Directed by: Fernando Méndez (El Vampiro)
Starring: Abel Salazar, Ariadna Welter, Germán Robles, Yerye Beirute, Alicia Montoya, Carlos Anciera
The successful 1957 release of El Vampiro was soon followed by a sequel that turned out to be The Vampire's Coffin (El Ataúd del Vampiro) (1958). It boasted the same stars, one of the same writers and, once again, that master of budget-constricted atmosphere director Fernando Méndez. The story is set at some unspecified point after the first film, but it stays fairly faithful to what we saw there. Granted, the isolated hacienda, The Sycamores, seems to have become conveniently close (for purposes of the plot) to Mexico City, and I could swear that ol' Count Lavud (German Robles) had been staked with a chair leg in El Vampiro, and not the small fence post that is now seen protruding from his chest. This round finds our hero, Dr. Enrique Saldívar (producer Abel Salazar), plying his trade in a hospital where our heroine, Marta González (Ariadna Welter), appears to be working as a nurse. (The film is a little unclear on this since she's anxious to get back to her job as a dancer.) Things have been normalized. Enrique has helped Marta get over her trauma of having been nearly vampirized. In fact, he's improbably convinced himself that Lavud wasn't a vampire at all — "just some guy who liked blood."
Well, sir, all that's about to change because his lamebrained co-worker, Dr. Mendoza (Guillermi Orea), has stolen Lavud's coffin with an eye toward studying a vampire (always a good idea). Moreover, he hired some bozo of a thug named Baraza (Yerye Beirute) to do the heavy lifting — an idea that goes sour as soon as Baraza gets a look at that dimestore medallion festooning the Count's shirt front. But wouldn't you know it — the medallion is caught on the stake protruding from the defunct bloodsucker's chest. Since a yahoo like Baraza is unschooled in even the most rudimentary vampire facts, he pulls the stake out of the horizontal gent's chest — with predictable results. Fortunately for the Count, his new slave has connections at a labyrinthian wax museum, which will afford him and his coffin a cozy resting spot. Of course, since vampires are notorious for obsessing over the wrong women, Lavud is once again out to make Marta his bride.
The film's only significant problem is that these new settings just aren't as atmospheric as those of the first film. Still, Méndez gets the good out of what he has, especially in the wax museum — though the broad expanses of hospital corridors with eerie globe lights on their walls are fairly striking. Where the yo-yo bat effects of the first film were actually pretty good, someone got a little overly ambitious in the bat department here — to the point where their airborne antics have some pretty visible wires. One might question just why Lavud (in all his comic opera sartorial splendor) fails to draw attention on the streets of Mexico City in 1958, but let's face it: You don't go to these movies for logic — and that lack of logic is part of the somewhat goofy appeal. Adding to the mix is the very emphatic musical score by Gustav C. Carrion (mostly consisting of the same cues as those in El Vampiro). And for educational value, the film strongly cautions against the wisdom of hiding in an iron maiden — complete with object lesson of the primary pitfall of this action. What more can you possibly want?
The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen The Vampire's Coffin Thursday, Dec. 27 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
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