From The Pile: Fangs Of The Living Dead (1969)

AUGUST 25, 2021


The title seemed familiar, so I checked twice to make sure I hadn't already seen/reviewed Fangs of the Living Dead (aka Malenka) on the site before I opened the still wrapped disc from the endless "Pile" (now an overfilled box) with the intent of watching it, reviewing it, and - unless it was great - sending it to the *other* box, the one full of discs that are waiting to be traded in on a literal rainy day*. "I don't want to have another Killer Nun situation on my hands," I thought, before starting the film and discovering that it actually starred the Nun herself, Anita Ekberg. I found that pretty amusing.

Most things are more amusing than the film, as it turns out, as it's pretty much a total snooze. It was the first horror film for Amando de Ossorio, who found success a few years later with the Tombs of the Blind Dead films but hadn't quite found his groove yet (some would argue he never did; his name is certainly not one that inspires me to watch his entire filmography), though he's not entirely to blame for the film's lapses. Apparently no one could decide whether to make a fully serious horror movie or a lighthearted one with comedy akin to the recent (and successful) Fearless Vampire Killers, but even if they did settle that before shooting began, de Ossorio is no Polanski, so I don't think that switcheroo was the only reason the movie doesn't really work.

It's also far too chaste compared to what else we had at the time; it's nearly bloodless, the women don't show off a lot of skin (forget about actual nudity), and the ending can't even bring itself to kill off the hero's horny pal - a character who seemingly only exists to be pointy teeth fodder. Nothing wrong with dialing things back and aiming for a more atmospheric and suspenseful take on the subject matter (which is more or less just Dracula), but de Ossorio isn't exactly delivering on those fronts either, so it's just kind of sitting there like a wet fart for large chunks of its runtime. The only time it really comes to life is in the last half hour, when the town's doctor (Carlos Casaravilla) takes a more active role in the proceedings as a sort of Van Helsing type, but one who has looked the other way on the vampire villain's evil deeds.

As for the villains, well... their whole story doesn't make any sense really, as part of the plot reveal (spoiler for 50+ year old movie ahead) is that they're not actually vampires, though the main one's demise is straight up vampire stuff. So were they lying about lying about being vampires? And why wait until the end of the movie to tell us this when nothing much has happened? Do it earlier and then spring something more interesting on us for the finale instead of an endless scene of the guy's body turning into a husk after being staked. To be fair though, there's another ending where that doesn't happen, and it's presented on the disc as a bonus feature, but it's in the original Spanish language so his not-dying monologue is a mystery to my ears. That ending also gives everyone a happy ending, except for perhaps the hero's buddy, who is now a vampire himself (huh?) and sends us off while comically chasing after a frightened woman. Hilarious!

Honestly the highlight of the disc is the commentary by Troy Howarth, who thankfully doesn't think too much of the movie himself and spares us 90 minutes of defending it. Instead he runs through the filmographies and careers of its players as you'd expect, but also gives some interesting historical background on Spain at the time, operating under Generalissimo Francisco Franco (at that time, *not* dead), as this was one of the first horror films produced by the country. He also notes a few interesting tidbits, such as the fact that a character's name of Vladis was NOT a little nod to Vlad the Impaler, as I assumed while watching, as the connection between Vlad and Dracula was not introduced until a few years later. That sort of stuff is why I always listen to the historian tracks even if I don't like the movie; might as well learn something rather than write the whole thing off as a loss.

But hey, sometimes the discs from the pile end up being worth keeping, which doesn't help me in my never-ending attempt to pare the collection down. I have no desire to keep this one, so thanks for kind of sucking, movie! That's a quarter inch of horizontal space I don't have to find on the permanent shelf!

What say you?

*I started taking walks on my lunch break in an attempt to shed a few pandemic pounds, so that eats up the time I have to go across town and give the box to some weird dude at a CD/movie store and come up with some random amount of cash to give me for it. But if it rains? I will stay dry, and RAKE IN THAT TRADE-IN CASH!


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