The Playgirls and the Vampire – Italy, 1960 – reviews

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‘5 playgirls walked innocently into his arms… only to meet the devil in the flesh!’

The Playgirls and the Vampire is a 1960 Italian horror feature film written and directed by Piero Regnoli, a scriptwriter who also co-wrote The Nights of Terror; Nightmare City and Demonia. The movie stars Lyla Rocco, Walter Brandi, Maria Giovannini, and Alfredo Rizzo.

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In the US, the film was released in 1963 by Richard Gordon (Tower of Evil; Horror Hospital). A shortened American TV version was retitled Curse of the Vampire. The  original Italian title was L’ultima preda del vampiro – translation: “The Vampire’s Last Prey”.

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Plot:

A feckless troupe of European exotic dancers and their piano player led by a bumbling manager stumble upon a castle after encountering a ferocious storm. The castle, inhabited by Count Kernassy, his assistant and a vampire, is hardlyrefuge for the travelling showgirls as they slowly fall under the spell of the un-dead demon.

 

Vera, one of the reluctant dancers and the living doppelgänger of the vampire’s dead wife, Margherita Kernassy—who has been dead nearly 200 years—becomes the object of affection for both Count Gabor and the vampire…

 

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Extras include ‘Kim Newman: Vampire Hunter’ Featurette, Rare 8mm version Last Fling of the Vampire. Original Theatrical Trailer. Extra Scene from French version and optional Italian audio track + English subtitles.

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Review:

The pseudo-scientific approach to curing vampirism is intriguing, the playful ‘comedy’ is self-deprecating and the “playgirls” are a lively distraction, however, Walter Brandi is a weak evil count and Aldo Piga’s score recalls the silent era rather than the 1960s. That said, there is a welcome innocence to Regnoli’s film that predates Jean Rollin, Jess Franco, later Hammer horror and countless other more overtly titillating vampiric ventures.

Adrian J Smith, MOVIES & MANIA

Other reviews:

“Regnoli had no qualms in getting to the point: sex […] The Playgirls and the Vampire is less interested in staging scary scenes than in finding pretexts to show the actresses in see-through nightgowns and high heels, no matter how idiotic and far-fetched the plot might sound.” Roberto Curti, Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1957 – 1969

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“This is a fairly low-level mystery that plods through with some erotic undertones (for the time period anyway), minimal vampirism and only cheesecake variety gore. I liked it despite all of those shortcomings.” A Feast of the Ires

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” … plodding and mediocre. On the plus side, it is very atmospherically photographed by Aldo Greci. The film also offers two nice scenes at the climax. In one, the now vampiric Katia comes toward the camera to claim a victim, only to be staked by her male vampire (Brandi in a dual role) counterpart. The other notable scene is the male vampire’s staking, which leads to a dissolve of images as the 200-year-old vampire crumbles to a skeleton and then fades away.” Dennis Fischer, Cinefantastique

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“Unencumbered by horror make-up this time, Brandi tries instead to shape his blandly unthreatening features into the sexy-stern mould perfected by Christopher Lee. He fails. Worse still, he’s completely upstaged by Maria Giovanni’s revived Katia, one of five stranded burlesque dancers…” Jonathan Rigby, Euro Gothic

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“Though imitative and marred by unimaginative direction, the film doesn’t really need to rely on fresh concepts or an atmosphere of tension. Titillation is the keyword in this flick, which is more about voyeurism than vampirism. We are treated to intermittent peep shows as the women appear in various states of undress before Kernassy sinks his teeth into their necks.” Lawrence McCallum, Italian Horror Films of the 1960s

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“A few surprises, including a “doubling” or “twin” plot twist, come at the conclusion. All five girls are cute; none are gorgeous. One does a semi-striptease. All appear in scanty 1960s underwear. Mostly they show off their legs. A decent animated aging effect comes at the end.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

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In the UK, the film was double-billed with German movie The Head

Main cast:

  • Lyla Rocco … Vera
  • Walter Brandi …Count Gabor Kernassy / The Vampire – The Devil’s Wedding Night; Terror-Creatures from the GraveThe Vampire and the Ballerina; Slaughter of the VampiresBloody Pit of Horror
  • Maria Giovannini … Katia, the victim
  • Alfredo Rizzo … Lucas, the manager – The Bloodsucker Leads the Dance; Slaughter of the Vampires
  • Marisa Quattrini
  • Leonardo Botta as Fernand
  • Antoine Nicos
  • Corinne Fontaine
  • Tilde Damiani
  • Erika Dicenta
  • Enrico Salvatore

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Choice dialogue:

“The strength of love is miraculous if you can believe it!”

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Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 21.20.52

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Related:

The Monster of the Opera

 

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