After watching the film The Vampire (1957), I thought something misleading with the title, specifically the fact there appeared to be no actual vampire in the story, at least none that I could see...oh, there was a monster type character, but his characteristics aligned him more towards another famous film monster of the past, one which I'll talk about later...written by Pat `Left' Fielder (The Monster That Challenged the World, "Baretta"), and directed by Paul Landres ("Studio 57", Last of the Badmen, "77 Sunset Strip"), the film features John Beal (The Cat and the Canary, Edge of Darkness), along with Coleen Gray (Kansas City Confidential, The Leech Woman), and Kenneth Tobey (The Thing From Another World, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, It Came from Beneath the Sea). Also appearing is Lydia Reed ("The Real McCoys"), James Griffith (The Amazing Transparent Man), well known character actors, particularly to television viewers, Herb Vigran (Bedtime for Bonzo, "Gunsmoke"), and Dabbs Greer ("Gunsmoke", It! The Terror from Beyond Space, White Lightning).
Prior to that actual start of the film, there's a goofy bit of badly damaged footage with creepy sound effects blaring in the background, featuring a man in a lab coat with `Mad Doctor' printed on the breast pocket (just because your coat states you're a mad doctor doesn't make it true). Anyway, he goes into what's supposed to be a spooky, little spiel, one in which he comes off as a mix between Vincent Price and Charles Nelson Reilly (closer to the latter)...after a couple of minutes of this we kick into the film proper as we see a delivery boy dropping off some live animals in a box to a creepy looking house. No one seems to be home, so the boy enters, finds a sickly man, and runs off to get the local medical practitioner Dr. Paul Beecher (Beal). Paul makes the scene, and the man, an experimental scientist, croaks, but not before passing on some pills. Turns out the man was working on some sort of regression experiments with the intent to revert animal minds to a primitive state, the thought being that if we could make animals dumber, we could also make them smarter...or something like that. Well, Paul, who's prone to migraines, accidentally takes one of the pills (oops), which are highly addictive, and soon afterwards various townspeople begin dying of an mysterious ailment, a virus which cause capillary disintegration (this term is used a whole lot throughout the movie). Anyway, turns out this virus is being spread by some sort of maniac, one that the police, including Sheriff Buck Donnelly (Tobey), are unable to catch. As the bodies pile up, Paul comes to realize he's the monster, and begins pushing away those close to him, his nurse assistant (Gray), his daughter, etc., fearing they may become victims of his primitive, uncontrollable, throbbing urges during one of his spells (he vaguely remembers events that take place during his transformations). Eventually things come to a head, as the police close in and Paul tries to put an end to the madness.
After watching this film I couldn't help feel a little cheated...I mean, how can you have a movie called The Vampire and not have any, actual vampires? The creature Paul turned into was more akin to that of a Mr. Hyde character, given his brutish appearance, demeanor, and homicidal tendencies. The creature was certainly ugly, but didn't really exhibit the main feature which one would associate with a vampire, that being fangs (maybe I'm just too old school). The make up job was pretty hokey, as Paul in creature form looked more like a severely sunburned man with bad hair (I think the intent was to have him take on the facial features of a vampire bat, since that was the main extract in the pills). I didn't quite understand the overall purpose of the pills in that it seemed that maybe they were supposed to help keep Paul from turning into a beast, but then they also caused the initial transformation. Actually, the reasoning behind the experiments that generated the pills also seemed unclear. Why focus on regression within animals with the hope of being able to reverse the process and thereby make them smarter? Why not just forgo the regression part and work on the `smarter' part? Seems like a whole lot of extra work to me...overall the performances were decent, and Beal has a really excellent sequence as he's suffering withdrawals, desperately craving his monster pills. I was disappointed with Tobey's relatively bit part in the film, as I thought he was way under utilized. The direction was solid, but the main weakness here was the material, as it was kind of messy and brought about a bit more character development than needed in some areas (the bits with Paul and his daughter could have been removed without any loss to the story). And what was the point of that Henry Winston character, who was sensitive to light, brought in by the university to carry on the work started by the scientist who died at the beginning? The film seemed to go to great lengths to present him as an important character, only to drop him like a rock shortly after his arrival. The funniest part of the movie for me was the sequence when Paul convinced his nurse to break a date (with Tobey's character), so that she may spend the night watching Paul, as he feared if left unattended, he'd kill again. Subsequently the pair go out to a nightclub, have a number of drinks, and just as Paul is about to spill the beans to her about his condition, he gets called away for a medical emergency. Next we see Paul in a hospital operating room, preparing to perform surgery on a patient! Okay, first of all, I thought he was a general practitioner, not a qualified surgeon, but whatever...secondly, who in the world would agree to perform an operation just prior to having a number of alcoholic beverages? There's a lawsuit in there somewhere, maybe more than one...all in all this was a good effort that fell a little short, as there are some decent performances here, the direction handled well, but the main weakness for me was in the sometimes muddled and unnecessary aspects of the story.
The picture quality on this DVD release from Cheezy Flicks Entertainment, presented in fullscreen format, looks decent, albeit a little soft at times. As for the audio, I had no issues with it, as it came through clearly for me. There are a few extras including a handful of previews for films like Horrors of the Black Museum (1959), Robot Monster (1953), The Day of the Triffids (1962), and Baron Blood (1972), all titles which I believe are currently in the public domain, meaning no one studio owns the rights to them, so anyone can release them to DVD, or whatever format they wish. Also included are a handful of old timey intermission shorts, and a sort of hidden feature accessed by clicking on the `V' in the word vampire on the main menu. By doing this you'll bring up nearly eight minutes of 8mm footage of the film The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), which, by the way, is scheduled for a remake in 2006. Where they dug this archaic piece of footage up I'll never known, but it's of extremely poor quality, there's no audio, but it's there.
If I learned anything from this film it's that you shouldn't take pills retrieved by your daughter from your coat without making sure they're the ones you actually want...oh yeah, I think I can go happily the rest of my life without ever hearing the phrases `cell deterioration' and `cellular disintegration' again, given their extensive usage in this movie.