Blood of the Vampire (1958) – Henry Cass

There are more mad scientist stories afoot in DK Canada’s horror film tome, Monsters in the Movies, and I dig into another, today with Blood of the Vampire. I’ve either seen too many of these films, or had an uncanny sense of deja vu, because the first twenty minutes of this film I was convinced I’d seen it already, and could predict every beat. Souring the blog however, I could find no trace of it.

Callistratus (Donald Wolfit) is the mad scientist of the piece, and he is a well looked after prisoner, where he is allowed to conduct his nefarious experiments, that may or may not confirm him to be more than he is.

A young doctor, John Pierre (Vincent Ball) and his beloved, Madeleine (Barbara Shelley) are separated when Pierre is sent to prison for medical crimes. Callistratus recognizes the young man’s ability and recruits him to his bloodcurdling experimentation.

In fact the villainous scientist, accompanied and aided by his hunchback, Carl (Victor Maddern), has the prison at his fingertips, and even manipulates the legal system to keep Pierre at his side.

Madeleine comes to work in the prison in an effort to learn the truth of what is going on with her husband, and the prison in which he is held.

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Can the pair find justice? Can they stop Callistratus? And what is the scientist’s personal dark secret… as he was believed dead.

This one is pretty standard fare, but the tour of the prison’s sub-basement where the scientist does his truly horrifying work is nicely stunning, and probably freaked out some audiences at the time.

It’s pretty tame stuff now, but the mind conjures ways in which it could be updated and horrify today’s viewers. It’s rather amusing that some of the things Callistratus talks about and performs are actually stuff that happens on a fairly regular basis now… transfusions, artificial hearts and the like.

Wolfit seems to chew scenery easily, and Shelley is stunning. Maddern as the hunchback has a predictable character arc, and Ball’s Pierre is fairly forgettable.

It should come as no surprise that the film tumbles towards a fairly generic ending that sees justice and comeuppance rain down on the scientist even as our heroes are able to leave the prison and enjoy the remainder of their lives together.

This one was pretty basic, but goofy fun that can make for a fun afternoon’s viewing.

So pick up a copy of DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies by director John Landis, and find something fun and macabre to watch tonight!

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