The Vampire’s Ghost

April 23, 2012 at 1:38 am (7 Heads, Vampire's Ghost) (, , , , , )

The Vampire’s Ghost – 1945 – United States

The Vampire’s Ghost was directed by Republic Pictures regular Lesley Selander. Mixing two popular genres, Vampire’s Ghost entwines horror and African adventure to satisfying result. But beware the misnomer title—the vampire has no ghost.

“Africa—the dark land where voodoo drums beat in the night—where the jungles are deep and full of secrets.” So utters Vampire’s Ghost’s moody narrator. Later he poetically adds, “The path of time has curved upon itself like a serpent—without beginning—without end.” An African coastal town is plagued by mysterious murders. Natives suspect a white saloon owner. Despite his vampiric thirst, the saloon owner is charming, intelligent, and occasionally remorseful. Wielding hypnotic fear, he manipulates a plantation owner and his wife. A priest helps the plantation owner recover his senses and the pair confront the vampire in a fiery climax at the “Temple of Death”.

Vampire’s Ghost utilizes its setting well. Palpable tension exists between the natives and foreigners. Tribal drumming transmits ominous warnings and the vampire discovers voodoo paraphernalia nailed to his door. Great sets and oppressive music furthers the atmosphere of dread. Vampire’s Ghost contains only one special effect, but the acting is superb. Especially the vampire, whose genteel manners are contrasted by his chilling wide-eyed glares.

Vampire cliches are tiresome. Thankfully. Vampire’s Ghost eschews much of traditional vampire mythology. The vampire doesn’t show his fangs and surprising scenes occur as sunlight, crosses, and silver prove ineffectual. Other than his mindset twisted by immortality and ability to enslave people with fear, he seems mundane. But there is no shortage of sublime moments. In my favorite scene, as the vampire stalks a victim, his shadowy silhouette oozes over them like black liquid.

Africa was a trendy setting at the time and the results were typically cheap and dumb. Recall the numerous killer ape flicks. However, Vampire’s Ghost’s ambiance, emotion, and unpredictably keep it classy instead of crusty. It’s a refreshing take on vampirism.

Rating: 7/10 Shrunken Heads. Featuring this blog’s two favorite V-words—vampire and voodoo.

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