The Black Vampire | El Vampiro Negro (1953) Viennale 2022

October 27th, 2022
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Roman Vinoly Barreto | Cast: Olga Zubarry, Roberto Escalada, Nathan Pinzon, Nelly Parizza, Mariano Vidal Molino | Argentina, Noir thriller, 90′

A spiral staircase repeatedly signals a descent into doom in this Buenos Aires-set psychological thriller from Roman Vinoly Barreto who restyles Fritz Lang’s M into a shocking noirish melodrama, heightening the detective elements. There are no vampires to speak of – or much blood for that matter – but a child murderer on the loose is enough to strike a pervasive fear into a small community where children are disappearing like ninepins, and mothers are going hysterical.

Barreto and his co-writer and photographer Alberto Etchebehere make startling use of shadow-play, magical realism and surrealist dream sequences to channel all the angst of the turbulent political landscape in Argentina into a story about a marginalised man who becomes a child serial killer after being rejected by school-friends and belittled by women. Nathan Pinzon really brings out the humanity in the pathetic antihero and we feel for him despite his despicable crimes. A pounding score by Juan Ehlert, another emigre from German, ramps up the tension in the film’s incredible finale.

Interestingly, Robert Siodmak, who shared the same birthday as Barreto, and fleed persecution in Nazi-occupied France for Hollywood where his striking noir thriller The Spiral Staircase (1946) also focused on a serial murderer, this time targeting physically flawed women. MT




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