UK film (1958). Eros Films UK/Universal-International US. Produced by Robert S Baker and Monty Berman. Directed by Henry Cass. Written by Jimmy Sangster. Cast includes Vincent Ball, Victor Maddern, Barbara Shelley and Sir Donald Wolfit. 87 minutes. Colour.
Transylvania, 1874: the alleged Vampire Dr Callistratus (Wolfit) is staked through the heart by the usual mob of villagers. His body is recovered by his traditionally hunchbacked assistant Carl (Maddern). Another doctor transplants a new heart into Callistratus, returning the Mad Scientist to life, but leaving him suffering from a blood disorder. As head of an asylum for the criminally insane – dramatically located in a castle – Callistratus makes experimental use of the inmates in an attempt to produce synthetic blood which will keep him alive. After Dr John Pierre (Ball) is convicted of the death of a patient to whom he had given an experimental blood transfusion, he is sentenced to life imprisonment; Callistratus arranges for him to be transferred to the castle asylum, and makes Pierre a reluctant aide in his experiments. These result in the deaths of a number of inmates who are drained of blood. After an unsuccessful escape attempt, Pierre is reported deceased and kept incommunicado. Nevertheless his girlfriend Madeleine Duval (Shelley) learns where he is, and contrives to be hired at the asylum as a servant. She is found out eventually, but escapes with Pierre from Callistratus' laboratory after a grisly climax which sees the mad doctor and Carl (who has meanwhile fallen in love with Madeleine and comes to her rescue) both slain; Callistratus' ironic fate is to be despatched by a pack of his own vicious guard dogs.
As screenwriter, Sangster tries with considerable success to duplicate the formula for Horror in SF which he used effectively for Hammer Films. Wolfit makes an especially sadistic asylum warden and quasi-vampire, although the film actually features no supernatural elements. [GSt/DRL]
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