In the nineteenth century in Transylvania a man is put into a grave to be buried. Before the grave is filled in a steak is driven into his heart. Nearby a deformed man, Carl (Victor Maddern), kills the gravedigger and takes the body. He then retrieves a doctor (Cameron Hall) from a local tavern. The doctor performs a heart transplant on the dead man.
Six years later Dr. John Pierre (Vincent Ball) is sent to prison for life for malpractice. John maintains that the man was doomed to die and he was attempting to do a blood transfusion to save his life. John had hoped that his plea to Professor Meinster (Henry Vidon) for confirmation of his analysis would help his case; however, a letter sent from Meinster says that he never heard of John.
Instead of going to the penal colony John is taken to a hospital for the criminally insane run by a mysterious Dr. Callistratus (Donald Wolfit). Callistratus has heard of John and his work. He puts John to work typing blood. Callistratus understands that for transfusions to work you need to use blood from a compatible blood type. What John doesn’t know is that Callistratus suffers from a rare blood disease caused by his heart transplant and he is using the prisoners as guinea pigs in his experiments to find a cure.
Meanwhile his fiancé Madeleine (Barbara Shelley) is trying to find a way to get John released. She contacts Meinster and finds out that he never got the letter. Someone intercepted it and forged his reply. With Meinster’s help Madeleine secures his release from prison only to hear that John was killed in an escape attempt. In reality John is alive and Callistratus is lying so he can use John’s talent in his research.
Madeleine is suspicious of Callistratus’ claim that John is dead. She takes a position at the prison as Callistratus’ housekeeper. Carl recognizes Madeleine from a locket she had given to John. Madeleine is in danger of being found out but Carl, having fallen in love with Madeleine, attempts to be her protector. Callistratus, however, is not stupid and has his own suspicions that could spell death for Madeleine.
“Blood of the Vampire” was released in 1958 and was directed by Henry Cass. It is a British horror movie. The movie has been likened to Hammer’s horror movie style. It’s not surprising since the writer, Jimmy Sangster, wrote several screenplays for Hammer. I found it to be a little darker and more unsettling than Hammer. It also had a Val Lewton sort of feel to it as well. The title of the film is misleading but effective. We’re not talking about your normal vampire here. In fact he’s not really a vampire at all but a man with a rare blood disease. Still the metaphor is appropriate but I’m afraid it may turn off some fang fans.
It is a really good movie and it has a lot going for it. Besides having a good story the acting is great and the film has lots of gothic atmosphere. Donald Wolfit, being a Shakespearian actor makes his rendition of the mad scientist quite eloquent. The make-up used for Victor Maddern’s character Carl is also quite creepy. I’m not sure why it’s not better known. It really is an interesting film.