11th Aug2015

‘Crypt of / House of… the Living Dead’ Review (Vinegar Syndrome)

by Mondo Squallido

CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD
(1973, dir: Julio Salvador & Ray Danton)

“THE UNDEAD DIES…AGAIN, AGAIN AND AGAIN!”

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One night whilst snooping round a luxurios island villa, archaeologist Professor Bolton (Mariano García Rey, Shaft in Africa) is attacked by crazed writer Peter (Mark Damon, Black Sabbath). Bolton is left for dead under a tomb. When his son Chris (Andrew Pine, The Town That Dreaded Sundown) finds out about the fate of his father, he visits the island to say his goodbyes. He is greeted by Peter who is playing the nice guy card. Once settled and with the help of the mysterious locals, Chris and Peter begin to open the tomb belonging to Hannah (Teresa Gimpera, Lips of Blood), who according to local folklore was the vampiric wife of Louis VII. Once opened, they discover the still fresh corpse of Hannah (who looks damn good considering she’s been buried for 700 years!). Naturally, she is awakened and begins to wreak bloody havoc on the island and its inhabitants. Initially unconvinced, Chris has only but a couple of days to put a stop to Hannah and the rise of Vampire Island, but with Peter falling ever more under the influence of Hannah, the locals who are either terrified or not what they seem and the blossoming romance with Peter’s sister Mary (Patty Shepard, My Dear Killer), it won’t be easy!

I don’t really like vampire films that much if I’m honest. Of course films like The Vampire Lovers, Twins of Evil and Lust for a Vampire are exceptions (yeah, I’m a sucker for busty vampires in flimsy white gowns). So naturally I was a little apprehensive about this one. Thankfully, I was an idiot and this was a more than entertaining early 70′s vampire effort. Crypt of the Living Dead is a film that is full of atmosphere. The combination of the misty Turkish setting and and a haunting score from Phillip Lambro (Blood Voyage) really add to the genuine creepyness throughout. The story is solid enough and plays out well at a steady enough pace. Not only that, but the performances from those playing the locals do a great job adding a sense of almost isolation for the audience. The main cast also do a atisfying job, even if Andrew Pine kinda looked like John Holmes! Those looking for eye candy will enjoy Gimpera’s portrayal as Hannah, it’s just a shame she’s not in the film as much as she should be. The film also has some nice effects throughout. It’s a satisfying enough time waster that can be watched more than once.

HOUSE OF THE LIVING DEAD
(1974, dir: Ray Austin)

“What monstrous evil lurks…and feeds…and kills…in the attic of the…HOUSE OF THE LIVING DEAD ”

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On a seemingly normal plantation in South Africa, owned by the wealthy Brattling Family, there is something sinister going on behind closed doors. Dr. Breckinridge Brattling (Mark Burns, Ludwig II) is a reclusive and mysterious fellow who locks himself up in the attic to conduct experiments on the local wildlife. His mission? To harvest the souls of the living! Understandably, his brother Michael (Burns in a dual role) and stern mother (Margaret Inglis, Space 1999) do not approve, but can’t do anything because they adore their little mad scientist. As if his experiments weren’t sinister enough, Breckeridge begins to use the locals and house staff to achieve his goal. With Michael’s soon to be wife Mary (Shirley Anne Field, Alfie) visiting, much to the displeasure of Mummy Brattling, along with the former teacher of Breckinridge, there’s potential for a major disaster that the Brattling family just can’t have. It’s a disaster that could change the bloodline forever. It doesn’t help that the locals like to dabble in the dark arts of voodoo!

With all that going on, you’d expect this to be a mind blowing bloodfest right? Well, not really. House of the Living Dead is lacklustre and nowhere near approaches the creepiness of Crypt of the Living Dead. That being said, it’s nothing awful. Those expecting to see lots of vile experiments will be sorely disappointed, aside from some uncomfortable scenes involving a monkey, there’s really no gore or nastiness. If you want a chuckle however, pretty much all the cast speak with well spoken British accents (yes, even the natives). It adds an often surreal and ultimately unintentional level of charm to the film. The story plods along and some may mistake this for a period melodrama. There are a couple of nice twists and turns, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. All in all, the film is a rather pedestrian attempt at gothic horror. By the way, the film has probably got one of the most misleading titles ever.
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Overall, this is a neat little package. Crypt of the Living Dead is the best film of the film by far and has the most replay value. Both films are presented wonderfully, especially considering that they’re public domain titles that have suffered from repeated, battered releases throughout the years. There is some fun to be had and you’re in for a fun double feature, you may want to get House of the Living Dead out of the way first. In terms of special features there is a trailer and alternative title credits for Crypt... All in all, Vinegar Syndrome have done a more than competent job with this release. Solid transfer with a couple of nice special features and some absolutely gorgeous artwork on the release. Definitely worth a look for fans and newcomers alike.

Crypt of the Living Dead and House of the Living Dead are available in a DVD / Blu-Ray combo pack from Vinegar Syndrome.

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