CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1973) – The Dungeon Review!
I looked at Andrew Prine’s film list while doing a review for Terror Circus. While I didn’t care all that much for the film itself I thought that Andrew Prine was great. He had an interesting list of 70’s titles and the only film I recognized seeing on the list was Grizzly. Squares, The Centerfold Girls, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Simon, King Of The Witches and Crypt Of The Living Dead all got added to the queue. Crypt Of The Living Dead has an excruciatingly low IMDB rating of 3.3/10 which seems rather unfair. It is not a perfect film by any means, but it certainly has its charms and is actually quite inventive for a film made on a low budget. It also features a great cast of B-movie regulars Mark Damon, Patty Shepard, Teresa Gimpera and of course the aforementioned Andrew Prine!
A man in robes is performing a ritual in a tomb. An older man is searching through the graveyard the same evening and is blind-sided and pushed into a hole. The hole leads to the very crypt our robed man is in. The older man is easily overpowered, knocked unconscious and his body is placed under the massive marble tomb. Robe and his henchman bash the legs out of the structure causing it to fall and crush the man. We leave the crypt and watch as a younger man pulls up in a boat wearing a suit, and carrying a briefcase. The man is Chris Bolton who has come to the island to deal with his father’s remains. Turns out that the older man killed in the crypt was Chris’ archeologist father, Professor Bolton. The Crypt itself belongs to a princess known only as Hannah. Legend has it that she is a vampire and that she lies inside her tomb perfectly preserved. Once upon a time she became shipwrecked on the island and infected the entire population. Eventually her fiancée arrives but when he finds her in her vampiric state he is forced to kill all her minions, but cannot bring himself to kill the beautiful Hannah herself. He instead, buries her alive in the tomb with a warning “For the peace of the dead, and for the sake of the living, let no one disturb this tomb!” Chris mocks the legend and insists on finding a way to move the crypt and give his father a proper burial. He constructs a pulley system and with a small group of men, he manages to lift the lid from the tomb. The woman inside is indeed well-preserved and when disconcerting events begin to occur on the island Chris must come to terms with what he has unleashed on the villagers and help destroy it.
Crypt of The Living Dead is quite tame compared to other vampire flicks from the decade. There is none of the nudity, lesbianism or hysterics you find in most European titles. The film has dual directing credits for American Ray Danton and Spain’s Julio Salvador but was shot in Turkey. The story is a little silly really, but I have to give them credit for at least trying to mix things up a bit. Our vampire Hannah is able to shape shift and can disappear into a self-made mist. There is a great scene where Hannah has transformed into a wolf and eaten a dog and they show a shot of her back in her tomb appearing quite sated with just a little bit of blood on her bottom lip. Hannah’s finale is very memorable and is the highlight of the entire film! The film has a great horror movie setup with Chris Bolton arriving on the bleak, gray island getting the cold shoulder from the local population. The trouble is it takes quite a while to get going and the film drags a bit through the middle. It has a nice atmosphere and mood thanks to its great setting and the well-used crypt but the acting at times messes with this vibe.
The locals are at their best when they are silently watching, judging or disapproving and some of these scenes are quite effective. The problems came when they started speaking in their badly dubbed voices. Some of their dialog is quite bad. At one point one of the locals repeats the same sentence twice in a row which really gave my husband and I a good chuckle. Other lines like “she’s 700 years smart” don’t help its cause. The dialog and stone-faced performances did add a certain amount of camp that did make us laugh at times so it’s not all bad. The films best performances come from Patty Shepard and Mark damon who play sister and brother Mary and Peter. Mary played by Patty Shepard is a very serious young woman who knows better than to balk at local legends. She is also quite attractive and plays the love interest to Andrew Prine’s character Chris Bolton. Why she falls for Bolton is a bit of a mystery though as he is kind of abrasive, bossy and a little whiny. In any case, she delivers her lines with conviction and is quite likeable. Mark Damon really steals the show here as Peter though. Of course, he has the meatiest role in the film but he plays it with such fervor and enthusiasm it’s hard not to take notice. His gradual personality change from polite and subtle, to feverish to simply mad is just a shitload of fun. Teresa Gimpera who plays Hannah doesn’t speak in the film, but visually she is a perfect vamp. Andrew Prine was actually my least favourite character in the film. As mentioned, he is a pretty abrasive guy and spends a lot of time barking orders or loudly giving his opinion about this and that. In fairness, his father did just die but he definitely carries with him an air of arrogance that is just unsavory.
It is unfortunate that the film lags in the middle as it is quite a bit of fun at times and it has good performances from the leads, a great setting and some creative effects for a tight budget. The acting and dubbing of the minor characters is pretty bad but it did add a certain camp appeal to the film and wasn’t completely without its charms. It was a little more “PG” than I expect from 70’s cinema but it’s entertaining enough to recommend. Yeah, I actually liked Crypt Of The Living Dead and I certainly don’t think it deserves its ridiculously low IMDB rating. Recommended.
Dungeon Rating: 3/5
Directed By: Julio Salvador and Ray Danton
Starring: Andrew Prine, Patty Shepard, Mark Damon, Frank Braña, Ihsan Gedik, Teresa Gimpera, Edward Walsh, Jack La Rue Jr., John Alderman, Shera Osman, Jem Osmanoglu, Mariano García Rey