while it is slightly disappointing, the film still manages to end up being a good one despite the absence of those aforementioned monsters.

It all begins when a physically deformed man named Carl who digs up a grave and gets a shady doctor to do a heart transplant on the body. It then cuts forward in time to one Dr. John Pierre who is sentenced to prison for causing death after a faulty procedure. Instead of going to prison though, he ends up at an insane asylum where one Dr. Callistratus will give him certain liberties if he aids him in his experiments, blood trials not unlike what Pierre had done previously. It is not long before Pierre finds that things are not exactly as they should be in the institute, that torture and murder are part of the every day here and he means to escape no matter the cost.  Making things difficult though is his fiance Madeleine and Cassillistratus’ servant Carl who obeys without question.

Vincent Ball takes the lead as the man who was falsely accused while Barbara Shelley, who would go on to Hammer fame, would play the love interest of Pierre and the woman who would seek to aid him in his freedom. The antagonist would be given life by Donald Wolfit, a man of great talent while crafty Carl would be played by Victor Maddern. Throughout the film, it would find Ball’s Pierre often at odds with Wolfit’s Callistratus, but so it often is between jailer and inmate and it would lead to the former trying to outwit and escape from the

latter for most of the picture, a battle of wits and wills that was as entertaining as anything. As it is, Callistratus, whose motives might have been somewhat self-serving for the most part even though said experiments could have led to some medical breakthroughs, ran the line between pure monster and god-given saint, at least in his own mind, for doing what he was doing. The prisoners for their part, thought Callistratus the devil as would those who would dare to watch this movie.  Wolfit was perfectly cast and while he might seem a little out of sorts at the beginning of the film, more like one’s elderly grandpa despite being a jailer, by the end that impression would be all but obliterated.

As for the horror in Blood of the Vampire, there was enough to go around be it the killing and torture of prisoners, the bold and bloody experiments or the overzealousness of the guards, it was definitely present and horrific. The vampires to which this film touted were non-existent, only characterized in the form of those that would take pleasure in the pain of others. Not a bad thing per se, but definitely a swerve for viewers who were expecting something else.

3.5 out of 5

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