The Vampire (1957) Prime Video

November 15th, 2021
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Paul Landres | Cast: John Beal, Coleen Gray, Kenneth Tobey, Lydia Reed | US Vampire Horror 75′

The biggest spoiler connected with this horror outing is its title. Shot under the working title ‘It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn’, Pat Fielder’s story feels as if it started life as a drama about drug addiction revamped (if you’ll pardon the expression) as a horror film: The line “aspirin never hurt anyone” is ironic, since aspirin is used far more cautiously these days.

The plot, with its drug that causes “regression to a primitive state”, sounds more like Jekyll & Hyde. The few perfunctory vampiric details, such as the very inoffensive fang marks left on one victim’s neck, and the fact that the pills are extracted from vampire bats, feel like token late additions to the script. The climax takes place out of doors in broad daylight and detective Ken Tobey defends himself with a big hefty stick, which, if the film’s makers had been on the ball, he could have driven into his attacker’s chest rather than just used to protect himself. Veteran cameraman Jack MacKenzie’s photography of the small town setting and interiors is clean and attractive, but also fails to deliver in the more shadowy and horrific moments.

What makes this film so harrowing to experience is the quality of the acting and the human dimension. John Beal is so sympathetic you genuinely care about him (as you do for the other characters), and for the sake of him and his cute young daughter Lydia Reed, you badly want to see some sort of happy resolution; even though you know full well that that becomes more and more out of the question with every passing minute. The monster make-up comes as a double disappointment because its crudeness (he looks more like the Neanderthal Man than any vampire) is wholly unworthy of the build up by Beal’s performance @Richard Chatten


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