Carmilla Rising – Crypt of the Vampire (1964)

Bringing together Christopher Lee and vampires is the not-so-secret recipe to make a good horror movie, though to be fair, all one really needs is Christopher Lee period. That being said, Crypt of the Vampire is something of a strange beast for though the man has the lead, he would play more of a supporting character and the role was one such that anyone could have taken the part and the film still would have been as it was for it called upon him to do very little. It could have been Cushing or Price or anyone with the chops to take it on, though obviously, Lee was present for that marquee aspect more than anything else.

All of that being said, it would find the man as the patriarch of his branch of the Karnstein family, the very same from Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla of which this film is an adaptation and it sees him hire José Campos to come and dig around the family history in order that Karnstein spares his daughter the curse his family is riddled with. He has no proof that it will strike but he fears it and he loves his daughter, as played by Adriana Ambesi enough to try and head off the family legacy should it be necessary to do so. Campos digs in and it soon comes to light that Karnstein was right, that something is going on that relates to Carmilla Karnstein who was killed many moons ago and whose curse looks to live on, somehow involving Laura.

There are some movies that make its audience wait as it unravels its mystery and there are those that give it away immediately and this film does the latter, or so it seems, whether on purpose or not is unknown but it is not hard to guess just where it is going as it literally spells it out. That being said, none of that hampers it from being a decent affair, instead, the only misfires present are in a few of the scenes that look like they are heading somewhere, only to be cut off and whatever resolution or whatever it was that the filmmaker was heading towards never being fully realized. It would have been nice to see these spots in the picture smoothed over just a little and whether that was creative direction or simply in the script that way, it matters not as overall, the movie would still hold one’s attention, the positives outweighing the negatives.

What really works for the film is the atmosphere present and the gothic overtones and while it was probably a low-budget affair, one would never really be able to tell as it looks incredible. Director Camillo Mastrocinque has to be given credit for what he accomplished for even with the pace slightly dragging in places, the picture not only looked good but would feature a cast that looked good as well. Ambesi is beautiful as the tortured Laura while Lee is regal and Campos is handsome. For those that like to fall in love with the characters on-screen, they will have an easy time of it here.

La cripta e l’incubo or Terror in the Crypt or even more commonly Crypt of the Vampire is a fine piece of gothic horror, one that enchants through a number of ways including a score that is simple, yet elegant and while it will never be mentioned among the upper echelons of horror-dom, it is worth a look and sure to please at the very least.

3 out of 5

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