Marta Gonzalez (Ariadna Welter) returns to her home town of Sierra Negra to visit her sick Aunt Maria Teresa (Alicia Montoya). Not expected until tomorrow Marta finds herself stranded at the station. Dr. Enrique (Abel Salazar) is also in the same boat. A wagon arrives to pick up a crate addressed to Senior Duval (German Robles). Dr. Enrique convinces the driver to take them to Marta’s family estate The Sycamores. The driver dumps them off part way to the estate. Marta and Dr. Enrique walk the rest of the way.
When they finally get to the hacienda Marta finds that the estate is run down. Greeting her are her uncle Emilio (Jose Luis Jimenez) and her other aunt Eloisa (Carmen Montejo). She also finds that her beloved Aunt Maria Teresa has already died and been entombed. It being so late Emilio invites Dr. Enrique to spend the night.
The nearby Count Duval (German Robles), who is in reality Count Lavud and a vampire, is trying to purchase The Sycamores from Marta’s family. Emilio and Maria Teresa are against the sale but Eloisa is all for it. Before anything can be done about it Maria Teresa fell ill ranting about Vampires. Now that Maria Teresa is gone her share of the estate has passed to Marta. Now Marta has to decide if she wants to sell to the count.
In the meantime Dr. Enrique reveals to Emilio that he is the psychiatrist that he had asked to see about Maria Teresa’s vampire obsession. Little do they know that not only is Duval a vampire, but Marta’s aunt Eloisa is one as well. Duval’s obsession of the Sycamores comes from the fact that his family built the estate years ago. His evil plan is to once again own his old home and to resurrect the body of his brother so that together they can rule the land once more. Duval has also decided that he intends to make Marta a vampire as well.
“El Vampiro” AKA “The Vampire” was released in 1957 and was directed by Fernando Mendez. It is a Mexican horror film produced by Abel Salazar. There is a K. Gordon Murray translated version available but I could only find a crappy closed captioning version.
At the time the film was produced Mexican horror was in its infancy. Universal was the only source of inspiration for other studios to copy. Hammer was just getting into the horror field. Many have reduced “El Vampiro” to feeling and looking like a low budget poverty row Monogram style picture but I think they missed it entirely. Granted Mexico did produce a lot of lower budget films and “El Vampiro” does have a lot of the cliché vampire trappings like the coffin and the coattails and cape but some of the trappings were not old at the time.
It is credited for being one of the first to show a vampire with canine style fangs. F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu” 1922 actually had elongated incisors. It’s been noted that the very first depiction on screen of fangs was in the 1953 film “Drakula istanbul’da” AKA “Dracula in Istanbul”. Five years after that Terence Fisher’s film “Dracula” 1958, released as “Horror of Dracula” in the U.S., showed Sir Christopher Lee sporting lustrous canines. Once Hammer did it, everybody wanted to do it. But “El Vampiro” did it a year before Hammer did.
Some also find the film a little silly. Again I disagree. Besides the coffins and the crypts and the run down estate and the vampires you have the little bit about a woman believed to have been buried alive. Nothing to joke about as far as I’m concerned. The only lightness to the film, in my opinion, is Abel Salazar. There is something endearing about him. He can be quite good as the regular guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. Granted the special effects are not exactly CGI but rubber bats are stock and trade when it comes to vampires.
The film has atmosphere, good acting, a rather well done music score and some natural humor softly breaking the creepy and sometimes intense visuals. I consider “El Vampiro” as a good contribution to the vampire genre. It deserves its place between Universal’s “Dracula” 1931 and Hammer’s “Dracula” 1958.