Friday, October 28, 2016

The Vampire is a nice matinee type of Halloween chiller

Review by Doug Gibson

If you can get past the typical white bread, horror comes to Pleasant-town feel of 1957's "The Vampire," it's not a bad little G-rated chiller that probably scared its fair share of children at matinees.

Like, "Earth Versus the Spider," "Return of Dracula," "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," and others, dastardly deeds and horrific images are infecting themselves in suburbia with mostly non-threatening parents, loyal women and kids with straight teeth.

Veteran actor John Beal plays a small-town doctor who comes across an eccentric colleague who dies of a heart attack. This late doctor had been doing experiments into adrenaline, the release of inhibitions and blood depletion. Apparently, it kills every animal except vampire bats. Before this doctor dies, he provides pills he'd been taking.

In a pretty clever twist, the good small town doctor's cute as a button daughter accidentally gives dad one of the experimental pills when he asks her for his migraine pills. Zammo, he's infected and his patients start turning up dead, often with little bite marks on their necks.

I digress to let the reader know that Vampire in the title is kind of tease. Other than the prick marks, this is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type of movie, with Beal's character turning into a Mr. Hyde more grotesque than Fredric March's interpretation. Under the influence, he loses all inhibitions and wants to kill.

Beal carries the film with his performance. He's generally crushed by what's happened to him and wants to stop his nocturnal changes ... but not enough to take the sensible step of turning himself in and insisting he be jailed, both to prove his malady and protect others.

His co-stars do a good job in workmanlike roles. Coleen Gray is the loyal nurse saved at the end by the good sheriff, Kenneth Tobey. In small roles are capable vets Herb Vigran as a cop and Hallene Hill as an elderly victim.

The excellent character actor Dabbs Greer has a strong role as an academic friend of Beal's who has been overseeing the research that killed the first doctor. He and Beal are supposed to be friends. I like Greer but he's a little miscast here, seeming more like a small time dentist than a major scientist. He's also vapid as heck, not believing Beal's very credible claims that he turns into a homicidal maniac until it's tool late.

Paul Landres does a capable job directing this lean film with more than a few sanitized shocks. If you haven't seen it you can watch it above. It's a worthy choice for this Halloween season.

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