Article 3741 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-30-2011
Posting Date: 11-11-2011
Directed by Juan Luis Bunuel
Featuring Michel Piccoli, Liv Ullmann, Ornella Muti
Country: Spain / France / Italy
What it is: Vampire tragedy
When his first wife dies by misadventure, a distraught fourteenth-century nobleman tries unsuccessfully to cope with his loss, even remarrying in the hope that this will help him to forget. He meets a stranger who has the ability of reviving his dead wife, and he gives in to the temptation. The wife returns, but she brings vampirism and the plague in her wake…
Apparently, this horror / art film directed by Luis Bunuel’s son was poorly received in its time, and reportedly even received the dreaded “Bomb” rating in the Maltin guide; I don’t have my copy of the guide handy to double-check. The fact that it sits with a 5.1 rating on IMDB also implies that the movie isn’t particularly well-regarded today. Me, I found myself rather taken with it. Yes, it is rather slow-moving in terms of its horror content, but I see it as more of a drama about the nobleman than a horror movie per se; in fact, it seems to fit the classic definition of a tragedy, wherein a man of high rank is eventually brought to ruin by a tragic flaw, in this case the flaw being the nobleman’s inability to deal with his grief. The first half of the movie deals with the nobleman and his attempt to come to terms with his loss, and we see his resolve to move on gradually deteriorate even to the point where he moves into the crypt with his dead wife. The character who can bring her back to life doesn’t appear until half the movie is over, and it’s only then that the horror content comes into play.
There’s some controversy as to whether the revived dead wife is strictly a vampire or not; some of the user comments on IMDB imply that she merely strangles her victims. I agree she’s not a vampire in the classic sense, but there is something inhuman going on here; the bodies of the children are never found, but actually seem to vanish altogether, and for this reason I don’t mind using the word “vampire” as something of an approximation. I think it’s interesting that she eschews the touch of her husband until she begins murdering children, which seems to revive her sex drive. Many horror fans will be disappointed by the lack of blood and the slow beginning, but those who like interesting characterizations woven in with their movies will find much to like here. I think this one is rather underrated, and deserves a reassessment.