The Vampires of 1960: A 50th Anniversary Photo Retrospective

Baron Meinster (David Peel), a younger vampire for a new generation
Baron Meinster (David Peel), a younger vampire for a new generation

1960 was a blood-red year for the vampire’s kith and kin, with over a half-dozen variations on the theme. There is an international flavor to these sanguine offerings, with blood-drinkers prowling crypts in England, France, Mexico, and Italy; at least one is ensconced inauspiciously in an American flower shop. Some are old-school nosferatu of the Gothic horror variety; others have a decidedly sexier style than seen in classic horror films of earlier eras; one or two are mutant science fiction off-shoots. Some are ugly; others are handsome or beautiful. Some favor old-fashioned black-and-white photography, emphasizing the spooky atmosphere of the crypt and cemetery; others are bold and beautiful in modern color. One or two are classics; others are camp; some might be dismissed as Euro-trash (or celebrated for their daring sexiness, depending on the critic). In short, there such a rich diversity of undead revenants and blood-drinking monsters that it is hard to generalize; you have to take each on on its own terms. Here then is a Photographic Retrospective of the Vampires of 1960.

ATOM AGE VAMPIRE (Seddok, l’erede di Satana)

Atom Age Vampire (1960)Our first vampire title (alphabetically speaking) is more of Jekyll-and-Hyde mad scientist film, in which “vampirism” is of the most figurative sort: stealing glands of young victims in order to rejuvenate the beauty of a disfigured woman is a sort of modern variation on draining the life essence. The original Italian title is less misleading, translating roughly as “Seddok, the Heir of Satan.”
Atom Age Vampire (1960) Atom Age Vampire (1960) Atom Age Vampire: the scientist in monster form attacks a victim


Black Sunday: vampire Yavutich (Arturo Dominici) awaits with his coachItalian director Mario Bava’s atmospheric masterpiece of black-and-white horror features two magnificent vampires: Barbara Steele as Princess Asa and Arturo Dominici as Ygor Yavutich (four if you count two of their victims who return from the dead). Burned alive as witches, Asa and Yavutich return from the grave to drain the blood and/or life force of Asa’s descendants. The result is one of the great horror films of all time.
Black Sunday: Princess Asa (Barbara Steele) reborn a vampire Black Sunday: Condemned as a witch, Princess Asa (Barbara Steele) is about to have a mask nailed onto her face. Black Sunday: Arturo Dominici in a publicity photo not seen in the film

Black Sunday: atmospheric shot of Princess Asa (Barbara Steele) in her coffin


BLOOD AND ROSES (Et Mourir de Plasir [“To Die with Pleasure”])

Next up is French filmmaker Roger Vadim’s ambiguous adaptation of Carmilla, the excellent Victorian vampire novel by J. Sheridan LeFanue. Vadim modernizes the setting and presents a dreamlike atmosphere that leaves the question of vampirism open to debate, yet the film contains memorable imagery that should satisfy fans of the undead.
Blood and Roses: the birth of the Euro-trash obsession with lesbianism? Blood and Roses: as in J. Sheridan LeFanu's story, the female vampire seems interested in a female victim


Brides of Dracula: David Peel and Yvonne MonlaurHammer Films’ first sequel to HORROR OF DRACULA suffers from the absence of Christopher Lee as the Count, but there is an interesting alternative in the form of David Peel as a blond, boyish vampire named Baron Meinster. He also has some lovely brides to keep him company. This English film is one of the best of its kind, even if there is no Dracula in it.
Brides of Dracula: Baron Meinster (David Peel) prepares to bite a victim Brides of Dracula: Andree Melly as one of the newly vampirized brides


This interesting Mexican variation on the vampire motif presents the son of the famous oracular prophet, who rises from the grave intent on establishing a cult devoted to magic and the supernatural. So confident is he of his powers that he appears to a renowned scientist and declares his intention of killing thirteen victims, even naming the time and place, just to show how unstoppable he is. German Robles makes a fine, aristocratic vampire, even if bad dubbing undermines the effectiveness for English-speaking viewers.
German Robles as the vampire Nostradamus In THE MONSTER DEMOLISHER, German Robles reprises the role of Nostradamus, which he first played in CURSE OF NOSTRADAMUS Nostradamus (German Robles) laughs at the helpless mortals who oppose him.


Audrey Jr helps her creator dispose of a victim.

Before graduating to eating body parts and/or whole human, Audrey the plant begins by drinking the willingly offered blood of Seymour Krelboin, the goofy would-be botanist who created her. Producer-director Roger Corman’s campy classic, written by Charles B. Griffith, is not quite as funny as intended, but it is so weird it has to be seen to believed.

THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE (L’Ultima Preda Del Vampire [“The Last Prey of the Vampire”])

Another Italian entry in the vampire genre, this one offers a sexier slant on the old blood-suckers.
The Playgirls and the Vampire (1960) Walter Brandi as the vampire count

THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA (a.k.a. L’amanti del Vampiro [“The Vampire’s Lover])

This off-beat Italian entry in the vampire sweepstakes is tame on its own terms, but it offers some of the first suggestions of the more explicitly sexual approaches to the theme that will emerge later in Continental vampire films (see THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE, above). Along with a couple of fetching female vamps, the film also features one of the ugliest undead this side of NOSFERATU’s Graf Orlock.
the vampire and the ballerina: boy that's one ugly vampire The Vampire and the Ballerina (1960) VB000 (1)

THE WORLD OF THE VAMPIRES (El Mundo de los Vamiros)

This eccentric Mexican vampire film features vampires that, for some reason, can be disabled by particular sound waves, leading to a dubious conclusion in which the villain is defeated by someone playing a tune on a pipe organ. Gotta give ’em credit for off-the-wall originality, if nothing else.
The World of the Vampires: vampire and victim World of the Vampires: the vampire wields a dagger, for a change World of the Vampires: in the crypt World of the Vampires: "For something is amiss, or out of place, when mice with wings wear a human face." World of the Vampires lobby card 2 World of the Vampires lobby card 1 World of the Vampires lobby card 3


Laserblast Home Video, July 27: Clash of the Titans, Repo Men

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Tuesday, July 27 sees 20-something horror, fantasy, and science fiction titles released on DVD, Blu-ray, and/or Video on Demand, including two high-profile (if not necessarily high-quality) theatrical films and some classic/cult movies repackaged with collectible t-shirts (gotta find some excuse to keep re-issuing those public domain titles!). The 800,000 ton kraken this week is Warner Brothers’ release of CLASH OF THE TITANS, starring Sam Worthington. Fans have their choice of the VOD rental/purchase, a DVD, and a combo pack containing Blu-ray, DVD and a digital copy. Although not a critical favorite (in part because of an unsatisfactory 3-D face lift added in post-production), this remake is actually an improvement over the 1981 Ray Harryhausen original, with a good central idea, decent characterizations and performances, and updated special effects. Like the later JONAH HEX, CLASH OF THE TITANS went through extensive editorial revisions, including the shooting of additional footage. (In the original scenario, Zeus remains a villain throughout, and the lesser gods help Perseus to thwart his plans; the theatrical version gives Zeus a change of heart after he realizes he is being played by Hades.) The DVD bonus features include deleted scenes, which should give some idea of what was originally intended. The Blu-ray also includes the additional scenes, plus an alternate ending, in which Perseus confronts Zeus on Mount Olympus. Other Blu-ray bonus features:

  • Sam Worthington: An Action Hero for the Ages: a featurette on the star
  • Harnessing the Gods: Maximum Movie Mode: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and director Louis Leterrier offer scene breakdowns,  VFX breakdowns, vignettes, and a look at locations, stunt work, and the Kraken, the Scorpiochs, Medusa.
  • BD-Live enabled

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Also arriving on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD this week is REPO MAN, the rather dismal tale of futuristic collectors who retrieve artificial organs from recipients who cannot keep up with their payments. Bonus features on the DVD and Blu-ray disc include:

  • DELETED SCENES with optional commentary with Director Miguel Sapochnik and Writers Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner.
  • UNION COMMERCIALS: See the unique Union commercials used in the film in their entirety.
  • INSIDE THE VISUAL EFFECTS: Get an “insider’s” look at the unique visual effects used in the film.
  • FEATURE COMMENTARY: Director Miguel Sapochnik and writers Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner offer their insights into the film.

Bonus features exclusive to the Blu-ray disc include:

  • BD-LIVE™: Access the BD-Live™ Center through your Internet-connected player to get even more content, watch the latest trailers and more!
  • MY SCENES: Bookmark your favorite scenes from the movie.
  • Pocket BLU™: USHE’s groundbreaking pocket BLU app uses iPhone™, iPod® touch, iPad™ BlackBerry®, Android™, PC, Mac and other devices to work seamlessly with a network-connected Blu-ray(TM) player and offers advanced features such as:
  • Advanced Remote Control: A sleek, elegant new way to operate your Blu-ray™ player. Users can navigate through menus, playback and BD-Live™ functions with ease.
  • Video Timeline: Users can easily bring up the video timeline, allowing them to instantly access any point in the movie.
  • Mobile-To-Go: Users can unlock a selection of bonus content to enjoy on the go, anytime, anywhere.
  • Browse Titles: Users will have access to a complete list of pocket BLU™-enabled titles available and coming to Blu-ray™ Hi-Def. They can view free previews and see what additional content is available to unlock on their device.
  • Keyboard: Enter data into a Blu-ray player with your device’s easy and intuitive keyboard.
  • Social BLU™: Connect with friends on your favorite social networks to share information about your favorite movies, enjoy Blu-ray™ community features and more!
  • U-Control™: Universal’s exclusive feature that lets the viewer access bonus materials without leaving the movie!

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The animated BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD arrives in almost more iterations than you can count: VOD for rent and purchase, single-disc DVD, double-disc special edition DVD, and Blu-ray disc; the double-disc DVD and Blu-ray are also available (exclusive from with a limited edition litho cel.
Fans of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD may be interested in the new DVD of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: REANIMATED. This is a sort of artsy experiment, in which different animators were invited to recreate sequences of the 1968 horror film.
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Kaiju fans may want to check out DEATH KAPPA, a new Japanese monster movie from th creators of TOKYO GORE POLICE. The story takes the Kappa (legendary Yokai monsters from Japanese folklore) and adds an atomic twist to create a modern monstrosity in the Godzilla mold. The film is available in DVD and Blu-ray from Tokyo Shock Cinema.
If you’re into Italian imports from the gory, glory days of the 1970s, you may want to pull out your vomit bag in preparation for BEYOND THE DARKNESS: BUIO OMEGA. This 1979 Italian voodoo thriller from Joe D’Amato, known as BURIED ALIVE in the U.S., features a score by Goblin.
Synergy Entertainment offers up three old titles on DVD, packaged with collectible t-shirts, featuring reproductions of the original poster art: METROPOLIS, ATOM AGE VAMPIRE, and ATOMIC BRAIN. Each shirt is available in large and extra-large. By the way, the version of METROPOLIS is one of the old, previously available cuts of the film, not the newly restored one currently circulating in art house theatres.
The week’s other releases include:

  • A new Blu-ray disc of CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON
  • CRACK IN THE WORLD, starring Dana Andrews, the DVD
  • Ray Bradbury’s CRYSALIS on DVD
  • HELL GIRL: THE TWO MIRRORS, a two-piece DVD set
  • THE DEAD MATTER on DVD and 3-disc deluxe edition
  • THE BURNT HOUSE on Blu-ray


Atom Age Vampire: A Celebration of 1960 Review

ATOM AGE VAMPIRE was a film that haunted me as a youngster. It seemed a very modern nightmare, a science fiction variation on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A well-meaning doctor who willingly turned himself into a monster to both prove his theories and possess the woman of his obsessive desire. The dark, oppressive atmosphere, seedy locations, and dream-like transformations made many appearances in my own dreams. After local New York stations stopped showing horror films on a weekly basis, I didn’t see it for many years.
I was not an early adopter of DVDs, but joined the ranks when I bought my second Windows PC (I had an Amiga originally, used mostly for video work.) Since it has two DVD drives, I picked up a couple of cheap DVDs, figuring “what the heck, why not?” One of them was ATOM AGE VAMPIRE.
Did it hold up after all those years? Well, yes and no. It’s still an atmospheric little B&W flick, but it’s also pretty cheesey. However, that’s not a damning flaw, to me — but I have to admit it’s not nearly as good as I remembered.

Poster for the original Italian version

ATOM AGE VAMPIRE was a 1960 Italian production originally titled Seddok, l’erede di Satana, which means something along the lines of Seddok, the Heir (or Inheritor) of Satan. Directed and co-written (with the award winning Alberto Bevilacqua [EYE OF THE CAT]) by film and TV veteran Anton Guilio Majano, it was not released in a big way in the U.S. until 1963. (By Topaz Film Corporation, though IMDB says there was a 1961 release by Manson Distributing Corporation, which seems to have specialized in importing Italian films.)
It must have made it into TV syndication packages pretty quickly, because I first saw it around 1969-70.
The film features generally good low-key photography by Aldo Giordani (MY NAME IS TRINITY), which becomes strikingly chiaroscuro in some of the “horror” scenes. That points to one of the film’s problems; it suffers from some slight inconsistencies of style and pacing. Some of the material, such as the exposition and soap opera-ish scenes fall flat or appear rushed. It’s clear that certain sequences received more time and attention than others. This of course is not at all unusual in modestly budgeted films.
It’s hard to judge the writing and acting, as ATOM AGE VAMPIRE film is a dubbed film. I happen to be one of those ‘philistines’ who actually prefers dubbed horror/sci-fi imports, as I see them as dreams transcribed onto celluloid, and reading is inimical to dreaming — I hold them to be different aesthetic and cognitive processes.
Perhaps more importantly, dubbed is how I saw these films in my youth and nostalgia is an important factor in my enjoyment of them. As Italian films of this period were nearly always post-synched, English dubbing probably detracts little from their cinematic values.
Poster for the English-language version

AAV’s credits list Richard McNamara as “Director of English Language Version” (McNamara, according to IMDB. was a US solider who stayed in Italy, and became an actor  mainly doing dubbing work, eventually becoming a dubbing director).
“English Dialog” is credited to John Hart (not the Lone Ranger actor). To some extent, they are responsible for the story line (which may be slightly different from the original) and the occasionally awkward phrasing.
Nevertheless, I suspect the dialog and acting were always florid and theatrical. There’s quite a lot of hysterical energy underlying most of the performances, which can be quite entertaining in its own right. Everyone seems to feel everything so intensely.
Alberto Lupo is quite good as the brilliant but obsessive Dr. Levin, and Susanne Loret is well cast as disfigured exoctic dancer Jeanette Moreneau. Roberto Berta is effective as the doctor’s loyal, mute servant Sacha, and Ivo Garrani underplays everyone as the slightly humorous police investigator.
Monster of the Id?
Monster of the Id?

The transformations I mentioned before still retain that odd, dream-like quality. They seem to use an unusual mix of lap dissolves and animated changes to the make-up, and possibly some skip-frame printing. This imparts an unrealistic and slightly queasy-feeling kinesthetic to the healing of the dancer’s scars — and especially the monster transmorgifications.
The rationale for said transformations is interesting. The doctor discovers he finds killing to obtain the glands he needs to cure the object of his experiments disfigurement too much against his professed essential nature — and fears to be identified and caught. He feels that if he uses his mutagenic ‘Derma 25’ to become a monster, he will be capable of any monstrous act, without regret. (A somewhat medieval view for a man of science.)
As we see, what it really does is release his inner brute, strips away his thin veneer of compassion and civilization. Like Stevenson’s Hyde is often portrayed, Levin’s other self is vaguely ape-like savage, cunning and furtive. He’s the Id set loose, and as always in films of this era, once freed he will eventually prove dominant.
Many have carped that ATOM AGE VAMPIRE features no vampire (despite the animated bat of the titles), but the monster is indeed engaged in a vampiric activity: stealing the vital essences of young women. And the fact that Dr. Levin’s formula was originally created to cure radiation burns places it firmly in the atom age.
Others hold that it’s a rip-off of EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1959), a charge with some merit. However, one could argue that both films owe something to 1956’s I, VAMPRI (THE DEVIL’S COMMANDMENT).

The DVD I viewed (a DVD Alpha video of the now public domain film) runs about 69 minutes, though it’s listed as 87 minutes on the box. I believe this is a TV print, and it’s definitely missing some footage from the TV run time. Possibly a little as a minute, as 70-72 mins. was sufficent for most time slots back then. I’m sure the strip-tease sequence in the trailer never made it to US Television.
However, there’s a fragmentary shot of Dr. Levin sitting at his desk, and it may have been a cut transformation scene, as it precedes the first ‘outside’ murder. I seem to recall more action with the Atom Age Vampire itself in its broadcast TV days, and the trailer appears to support this notion.
Though possibly, a larger focus on the murder monster and less emphasis on angst-ridden soap could easily be an artifact of the rather better film I built in my memory. For what are half-remembered horrors but fuel for the dream machine?
Atom Age Vampire (1960)ATOM AGE VAMPIRE (Seddok, l’erede di Satana, 1960)
Starring Alberto Lupo, Susanne Loret, Sergio Fantoni, Franca Parisi, Andrea Scotti
Directed by Anton Giulio Majano
Screenplay by Anton Giulio Majano, Alberto Bevilacqua, Gino De Santis, Piero Monviso
Format: Black & White, DVD, NTSC
Language: English
Region: Region 1
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Number of discs: 1
Running Time: Listed as 87 minutes, timed at slightly more than 69 minutes.
No Extras on the Alpha Video Disc.