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Vampire films have gone through many iterations and styles over the decades: from Bela Lugosi’s classic turn in 1931’s ‘Dracula’, to 70s Hammer Horror films featuring Christopher Lee, to 1994’s ‘Interview With The Vampire,’ the modern day ‘Twilight’ saga and more.
Less celebrated, but nonetheless significant, are the 1960’s bloodsucking tales from Europe and Latin America. These entries offered fresh, lurid takes on the vampire mythos, focusing on the most unnerving aspects of the undead’s unsavory appetites.
With that in mind, let’s look at some notable good vampire movies from the early 60s worth watching before climbing into your coffin at daybreak.
Bava, the godfather of Italian Horror, directed this dark gem about a vampire witch in 16th century Europe (Barbara Steele) sentenced to death for sorcery by her brother.
But before being burned alive (with a spiked mask hammered on her face no less), she casts a curse on her brother’s family, vowing revenge.
And two centuries later, she makes good on her threat, resurrected from the grave (albeit in weakened, decrepit form). She sets out to reclaim her youth by possessing Mia, her doppelganger descendent. But her family won’t go without a fight, leading to a chilling finale.
‘Black Sunday’ was considered extremely gory for its time, so much so that it was banned in the UK for eight years and not released in America until considerable trimming.
It’s a deeply evocative and entertaining tale still capable of raising goosebumps.
Based on the classic Mexican folktale, ‘Curse’ follows Amelia and Jaime (Rosita Arenas, Abel Salazar), a married couple who visit Amelia’s aunt Selma (Rita Macedo) in her old country estate.
But the cordial family trip takes a dark turn: Selma is actually a “crying woman,” a creature of ancient lore capable of vampiric witchcraft. Can Amelia and Jaime escape before they fall under her undead spell?
In many ways, ‘The Curse of the Crying Woman’ is the Latin counterpart to ‘Black Sunday,’ both in story and in atmospheric execution. It’s chilling yet beautiful; a haunting nightmare etched in celluloid.
Predating 1971’s ‘The Omega Man’ and 2007’s ‘I Am Legend’, ‘Last Man’ is the first cinematic adaptation of Richard Matheson’s classic horror novella.
In this story (filmed in Rome, Italy), Vincent Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan, the sole surviving human in a world infested by humans who have turned into nocturnal bloodthirsty beasts from a mysterious plague.
Still grief-stricken by the loss of his family, he spends his days killing and burning the infected hordes as they slumber, and barricading himself in his home at night.
But one day he meets a woman who, while infected, hasn’t fully turned. Working on a vaccine to cure her condition, Morgan becomes hopeful for the first time, thinking they can perhaps cure all afflicted humans.
But his optimism is misplaced, leading into a grim, unsettling finale.
‘Last Man’ combines the vampire and zombie sub-genres, with creatures affected by biological infection versus supernatural causes.
While it’s not as beloved as ‘The Omega Man,’ it has a low-budget, grim charm that influenced George Romero’s horror classic ‘Night of The Living Dead’ along with countless other post-apocalyptic horror films.
Our second Bava entry takes a sci-fi spin on the vampire mythos, when two spaceships crash on a desolate volcanic planet inhabited by parasitic spirits able to reanimate corpses into vampiric killing machines.
Can the survivors of the crash to find a way to stop their ghoulish plan before they take over their spacecraft and head towards Earth?
While ‘Planet of the Vampires’ is a low-budget affair, it has a wonderfully evocative atmosphere, making it a notable predecessor and influencer on Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi horror classic, ‘Alien.’
Starring the titular Mexican wrestling icon, ‘Santos’ features the luchadore superhero battling a horde of female vampires after they abduct a local professor’s daughter.
Their plan? To turn her into an undead bride for “The Evil One”, their devious bloodsucking overlord.
Santos must use his powers of deduction and feats of strength to save her before its too late.
‘Vampire Women’ is a campy delight, with a charm and curious mood that elevates it beyond its B-movie origins while also immortalizing one of the most famous figures in Mexican pop culture.
While foreign vampire films weren’t huge moneymakers upon their release, they would greatly influence future filmmakers.
This has made vampire films an ever malleable and morphing sub-genre, shifting in styles and textures, forever building on the primal template.
And the progression would continue through the 1960s as well: restrictions on sexual and violent content in films were slipping, leading into even more depraved and nightmarish horror films.
Speaking of, stay tuned for my future installment when I’ll be covering Good Vampire Films from the years 1965 to 1970.
In the meantime, I want to hear from you! What vampire films from the 1960s do you feel are hidden gems? Be sure and tell me in the comments.
And be sure to check out itcher lists of 5 Movies like ‘Nosferatu’, ‘Good Vampire Movies From 1985-1990’ as well as the honorable mentions below:
Honorable Mentions: ‘Slaughter of the Vampire’, ‘The Kiss of the Vampire,’ ‘Crypt of the Vampire’, ‘The Playgirl and The Vampire’, ‘Atom Age Vampire’, ‘Black Sabbath’
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