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  • This frightening movie is plenty of thrills, chills, high body-count and an expressionist photography with phenomenal results . The picture is set in Paris, France, where a mad scientific captures and kills various young girls and draining their blood for her illicit use . He drains their blood , in order to keep alive an ancient, nasty duchess (Gianna Maria Cannale who starred ¨Teodora¨ directed by her husband Freda) . While a smug reporter (Michaelis) and a Police Inspector (Carlo D'Angelo)seek out clues for the so-called 'vampire murders' and links to the case a local drug addict (a junkie well played by Paul Muller , usual of Italian B series) whom is connected to the evil scientist and at the same time kidnaps a beautiful young woman (Wandisa Guisa who starred various Peplum).

    Freda's first great success is compellingly directed with startling visual content . This film, also known as "The Devil's Commandment", was the first Italian made horror film of the sound era and inspired a wave of Gothic Italian horror films . The picture was sadly censored in Italy and other countries . Strong on visual style and plenty of thrills, chills and suspense . The movie belongs to Italian Horror genre , Riccardo Freda (¨Secret of Dr. Hitchcock¨ , ¨Il Vampiri¨) along with Mario Bava (¨Planet of vampires¨, ¨House of exorcism¨) are the fundamental creators . In fact , both of whom collaborated deeply among them , as Bava finished two Fedra's films , this ¨Il Vampiri¨ and ¨Caltiki¨ . These Giallo movies are characterized by overblown use of photographic effects , usual zooms and utilization of images-shock . Later on , there appears Dario Argento (¨Deep red¨, ¨Suspiria¨,¨Inferno¨), another essential filmmaker of classic Latino terror films . ¨The vampires¨ packs a good acting from Gianna Maria Canale , directer's wife , as a crazed duchess, obsessed with retaining her youth. There also appears a cameo director , Riccardo Freda as autopsy doctor . The movie has a splendid cinematography by the terror genius , Mario Bava , while working with Freda on The vampires (1956) , the director left the project after an argument with the producers and the film mostly unfinished , then Bava stepped in and directed the majority of the movie, finishing it on schedule.

    The motion picture was well directed by Riccardo Freda who used a number of aliases during his career, including Robert Hampton or George Lincoln and as screenwriter Riccardo Fedra . His artistic spirit led him to a strong belief in the importance of visual composition in filmmaking . Freda worked in many popular genres, including viking films, Peplum, spaghetti westerns, action, and even Softcore, but it is his horror films and Giallo mystery films which stand out and for which he is best remembered . Freda along with Vittorio Cottafavi continued to realize films in the historical-spectacular style , at which he developed a considerable skill and mastery . From the mid-50s Freda's liking make for atmospheric and colorful scenes of shock began to itself apparent , especially in such Musclemen epics as ¨Teodora¨ , ¨Spartacus¨ , ¨Giants of Thessaly¨ , ¨The seventh sword¨ , ¨Maciste all's inferno ¨, the latter a gripping/horror Peplum and of course ¨Maciste in the court of the Great Khan¨, one of his best films . In the early 60s , he was a pioneer in Italy of horror-fantasy films frightening audiences the world over , especially with ¨I Vampiri¨ and ¨L'Orrible Segreto del Doctor Hitchcock¨ as he combined with that wide-staring of actress , the British-born Barbara Steele . He also made adventures as ¨Black Eagle¨ , ¨The son of Black Eagle¨ , ¨White devil¨ , ¨Son of D'Artagnan¨ , and uncredited ¨Daughter of D'Artagnan¨ ¨. From there he went to melodrama and spy films as ¨¨Mexican Slayride¨and ¨Coplan FX18¨ and even made some western as ¨No killing without dollars¨ with Mark Damon and signed under pseudonym as George Lincoln . Freda's movies had popular appeal , and were usually commercial hits . Several were French/Spanish/Italian or other European co-productions . He has been called a filmmaker "who brings some style to exploitation pictures", and has something of a cult following . Rating : 7 , better than average horror movie .
  • When four young women are found in Paris with the blood completely drained, the ambitious and snoopy journalist Pierre Lantin (Dario Michaelis) decides to investigate the cases of the killer known as The Vampire. Inspector Chantal (Carlo D'Angelo) does not approve Lantin´s behavior. Soon Pierre suspects that family Du Grand, who lives in an ancient castle, may be involved with the murders but Inspector Chantal does not give support to his investigations. Meanwhile Pierre avoids the harassment of Giselle du Grand (Gianna Maria Canale), who is the niece of the wealthy matriarch of the family Margherita du Grand.

    "I vampire" is a great Italian horror film with a story of the search for the eternal youth. The film was directed by Riccardo Freda, who left the production that was concluded by Mario Bava (uncredited). The beauty of Gianna Maria Canale is impressive more than sixty years later. My vote is seven.

    Title (Brazil): "Os Vampiros" ("The Vampires")
  • Paris is plagued by a murder spree. French reporter Pierre LaSalle (Dario Michaelis) is hot on the trail of what he thinks is a vampire killing off young strippers. LaSalle is also being courted to his dismay by his ex-lover, Giselle du Grand (Gianna Maria Canale - Goliath vs the Vampire), granddaughter of the mysterious Duchesse du Grand. Meanwhile, across town at the Institute of Experimental Surgery, the Duchesse is working with professor Julien du Grand (Antoine Balpêtré) to help develop artificial blood. Soon enough, reporter LaSalle gathers enough clues to confirm his crazy theory, and soon learns the truth about the Duchesse, the professor and even Giselle.

    This film is the foundation of the short-lived Italian gothic horror sub-genre. Containing much of the elements of the classic American horror films of the 40s (dimly lit corridors, musty dungeons, mad doctors, rotting skeletons etc), this atmospheric production didn't do well in Italy. Only years later, after the success of the Hammer Studios (England) gothic horror revival, was this movie rediscovered and appreciated for what it was. Director of photography Mario Bava (Black Sunday, Lisa and the Devil) gives a great look to this Elisabeth Bathory-inspired tale, using low angle shots and highly contrasted lighting. Bava also took over direction when Freda left the set halfway through production. Look for a young Paul Müller (Nightmare Castle, Bram Stoker's Count Dracula) as the hired killer.
  • This one mainly works because of the amazing set direction and Gothic spaces. As it gets going it feels like a typical 1940s style murder mystery, with young women having gone missing, but hardly a horror movie at all. But when another girl disappears the search leads to an empty apartment building and then to the castle of a certain Countess du Grand, who happens to be enamored of the lead detective on the case. Though the castle appears to be of evil repute, the countess attracts guests to a ball, and the affections of another reporter. She is a mysterious figure, living in adulation of a portrait of the reporter's father, playing antique record players. The castle sets are stunning productions, drawing one into the horror that sustains her beauty (a storyline explored further in Eyes Without A Face, The Awful Dr Orloff, The Faceless Monster, Mill of the Stone Woman and Countess Dracula) . The movie literally gets gobbled up by the Gothic atmosphere of the castle, with its incredible gargoyles, elaborately Gothic crypt, secret passages, baroque cobwebs, pillars marked with demonic images, and a Sleeping Beauty tangle of vines on the grounds. The reliance on scenery alone to communicate a descent into a sadistic unconscious reminds one of Cocteaus Beauty and the Beast though the strategy was tried too in 40s Hollywood. When at last the mystery is discovered, here too the special effects are quite well done. Mario Bava was involved in the photography, just testing his fogbound vision of Gothic mystery, and it shows. After starting out all cops and robbers, this one ends up with a completely satisfying expression of pure demented horror.
  • drspecter24 December 2001
    This movie is absolutely stunning! It combines Freda's knack for perverse plotting with Bava's excellent, atmospheric cinematography to produce a story about the parasitic sickness of love more than anything else. I've read a few whiny 'goth' teenagers complaining about the film's lack of 'real vampiric moments.' What idiots! An aging scientist keeps the Duchess Du Grand young, although she can't stand his touch. To acquire young women needed for his serum, he keeps a junkie locked up and strung out. Meanwhile, the Duchess is in love with Pierre, a young reporter investigating a series of mysterious murders in which young women are being drained of their blood. Ah, love... The mood of the film perfectly balances neorealism with fantasy to create an expressionist fairy tale. The antagonistic relationship between the reporter and the police investigator and the above-mentioned junkie make this an influence on the giallo as well as the revival of gothic horror in Italy. Ignore DVD (Idiot) Savant and the Ann Rice geeks. The rediscovery of this movie ranks up there with Whale's Old Dark House. It is an absolute classic, and the print is excellent!
  • This is notable for being the first Italian horror film, thus spearheading a rich Gothic vein which ran well into the 1970s (one of three strands of horror which emerged simultaneously – the others being the so-called "Mexi-Horror" and Britain's Hammer brand-name). Curiously enough, I had never heard of the film when it turned up on late-night Italian TV some years ago but loved it immediately and, having erased the tape, I'd been pondering the idea of picking up the Image DVD ever since its release – but, only now, with Anchor Bay's recent issue of THE MARIO BAVA COLLECTION VOL. 1 Box Set did I determine to spring for it! Rewatching I VAMPIRI now and, having in the meantime amassed quite a few titles made in this style, I can safely say that it was a tremendous start to the subgenre and remains one of its finest examples.

    Due to a dispute with the producers, Freda left the project after 10 days' shooting; Bava eventually completed the film and, during the remaining 2 day's work, reportedly made considerable changes to its plot structure (which should have allotted him a co-director credit – a similar situation subsequently arose during the making of the horror/sci-fi CALTIKI, THE IMMORTAL MONSTER [1959]). Bava's cinematography lends the film a real class – transcending its obvious low-budget and tight schedule – with any number of sweeping camera moves (to take advantage of the Cinemascope format) and incredible lighting effects. Besides, the transformation of the villainess from a beautiful woman into an old hag are masterfully accomplished in-camera through the use of filters (pretty much in the style of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE [1931]). The sets, especially the elaborate castle interior, are suitably impressive; Roman Vlad's powerful score may have been re-used in later films, as it felt oddly familiar to me.

    The script does seem to naively approach the new genre by piling on typical elements from the American horror films, such as the mad scientist and his sinister-looking 'zombie' acolyte. However, there's no real vampire at work here – but rather rejuvenation by blood transfusion; perhaps, it was thought that the traditional bloodsucker would seem incongruous – or, worse, laughable – amidst a modern-day Parisian backdrop, but this clash of settings actually works very nicely (and may well have influenced EYES WITHOUT A FACE [1959] which, in its way, proved even more seminal to the horror genre). Besides, we get an unusual emphasis on the antagonistic rapport between the reporter hero and the police inspector in charge of the crime spree; following a splendid climax, the latter provides a long-winded last-minute explanation for the benefit of the viewer – which, basically, became a fixture of Italian horror/thriller efforts.

    It's also interesting that the hero, ultimately, establishes the source of evil as being much closer to home than he could ever have imagined; in fact, he represents the object of desire for wicked noblewoman Gianna Maria Canale (probably cast because she was Freda's lover at the time, but there's no denying that her classical looks and natural sophistication are perfect for the role). Still, even if the reporter falls for a lovely ingénue and does bear a grudge against Canale, his aggressive aversion to the latter isn't credible: he should have been fascinated by her in spite of himself, thus creating an inner conflict for the hero. As it stands, one is merely moved to see Canale cling pathetically to an unrequited love – for which she debases herself by being driven to crime in order to re-obtain a semblance of youth (a scheme which still backfires on her, as the effect only lasts for short periods of time)!

    The latter drawback leads, incidentally, to a head-scratching scene towards the end of the film: Canale runs into the hero, who accompanies her to buy a painting – she starts reverting to her true decrepit age while writing a cheque, excuses herself and hurries away to 'safety'. This, somehow, arouses the reporter's suspicion (why he should care whether she is right or left-handed is beyond me, but her behavior appears odd even to the shop-owner) and he promptly phones a colleague who had accompanied him the night before to a party given at the castle – the latter, smitten with the lady, had stayed behind – and, consequently, discovers that his friend has vanished! Euro-Cult favorite Paul Muller's haunted, hunted look makes him ideal for the role of the hapless junkie who's, basically, blackmailed into complying with the doctor and the Duchess's perverse experiment. Curiously enough, Freda had originally intended him to be guillotined and subsequently reassembled; this grisly end, however, was dropped when Bava took over – but the stitching marks on his neck are said to be still visible in a scene where the re-animated Muller is grilled by Police (still, not being aware of his altered fate beforehand, I can't say that I noticed)!

    Interestingly, I VAMPIRI fared poorly at the box-office; this has been attributed to the Italian people's innate skepticism of a home-grown horror product, thus giving rise to the long-running – and often highly amusing – practice of bestowing cast and crew members with English-sounding names! With respect to the American market, then, the film was bafflingly retitled THE DEVIL'S COMMANDMENT and included additional scenes featuring Al Lewis (later of the horror-spoof TV series THE MUNSTERS)!!
  • As far as I am concerned, Mario Bava is simply THE greatest Horror director who ever lived, and there are several reasons why. No other director has ever been capable of creating a haunting yet beautiful, dream-like atmosphere in the brilliant manner that Bava was, there is no other Horror director whose repertoire includes the most genuine masterpieces. The supreme master of Gothic Horror and undisputed inventor or the Ialian Giallo, Bava single-handedly launched the Italian Horror boom which resulted in Italy becoming the undisputed country Nr.1 in the Horror world. Italian Horror cinema found real international recognition after Bava's incomparable Gothic masterpiece "La Maschera Del Demoni" (aka. "Black Sunday"), probably my choice for THE greatest Horror film of all-time. However, the milestone that launched the raise of Horror made in Italy in 1956 is this stylish and extremely elegant gem "I Vampiri". Horror films had been banned in Italy by the Fascist regime, and it was not until the mid fifties that this ban was withdrawn. The first post-WW2 Italian Horror film was directed by Riccardo Freda (another more than great director), Mario Bava was the cinematographer. When director Freda backed out from the project because he couldn't finish it in time, Bava jumped in and finished the film (even though he remained uncredited as a director). And what an accomplishment it is! The plot does not really revolve around traditional vampires as they would appear in other contemporary Horror milestones, such as the British Hammer classic "Dracula" of 1958.

    This film has another morbid formula that would become one of the most popular themes in European Gothic Horror of the early 60s. A murderer is on the loose in Paris, and since the bodies of his young female victims lack even a drop of blood in their bodies, he has been nicknamed 'The Vampire'. - I shall not give away more of the plot, only that it mixes elements of mad science with the supernatural. The story is wonderfully morbid and suspenseful, however, it is arguably the cinematographic style that is the most pioneering element of this great film. The budget was actually quite low, but Bava's brilliant sense for lighting, and especially, for the dark, as well as incredibly uncanny settings create the beautifully eerie atmosphere that we so love in Bava's later films. Especially the wonderfully dark castle is a haunting and beautiful setting for such a fascinating story. The performances are also very good, the greatest coming from director Riccardo Freda's wife Gianna Maria Carnale in a mysterious role. Prolific Eurohorror/Exploitation Paul Muller began his streak of demented characters with this milestone. Overall, "I Vampiri" is not Bava's best Gothic Horror film - "La Maschera Del Demonio" is, without doubt, and other masterpieces, such as "Operazione Paura" (aka. "Kill Baby Kill", 1966), "I Tre Volti Della Paura" (aka. "Black Sabbath", 1963) or "La Frusta E Il Corpo" (aka. "The Whip And The Body", 1963) also easily surpass it. However, it was this milestone that started Italian Horror. And what an elegant, haunting and fascinating milestone it is! An absolute must for every Bava fan, Horror-buff or lover of great cinema in general!
  • Amazingly compelling and beautiful film that single-handedly launched the revival of European horror in the late fifties. "I Vampiri" still is a scandalously underrated film even though it's an important classic from many viewpoints. Not in the least because it was one of the first opportunities for Mario Bava to prove his brilliance to the world! He was initially hired as a cinematographer to work with director Riccardo Freda but, when this latter couldn't keep up with the hasty filming schedule, Bava took over and completed the film within the preconceived deadline. The result is a haunting Gothic mystery-tale with a deliciously ingenious script and a wonderfully sinister atmosphere. Don't let the title mislead you too much, as the film doesn't revolve on the typical bloodsucking creatures as you know them, but on an entirely different kind of macabre characters. The city of Paris is under the spell of a relentless killer who at least murdered 4 young girls in the short period of only a couple of days time. Since the bodies don't have a single drop of blood left in them when they are discovered, the press cleverly nick-named the killer as "the Vampire". The ambitious and womanizing journalist Pierre is so obsessed with the events that he starts an investigation himself. He discovers tracks that lead him to the castle of the eminent Du Grand family, more particularly the gorgeous young duchess Giselle who has a severe crush on Pierre.

    The sudden "twist" halfway through the story is typically Gothic, but that's just an extra reason for the fans to love it even more. Especially praiseworthy is the enormous amount of intrigue, tension and morbidity featuring in the screenplay. Many gimmicks in "I Vampiri" are dared and definitely ahead of their time, but also very credible at the same time (the manipulation of a weak junkie, the extraordinary vain lifestyle of the duchess...). This actually is a very low-budgeted production but Mario Bava terrifically camouflages this with his elegant filming-style and skilled knowledge of lighting. The acting of the entire cast is far above average and especially Gianna Maria Canala (spouse of director Riccardo Freda) makes a big impression. The amount of gore is secondary to the atmosphere, of course, but still there are a couple of uniquely grim images of decomposing corpses to 'enjoy'. I am aware that some critics bash this film for it's supposable 'lack of vampire-action', but it's their stupid loss that they're unable to see the marvelous Gothic influences. "I Vampiri" is a great film that urgently requires more recognition.
  • The way this movie is played out makes it more or a mystery than an horror really. It was also an early Italian horror production, so they were still mostly trying out some new stuff in this one. It was also the first one to involve the later to become legendary Italian horror director Mario Bava, who had some major influences on the future development of the genre.

    The movie its title might be a bit misleading. It's not really your average vampire flick, featuring blood sucking villains. It features a vampire like creature but she hardly gets her hand dirty in this movie. the movie picks more a detective like approach, in which the police is investigating the strange disappearances and murders of young women. Nothing wrong with this approach of course but you sort of have to know what to expect, in order not to end up disappointed.

    Can't always say that the story played out too well. They could had definitely done something better and more interesting with its premise at times. But like mentioned earlier, this was still being an early Italian horror production, from the time they were still searching for the right tone and balance. The movie is still lacking in its atmosphere, which is also one of the reasons why this movie doesn't really feel like an horror. It's definitely not an horrible movie, it's still being quite good to watch for most parts. It's a movie that knows to hold your interest and also still works out quite original, due to its unusual approach, for a movie of this sort.

    Definitely a good movie but be sure what to expect from it.

  • Warning: Spoilers
    Today's review we go back in the day a bit with the 1956 film "I Vampiri". From the title you would assume that this is going to be a vampire movie however what we get is a 1930's/40's style mystery film made in the late 50's, stirred up with some scientific experiments, dead/missing women and some very nice cinematography by none other than Mario Bava (who also helped complete the film in a director's capacity) to make an enjoyable view for those interested in this kind of film.

    The movie starts off with a dead girl found in a river. As we come to find out she is the 4th in a string of recent killings of young women. The killer has been branded "The Vampire" by the police and the press as there appears to be puncture wounds on the dead girls bodies (needle marks). Enter the young newspaper reporter looking for a clues to get the story of the century who is always one step ahead of the police but always appearing to cry wolf when he asks for their assistance.

    The movie goes through several red herrings as it has you to believe that it's one person or another that is doing it however if you've seen enough horror/thrillers and mystery movies you will know that they are obviously the pawns for something greater. You will more than likely figure out what is going on after the first half of the movie however the way the film is set up and the story is delivered you will not care.

    One part horror/ one part mystery/thriller I Vampiri is a solid 50's film. Some things of note, the effects that are used to show the Countess/Giselle are well done. You actually get the since of her "aging" right in front of your eyes. Also the sets are very nice to look at from it's big aboding castle to cemetery sequences (shades of Bava's future film "Black Sunday") all things are of a high standard here.

    Despite all the positive's the movie in its own right may be a little too by the numbers. Though I enjoyed it and would recommend at least a rental of this film, it really does not break any new ground, which some will find a bit disappointing. I on the other hand liked this film and think that fans of Bava and old mystery/thrillers will have a good time with this one. My score for I Vampiri:

    6/10: above average.

    Yes you may have seen this kind of thing before but with above average production values among other things, this is a highly recommended rental and for fans of this sub genre a purchase. Just another reason why Bava is so revered by the Horror/Thriller community.

    Until next time, when dating a girl know matter how young she looks, ask her age she may be essence stealing grandmother super freak...GM Out!!
  • Michael_Elliott29 February 2008
    Vampiri, I (1956)

    ** (out of 4)

    Riccardo Freda directed horror film about the police investigation into the discovery of several dead women whose bodies have been drained of blood. Today this film is best remembered as being the first Italian horror film of the sound era as well as being the first film directed by Mario Bava who took the chair after Freda walked away from the project. As with many other Gothic horror films, this one looks nice but while trying to create atmosphere, the director(S) seemed to have forgotten the story, which isn't too interesting. Like many others, the film also features way too much talk, which gets tiresome after a while. The cinematography by Bava is certainly the highlight. Paul Muller has a small role.
  • This is a good film directed by Riccardo Freda who sometimes signed his names as Robert Hampton. Although in the headlines the make up is by Francesco Freda, it is clear there is a collaboration of M. Bava especially as regard the transformation of Gisele Du Grand, that is simply fantastic. She begins old within three seconds all in the same frame. It was an excellent example of visual effects. Unfortunately the film was a disaster from the economic point of view due to secondary unknown actors, except G. M. Canale in the role of Gisele Du Grand. Somebody said she was Freda's girlfriend in the sixties.

    Although the story is set in Paris many scenes have been shot in the studios. Freda was a good director but as many Italians he had few resources available. It is important to remember him for "I giganti della Tessaglia" too, that inspired Don Chaffey's "Jason and the Argonauts", but unfortunately he sank low with horror B films in the sixties. As it often happens the film was dubbed in post production with the following voices: Police inspector: E. Cigoli, Pierre the journalist: G. Locchi, Laurette's father: G. De Angelis
  • Women of the same blood type are found dead and drained of their blood. The journalist Pierre Lantin (Dario Michaelis) begins to investigate but his findings r rebuked n laughed at by inspector Chantal (Carlo D'Angelo). Lantin is reassigned from following the murder story and is set to cover a ball at the castle of Du Grand. At the castle, he meets Gisele (Gianna Maria Canale).... This is a very tame horror film when it comes to shock or other stuff but nonetheless it has a goomy feel, decaying setting, especially the castle with secret passages, trapdoors, crypts, skeletons, cobwebs n hell lottuva skulls. I first saw this in the early 90s on a vhs. Revisited it recently.
  • Bezenby3 February 2018
    I found out through painstaking research (reading it on the internet) that this is the first Italian horror film of the sound era, and that director Freda walked off set and left Mario Bava to finish the film. A bunch of girls have turned up dead throughout town, with all their blood drained from them. The cops are baffled, but a young plucky, happy go lucky jerk journalist is out to make a name for himself and catch the killer. He keeps being hit on by a young Duchess as their families are historically linked somehow, but he's not interested (his mate is though). Little does the guy know that the killings are somehow linked to the Duchess's castle, and it's all going to come to a head.

    Actually the film starts of kind of like a giallo. The victims are killed in a strange way that leaves the police baffled. There's a few suspects that leads to the actual culprit who is a mystery to the viewer. There's even a bit of sleuthing on the part of the journalist. Things then slide into gothic horror territory, what with the creepy castle with the mood lighting and secret passages.

    This is a very good looking film thanks to Bava, who even at this early stage seems to be a master of visual composition and lighting. I don't know who did the 'aging' effects either, but it's the true standout of this film and had me wondering how they hell they managed to do that back in the fifties. Other than that, it did strike me as a little dull. A good looking little dull film with some good special effects that was first out of the gate. This is a dull review too. Some people love it though, so don't listen to me.

    Paul Muller was good in it as the junky guy though, and at the age of ninety-five, he still walks this Earth. Unless he died years ago and someone in his family is claiming his pension.
  • The historical context surrounding I Vampiri is undoubtedly more praiseworthy than the actual film, but this collaboration between two of Italy's top directors, Mario Bava and Riccardo Freda, is an excellent slice of Gothic horror. I Vampiri is often credited as being the film that kicked off Italian horror cinema, and it also provided the first directorial credit for Mario Bava; a household name for anyone that loves their cult films. Bava apparently stepped in to shoot this film after it began to overrun its schedule, but it seems obvious that Bava was the main man in charge as his trademarks are all over it. The great director is most famous for his gorgeous cinematography, so it will come as no surprise that the film looks fantastic, and that along with Bava's use of lighting and general ingenuity where special effects are concerned help to mask the low budget and rushed production schedule. The plot follows the discovery of a series of bodies that are found completely drained of blood. The bodies have been drained by a mad scientist, who uses them to keep an aging duchess looking youthful.

    The plot takes obvious influence from classic horror stories such as the tale of Elizabeth Bathory, and this is excellently complimented by the thick and foreboding Gothic atmosphere. Despite having the word 'Vampiri' in its title, the film doesn't feature any bloodsucking or shape shifting, and that is most likely the reason why the film was such a commercial failure in its homeland. The fact that the title doesn't really fit is of no concern to me, however, as the plot that does exist more than adequately makes up for it; and while the productions problems are evident in the way that the plot moves sluggishly at times and the characters aren't too interesting, there is always more than enough to keep horror fanatics interested. The standout sequence sees the duchess at the centre of the tale age before our eyes. Bava recycled this technique from earlier films such as Rouben Mamoulian's masterpiece adaptation of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and that sequence really shows the director's ingenuity. The central location is an old Gothic castle, and by keeping the action centred on it; Bava creates just the right atmospheric tone for the film. Overall, I can't say that this film completely lives up to it's billing as one of the most important horror films ever; but it's place in history is assured and it's a nice film to boot.
  • This is an Italian film that starts off about a serial killer who is responsible for a number of murders in Paris. As more and more bodies wash up along the Seine- drained of blood, with no signs of a struggle- people start to think it is the work of a vampire.

    Both the local police and a journalist, are on the case...trying to track down the identity of the killer, responsible for this string of murders.

    It seems like someone has been exploiting local drug addicts- offering them their fix, in return for nefarious the abduction of young women.

    And they seem to have their eyes set on a young school girl named Loretta, for their next victim.

    Loretta has a thing for the journalist, who has been using her to follow the story. But so does the niece of the local Duchess...and she isn't willing to take no for an answer.

    She uses her position to demand he be sent by the paper to cover her social gathering. But he's not too into it.

    Apparently their families go way back. Her aunt, the Duchess, was in love with his father- who also rejected her.

    Turns out the Duchess has been forcing a cabal of mad scientists- who have been searching for the secret of immortality- to kidnap young women and drain them of their blood...for that is what she needs, in order to retain her beauty and youthful vitality.

    It was these doctors, who have been using drug addicts to abduct the dead young women, for they possessed the beauty- and blood type- she requires.

    Now, it's up to the journalist to break the story before they take their next victim.

    The scenery, set design, and mise en scene in this film are absolutely stunning. It's really a beautifully shot film.

    And it's way ahead of it's time. The story is essentially based on the same model as things like The Strain are today.

    The special effects in the transformation scenes are also insane. It really seems like she is going from being somewhat youthful to being elderly...without the camera ever cutting away! Which is really f*cking impressive for a film from 1956.

    The ending is a bit humorous...but it works to tie up all the loose ends. So no complaints there.

    This is such a great film! A hidden gem from Bava et al.

    Highly recommended.

    8 out of 10.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is, in fact, the Gothic horror film which kicked off the new cycle of worldwide horrors in a cycle which lasted approximately fifteen years. Usually, Hammer's THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN is singled out as being the first, but Freda's Italian chiller has it beaten by a whole month. Although lacking in the style and finesse - not to mention the coldly compelling beauty - of later Italian Gothic chillers, for example Freda's own TERRIBLE SECRET OF DR. HICHCOCK, THE VAMPIRES is nonetheless an influential and enjoyable little B-movie in its own right.

    While the early editing and camera-work seem a little crude (things progressed a lot in a short space of time, believe me) this is still enjoyable viewing. The only real difference with later Italian - and British - gothics is the modern setting, which makes way for some incongruous ballroom dancing and hard-nosed policemen investigating the case; these moments sit oddly with the spooky castle in which the "vampire" lives. Storywise, this is another take on the legend of Elizabeth Bathory which later inspired COUNTESS Dracula and others; this time, with the cold edge of science it's a mad doctor who drains blood from the innocent rather than the duchess herself.

    The film starts as it means to go on with a beautiful woman, dressed in sexy lingerie, undressing even further - no doubt controversial in the day. This film holds no bars in its depiction of the murders and capture of young women, shot in a distinctly "in your face" style which drags you right in there with the action. The photography by Mario Bava shows traces of the style and beauty he would fill his films with later on; the iconic Bava also incidentally directed part of this film himself after Freda left after ten days of shooting, no doubt due to those "creative differences". Indeed there are also shots of a black-gloved killer here that would later figure predominantly in the works of both Bava and Dario Argento.

    Although the Paris setting is unconvincing and the police investigation somewhat listless, THE VAMPIRES works best when showing the action in the castle. Staple props like skeletons, coffins, rats, and flickering candles are used well; they may be clichés but they certainly account for the right kind of gloomy atmosphere. The special effects are limited to scenes of the duchess reverting back to her real age but these are done with surprising efficiency; no cut-aways or dissolves, just portrayed as is. The finale is properly action-packed and horrific, the running time short and unpadded. Although this movie is far surpassed by the Gothic horrors of the early '60s in terms of quality, it still remains a watchable B-movie item which has a place in the genre's history.
  • morrison-dylan-fan16 October 2015
    Warning: Spoilers
    Taking a look at the extras on Arrow's marvellous DVD of auteur director Mario Bava's Black Sabbath,I was thrilled to find that the first ever surviving Italian Gothic Horror film, (with all that remains of the Eugenio Testa 1920 movie The Monster of Frankenstein sadly being just a few production photos)had been included as a bonus feature,which led to me getting ready for the iVamp.

    The plot:

    As a number of women are found left dead in the rivers of Paris,the police are horrified to discover that each of them appears to have been completely drained of blood.With the country being gripped in the terror of a serial killer walking the streets,investigating journalist Pierre Lantin decides that he will do the polices work,and try to track down the killer.

    Whilst discovering from the autopsy reports that each victim was drained of their blood via needles, Lantin finds himself having to withstand romantic advances from Giselle du Grand,who is the daughter of elusive countess Duchess Du Grand.Getting asked by Giselle about why he is constantly turning her down,Lantin reveals that he does not want to make the same mistakes that his dad made,who got left with a broken heart by Duchess.Investigating the last sightings of each victim,Lantin uncovers a photo of a man covering his face shortly before the victim was to "disappear."After running into a group of students who recognise the man in the photo,Lantin begins to notice that a lot of activity appears to suddenly be taking place in the old castle that Duchess Du Grand lives in.

    View on the film:

    For the first attempt at a Italian Gothic Horror,the film was faced with a number of stiff challenges,from the producers giving just 12 days to shoot the movie,to director Riccardo Freda quitting due to only having filmed half the script in 10 days,which led to cinematographer Mario Bava taking over to complete the film in the remaining 2 days,that ended up bombing at the box office. Despite the behind the scenes nightmare,Bava & Freda deliver a chilling Gothic Horror with strong hints towards the Giallo genre of the future.

    Opening up the Du Grand castle,Freda & Bava scan the location with elegant tracking shots which open each compartment to reveal the strange events taking place.Casting the long shadow of the Du Grand castle across the screen,Bava and Freda cook up a chilling Film Noir atmosphere,by covering Lantin's face in a rich darkness,which also gives the spellbinding in-camera special effects a nerve-wrecking tension.

    Getting extensively re-written by Bava during the final 2 days of production,the screenplay by Bava/Piero Regnoli & Rijk Sijöstrom is a surprisingly solid work,thanks to the writers giving the Gothic Horror elements a creepy calmness,as Lantin finds himself to be the only one prepared to face the horrors that the cops are desperate to keep unpeeled.Keeping a light grip on the Gothic Horror edges,the writers superbly dip the title into early Giallo waters,by making Lantin's search for the murderer involve precise clue gathering,and stealth investigating over what is taking place in the Du Grand castle.Crossing the Giallo over with the mad scientist Gothic Horror,the writers smartly make each discovery that Lantin makes be one which sinks him deeper into the Du Grand's shrieks,as Lantin discovers the "I" in VampIre.
  • Considered, the first post-war Italian horror film, this is quite an achievement. The story creaks a bit but this 50+ year old movie looks astonishingly good. Full on Gothic horror photographed by Mario Bava and finished off by him when director Freda did a wobbly and left the project. Gianna Maria Canale makes for a beautiful and majestic Duchesse, until, of course, she starts to loose it. Set in Paris, though I don't believe a frame was shot outside Italy, Bava already being most adept at mattes and general smoke and mirrors to achieve anything from Montmartre street scenes to scary woods, not to mention the fantastic castle interiors, complete with very spooky shadows. I understand Bava also supervised the amazing aging special effects that would now, of course, simply be achieved with CGI and not in camera as here.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Besides being marvelously entertaining, 1956's "I Vampiri" is also an historically important film, and for two reasons. First, it was the very first Italian horror film of the sound era (I have never been able to precisely ascertain WHY the Fascists saw fit to put a ban on this type of entertainment in the 1930s, but the effects of the clampdown were far-reaching indeed). And second, and perhaps just as historic, it was the film that saw the first bits of direction from the great Mario Bava, a longtime director of photography and special effects technician who, as the story goes, filled in for director Riccardo Freda, shooting half the film in the final two days of its allotted 12-day production schedule! Freda was apparently quite pleased with his 42-year-old DOP's first attempt in the director's chair, as he gave Bava another chance to pinch-hit for him three years later, in the exciting horror film "Caltiki, the Immortal Monster" (an Italian variant of "The Blob," which had been released the year before). Bava's first go as the official director of a film came the following year, with 1960's "Black Friday," one of the eternal glories of Italian horror--heck, of horror cinema as a whole--and the rest, as they say, is history. Anyway, I labored under two misconceptions before finally sitting down to watch "I Vampiri" recently. In my ignorance, I had long thought that its title translated to "I, Vampire," whereas of course it translates to "The Vampires." My other incorrect assumption may perhaps be more easily excused: I had always thought that the picture dealt with your average caped and coffin-inhabiting neck noshers, whereas the vampires on display here are decidedly of a different ilk.

    In the film, which transpires in modern-day Paris, and not Italia (another expectation dashed!), four young women have been found, dead and exsanguinated, over a six-month period. When the latest of the "Vampire Killer"'s victims is fished out of the Seine, hunky-dude reporter Pierre Lantin (played by Dario Michaelis) redoubles his efforts to track down the fiend. He is hampered in those efforts by the persistent and unwanted attentions of the beautiful Giselle du Grand (exquisitely played by Gianna Maria Canale), niece of the mysterious, elderly and veiled recluse the Duchess du Grand, who inhabits the local castle. By employing some old-fashioned detective work--and while irritating to distraction the police officer on the case, Insp. Chantal (Carlo D'Angelo)--Lantin is able to track his bloodsucker down...only to find that it is like nothing he'd been expecting....

    Fast moving and intelligently scripted, more startling than scary, "I Vampiri" dishes out some truly genuine surprises. For this viewer, the dawning realization as to the vampire's true nature came around 2/3 of the way in, right before the big reveal, and it really is a doozy, I must say. Most impressively, the transformation of the vampire from something seemingly normal into something more shocking (I am trying valiantly not to be guilty of spoilers here) is accomplished with no stop-motion photography or other tricks of the cinematic trade; a wig, a change of vocal timbre, and a flash of decayed teeth do the job quite nicely. Some very effective work here by Freda and Bava, and I might add that the acting in the film is quite fine, too, down to the smallest bit parts. The film mixes in Gothic elements (which would be a mainstay of Italian horror cinema in the early to mid-'60s) with more modern styles, and Bava's lensing of the duchess' palace, with its moldering crypt, exquisite ballroom and shadowy passageways, is a thing of great and dismal beauty, prefiguring his work in "Black Sunday." Shot in B&W and CinemaScope, the film looks just fantastic, with Bava proving yet again what a master he was at employing light and shadow. (How impressive the film must have looked on the cinema screen back when, and how surprising the fact that the picture was NOT an instant success!) One odd note here: the score by Roman Vlad, which, especially during the action sequences, almost sounds more suitable for a Flash Gordon sci-fi serial. But other than this, the film works just fine; a levelheaded entertainment that holds up splendidly well almost 60 years after its premiere. Freda, after this film, would go on to direct not only "Caltiki," but two pictures starring the so-called "Queen of Horror," Barbara Steele: "The Horrible Dr. Hichcock" and "The Ghost." As for Bava, after getting his feet wet here, he soon embarked on one of the most important directing careers in Italian cinema history. Nice to realize, though, that "I Vampiri" is far from just a dry, historic relic; it is a genuinely fun film that should surely please all fans of the Euro horror genre....
  • adriangr22 February 2012
    Warning: Spoilers
    What a find this was, I had read and seen articles on "I Vampiri" before, but never seen that I have, I am very impressed. The film is fairly simple, and is modestly told, but with style, atmosphere and simple, good cinematography, it succeeds.

    Plot is as is 1950s, black and white France. Local girls are disappearing then turning up dead with all their blood drained away. Police and the local press investigate, but it takes a some luck and freak connections to uncover what is going on. Unsurprisingly a family of aristocrats who inhabit a large ornate castle seem to be most heavily implicated...surely the frail and elderly "duchess" who is never seen without her veil couldn't be a prime suspect...could she? Although the action is not intense or gory, I still found the film very enjoyable. For a film with "vampire" in the title, there is a total lack of blood, biting or fangs to be seen. Instead it's more like a murder mystery film. The main characters are a reporter and his semi-girlfriend, a stunning lady who happens to be a younger member of the rich family, and a policeman who is doing his best to catch the killer. The Cinemascope format really enhances the appealing black and white photography - watching this in full screen would surely ruin it. The sets and decor are also fantastic, especially scenes set in the castle and several decaying apartments and chambers. The acting of the male leads is not that impressive, but the girl victims and in particular the gorgeous Gianna Maria Canale (as the young aristocrat) perform very well.

    There's a really good twist about halfway through the story, which I won't reveal, but it is the standout moment of the film - a character suddenly ages rapidly on camera without cuts or dissolves. This incredible effect is repeated twice more and on each of the three occasions I reversed and watched the scene again just to marvel at how good it looked. According to excellent UK magazine "is It UNCUT", the process was "a secret for many years" and I am not even going to explain it, as it is better if you don't guess how they did it. Most viewers today probably will work it out, but I can imagine it perplexed many moviegoers who caught saw it in 1959.

    Do yourself a favour and track this movie down. Apparently it was not a big success on it's release, so we should be thankful for the new Image Entertainment DVD release which presents a beautiful widescreen version of the film. Definitely recommended.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Yet another drive-in classic that played for years across America on the top or bottom of double feature (or even triple feature) bills. The plot has to do with the kidnapping of women in order to supply blood to keep an vampiric countess alive. To be certain the film's plot is nothing new. Its been ripped off a couple of dozen or more times since its release and its also the sort of thing that wasn't exactly new when it was made. What it does have is some really great photography that sets the tone perfectly. Its also well acted by a cast that sells the material. It all comes together to make a really good movie thats perfect for those dark and stormy nights when you want to curl up under the covers and eat popcorn.
  • There is not a whole lot more that I can add to many of the very thought-provoking entries already listed. I will; however; reiterate. This film, for all purposes, is a Mario Bava film, and if you have seen any of that director's masterful direction then that will be self-evident. The Gothic feel. The fluttering drapes. The serialization killing. Pretty girls being killed/abducted. A castle. A duchess tired of the weary effects of aging enlists the help of some of her friends both willingly and some not so free with their time to help her with her distressing problems. The film opens with deaths being done by, what the newspapers call, a vampire. Bava then has a newsman follow the leads and what we get is one eerie, creative, beautiful film with all the aforementioned trademarks of what will be the very foundation of the Italian horror film of the next two decades. Ricardo Freda was the original director and his influence is evident as well, but Bava finished the film. The acting is all very solid, but the atmosphere is on center stage. the scene with the castle hallways, the dungeons, the laboratory, and the death scenes are all wonderfully shot. This is a must for the student of the horror genre and anyone interested in either Freda's work and more importantly that of Mario Bava.
  • Scarecrow-8814 December 2008
    Warning: Spoilers
    This may have Ricardo Freda's name in the credits as director, but to me this is a Mario Bava film. His stylistic and thematic signatures which make his films so wonderfully unique are on display from start to finish. The camera work and how massive spaces are shot with characters within the middle of the frame and the way modern stories exist within Gothic trappings. The giallo characteristics are also here in how an amateur sleuth( this case the heroic investigator who doggedly pursues the truth putting his life and career in possible risk is a journalist)hits the streets trying to find the killer/kidnapper of young teenagers left dumped in the Siene, their blood drained. Paris is the setting for this chiller instead of Rome which is usually the location where these stories often take place. Although I'm sure many will feel duped by the film not adhering to the traditional vampiristic themes horror fans are accustomed to, I felt the film features enough atmospheric and macabre flourishes to entertain.

    I'm afraid, though, many will become bored with the detective side of this movie because the pursuit is given as much credence to the plot as the ghoulish acts performed on innocent people in order for an elderly duchess, Giselle du Grand(Gianna Maria Canale, yet another absolutely beautiful Italian, proving that something must've been in the water during this time to produce so many glamorous, striking women) consumed with retrieving her beauty so she can get her hands on a second generation of Lantin(Dario Michaelis, the sleuth Pierre often at odds with his superior at the newspaper and the police operating the case), to keep her youth. The duchess, who loses her beauty returning to the old woman she really is after the experiments providing such vitality wear off, uses the love of brilliant scientist, Dr. Julien du Grand(Antoine Balpêtré)who adores her to the point he'd do anything for her, as a means to regain her youth. It's an obsession with repercussions, of course, as continuing to supply her with youth means kidnapping teenagers off the street, extracting their blood, and opening the possibility of getting caught in the act sooner or later. Unfortunate for Gisele(..a created niece of the true Duchess who masquerades as this alias to trick everyone)Pierre loathes high society types and the aristocracy, resisting her advances at every turn. His partner, photographer Ronals Fontaine(Angelo Galassi), however, worships her, he's quite transfixed to the point where he would stare at her from behind her windows, almost a stalking peeper. He ultimately comes to a tragic end when he sees who Gisele really is after attempting to seduce her despite constant rejections. Pierre's true motivation for pursuing the case, besides the publicity it brings his newspaper and himself, is a kidnapped schoolgirl, Lorrette(Wandisa Guida), a friend of the murdered girl in the Sienne he had questioned and become friendly with. Paul Muller, a Jess Franco vet, has an important supporting role as junkie Joseph Signoret whose habit is used against him when ordered by his supplier, Dr. Julien du Grand, to kidnap girls. His fate is sealed when he threatens to expose du Grand and the duchess, strangled by the scientist's assistant. The scientist makes a devastating mistake when he uses Signoret's dead corpse as a guinea pig for "life reviving" experiments, hoping to restore vitality to a body that is dead and inert. The consequences for this decision really come back to haunt them. Carlo D'Angelo portrays Inspector Chantal who becomes increasingly agitated at Pierre who seems to be leading them on a wild goose chase, and are critical of his techniques and desire for creating publicity.

    This has certain aspects often associated with early Bava I love. The duchess' castle is sprawling with a giant family crest that rests above the fireplace(..which has a secret passageway leading to the family chapel), a chapel containing decorative skulls-n-bones above the supposed crypt of scientist du Grand who faked his death so that he could work in secret and specifically for the duchess, a spiral staircase, curtains that are always in motion by the wind, and a superb shot of light splintering through trees as a car pulls up(..there's also a great silhouetted shot of du Grand and his scientist working from the outside of his lab as a frightened Signoret awaits them). As expected, Bava also has inspired ways of shooting faces using interesting camera techniques not often seen at this time. Quite an unheralded sleeper which might gain an enthusiastic following through it's release on DVD. The superb age-changing sequences where you can not actually see the dissolve as in times past are simply a splendor to behold. This is a real gem worth pursuing if you are a fan of classic Italian horror.
  • No, no, NO! Just when the ice was starting to thaw on my indifference toward Mario Bava, I pop in "I Vampiri" (on which he retains an unofficial co-director credit) only to be reminded why I thought his films were boring and pretentious in the first place. I don't care how influential a work is--if it bores me, it bores me, and will take a hit as a result. The credited culprit behind the camera of "I Vampiri" is Riccardo Freda (though, for all practical purposes, the film's mood and appearance is pure Bava), and even though he finds a (then-) fresh spin on the classic vampire lore (that would be extended in George Romero's "Martin"), it can't help this film from going terminal in the ever-important Interest Department. So an old woman lives in a moodily-lit and -furnished mansion. So a younger woman occasionally shows up. So a scientist's death is faked so he can carry out vaguely-defined experiments on a local smack addict. So what? "I Vampiri" (translation: "The Vampires") aims for atmospheric shocks and mood, but underneath the decent plot and excellent photography lies a film that has very little to offer, save for a bunch of forgettable characters and a lot of talk. And perhaps I'm being a jerk, but is influence alone reason enough to hail a film? Bava fared much better with the colorized Gothic stylings of "Kill Baby Kill" and "The Whip and the Body," plus the contemporary haunted-house/possession flick, "Shock" (one of the finest in the genre)--seek those out instead. "I Vampiri," well, kinda sucks.
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