The Vampire’s Ghost is a 1945 American horror film produced by Republic Pictures and directed by Lesley Selander (The Catman of Paris) from a screenplay by John K. Butler (The Phantom Speaks) and Leigh Brackett (The Big Sleep; The Empire Strikes Back).
It stars John Abbott (Cry of the Werewolf, The Munsters, and also Doctor Frankenstein in 1982’s Slapstick of Another Kind), Charles Gordon and Peggy Stewart.
On a safari in central Africa, naive Roy Hendrick (Charles Gordon) discovers to his horror that his traveling companion Webb Fallon (John Abbott) is a centuries-old vampire. Back at Fallon’s bar, the tension begins to mount…
Brit actor John Abbott’s depiction of a vampire who is clearly suffering as if he’s addicted and yet has a clearly defined survival instinct puts this low-key Republic production years ahead of its time. The omnipresent sound of voodoo drums on the soundtrack is relentless and effective, thus providing a foreboding aural backdrop to the onscreen shenanigans.
The ‘natives’ are also given more credence than in similar movies of the period and work out that Fallon is a vampire long before their white counterparts. Lesley Selander was a director of numerous westerns and here he seems to try to emulate the style of Val Lewton’s RKO productions. The Vampire’s Ghost is worth a look, if you can track it down.
Adrian J Smith, MOVIES & MANIA
“John Abbott is a weird casting choice, to be sure, but in an enjoyable way. After fifteen years of decadent aristocrats in opera capes, it’s fun to see a vampire who is instead a world-weary, low-born scoundrel. Furthermore, I got a huge kick out of Abbott’s portrayal of the character’s attitude toward his own immortality.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
“Lesley Selander has some modest sets at his disposal that are infused with a foreboding exoticism; one excursion into the jungles is especially effective in transcending its backlot and soundstage trappings. Most of the film’s horror imagery is cribbed from Lewton’s iconography, as Selander relies on shadows and contrasts to relay a handful of memorable shots…” Oh, the Horror!
“Why any director would resort to “jungle” sets of the “potted-palms-on-a-soundstage” variety when he’s got the entire Republic lot at his disposal, is a mystery to me. But that’s a sign of the uneven production values that show up throughout The Vampire’s Ghost, and it’s a shame because this isn’t a bad little picture.” Brian McFadden, Republic Horror
“You’ll probably wish that more screen time were devoted to the captivating Adele Mara, who plays the dancer, Lisa. Fallon speaks of her vampiric resurrection, but it would have been better to see it for ourselves. Mara would have made a fabulous vampire seductress with her dark tresses and intense, exotic beauty.” Virtual Virago
“Abbott’s refusal to resort to melodrama results in him underplaying the role, and he manages to invest his character with a wonderful sense of world-weariness that I’ve found in no other classic vampire movie that I’ve seen. There are memorable moments; a scene where he hypnotizes a man to leave his body under the full moon, and a jarring sequence involving a mirror both come to mind.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings
“The main flaw in The Vampire’s Ghost is that director Lesley Selander never succeeds in creating any sort of menacing atmosphere. Too many scenes are overlit […] The interior jungle sets are phony-looking, almost claustrophobic […] The mood which The Vampire’s Ghost best evokes is one of heat and oppression.” Tom Weaver, Poverty Row Horrors!
“The Vampire’s Ghost is a strange, otherworldly little film, especially coming from a studio that specialized in the most formulaic westerns and serials. It’s a sort of Casablanca meets Tarzan meets Twilight for old people […] it’s got a lot of imagination, some interesting new takes on vampire lore, and rich, dramatic lines…” Films from Beyond the Time Barrier
” …an exceptional small-budgeted film […] Despite the limitations of minimal production values, the script (written by Leigh Brackett and John K. Butler) is an intelligent and restrained re-working of the vampire myth.” Alain Silver, James Ursini, The Vampire Film
“The Devil himself couldn’t have such good luck.”
“I’ve never seen such violent delirium.”
Cast and characters:
- John Abbott as Webb Fallon
- Charles Gordon as Roy Hendrick
- Peggy Stewart as Julie Vance (Beyond Evil; The Fall of the House of Usher; Terror in the Wax Museum)
- Grant Withers as Father Gilchrist (Captive Wild Woman)
- Emmett Vogan as Thomas Vance (The Mummy’s Ghost; The Mummy’s Tomb; Horror Island)
- Adele Mara as Lisa (Curse of the Faceless Man; The Catman of Paris)
- Roy Barcroft as Capt. Jim Barrett
- Martin Wilkins as Simon Peter (Voodoo Woman; Zombies on Broadway; I Walked with a Zombie)
- Frank Jaquet as The Doctor (The Ghost Comes Home; Black Friday)
- Jimmy Aubrey as The Bum (Abbott and Costello Meet Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Ghost of Hidden Valley; The Picture of Dorian Gray)