Color, 1971, 90 mins. 14 secs.
Directed by José Luis Madrid
Starring Wal Davis, Barta Barri, Anastasio Campoy, Patricia Loran, Ada Tauler
Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
Boasting one of the most irresistible titles in trash film history, the Spanish shocker The Horrible Sexy Vampire (originally El vampiro de la autopista, or "The Highway Vampire") has been referenced in monster movie books far more than it's actually been seen since its occasionally theatrical appearances into the mid-'70s. Set in Germany and shot in the late '60s in both clothed and unclothed versions per the usual Spanish horror practices at the time, the film took a while to reach the light of a projector and earned a reputation for its numerous and wildly gratuitous scenes of topless nudity. After that it became extraordinarily difficult to see, with only fuzzy bootleg copies floating around until the 2022 Mondo Macabro Blu-ray release that finally presents the film in prime quality in its original scope dimensions.
When a tired couple stops off at a hotel during their road trip, they end up spending the last night of their lives being attacked separately in the bathroom by an invisible menace. The announcement of the title clues us in right off the, ahem, bat that there's a vampire around, something the resourceful coroner (Campoy) deduces from the savage throat wounds on their necks. He and the chief of police (Induni) go to investigate at a nearby castle once belonging to the notorious Baron Winnegar where they fall afoul of the ancient bloodsucker. Enter Count Adolf Oblensky (Waldemar Wohlfahrt, a.k.a. Jess Franco regular Wal Davis from Love Camp and The Other Side of the Mirror ) who wants to put an end to the antics of his undead great-grandfather (also played by Davis with slightly less platinum-color hair). More women getting attacked while trying to take a shower or a bath, so it's up to the Count to fight this occasionally invisible menace and clear the curse of his bloodline.
A very odd viewing experience, The Horrible Sexy Vampire seems like it should be an opulent European chiller with its widescreen photography and sometimes snowy, scenic Stuttgart setting. However, director José Luis Madrid opts for a languid pace with scenes of old men chatting at desks or wandering around with an occasional burst of topless strangulation murder thrown in. (For some reason the fang and blood action here is nonexistent.) It's quite amusing though if you're in the right mood, especially when it comes to the spectacle of a stake-wielding Davis pretending to fight his invisible ancestor by flailing around a room. The film is also a lot more interesting when you bear in mind that high society partier Davis (under his real name) financed the film after being accused by tabloids of a string of highway serial killings, from which he was exonerated and then embarked on a string of lawsuits. He financed this film (thus the otherwise puzzling original title) and even took a stab at becoming a pop star, so no wonder he takes on two roles here as well despite his lack of professional acting experience.
Likely to be a first-time watch for most horror fans with this Blu-ray release, The Horrible Sexy Vampire looks quite nice here courtesy of a "brand new 4K transfer from 35mm materials, digitally restored." Those materials presumably aren't the negative, but it looks much better than ever before here with its earthy color scheme retained here and detail looking satisfactory throughout. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono options include the Spanish and English tracks with optional English subtitles; the actors appear to be speaking Spanish more or less throughout, but it was dubbed after the fact either way. The Spanish track is classier, but the English one is more fun complete with an array of familiar dubbing artists from the period. An audio commentary by David Flint and Adrian J. Smith covers all the bases including the bizarre murder case that sort of led to the film's creation, the various actors (including others with Jess Franco ties), the state of Spanish filmmaking under fascist rule by General Franco at the time, and the merits of the lead actor's performance(s). Also included are a colorful video gallery of the press book and publicity stills (3m52s) and the appropriately lurid English trailer that repeats the main feature's goofy pronunciation of the vampire's name as "Vinegar."
Reviewed on October 3, 2022