DirectorAmando de Ossorio
Release Date(s)1969 (March 6, 2018)
Studio(s)Cobra Films/Felix Cinematografica/Tritón P.C./Victory Films (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: C-
Amando de Ossorio’s Fangs of the Living Dead, or Malenka: The Niece of the Vampire as it was originally titled, is the Spanish director’s first foray into the world of horror before going on to create the Tombs of the Blind Dead series. It tells the fairly standard tale of a young woman named Sylvia (Anita Ekberg) who inherits a title of nobility and a castle in the country, only to discover that it’s inhabited by her uncle Count Walbrooke (Julián Ugarte), who claims to be a 100-year-old vampire and that her mother was burned at the stake for being a witch. Keeping her hidden away in the castle away from her fiancé (Gianni Medici) and fearing a family curse, no one is exactly sure if he is really a supernatural being or if he’s up to something more sinister.
Part of me wants to believe that Fangs of the Living Dead is somewhat of a parody film. It borrows so many tropes from other vampire films that it could merely be having fun with it rather than taking it completely seriously. However, it’s far more likely that it was simply a reinterpretation of the material through a Spanish lens. Many of the scenes in the film have a slightly different edge to them, which at times is comedic, but other times not so much. However, one does tend to notice the influence of Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers in regard to some of the humor, which tends to feel out of place when it occurs. It’s also interesting that Ekberg’s character name is Sylvia, which was also her character’s name in La Dolce Vita.
Fangs of the Living Dead was also due to have Boris Karloff star in it as Count Walbrooke, which would have made it a far different film. However, he wasn’t able to take part and eventually died before the production was completed. The film was eventually released in the U.S. for the first time on a triple bill with Revenge of the Living Dead (aka The Murder Clinic) and Curse of the Living Dead (Kill, Baby, Kill) in 1973. This version ran 20 minutes shorter than its original version, even including an alternate ending for good measure, and until now, was the most widely-available version to be seen. In any case, Fangs of the Living Dead is either a mild footnote to various horror fans or a hidden treasure to others.
Fangs of the Living Dead was also available for years on substandard VHS and DVD releases with poor quality presentations, and under a number of other titles as well. Provided to Scream Factory by Victory Films, who have been supplying them with many Spanish horror films as of late, the transfer for the film (titled Malenka: The Niece of the Vampire on the print that’s presented here) is one of the finest offerings of its type to date. Anyone who’s had to watch this in its shortened U.S. form over the years is going to discover a beautiful-looking film. While it does contain some occasional speckling and scratches, it’s quite stable and features a solid but minor grain structure. The color palette is very rich, utilizing a variety of different hues in the lighting, as well as clothing and set design. Blacks are fairly deep with good shadow detail while brightness and contrast levels are quite acceptable. The audio selection for this release is provided in both Castilian and English 2.0 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English (which play automatically when watching the film with English audio). There are notable differences between the two tracks, but overall, the English track is a far more acceptable listening experience. Dialogue is much more pronounced, but some light distortion, crackle, pops, and dropouts are present. The Spanish track is extremely narrow and boxy, almost as if it was recorded with a microphone against a TV speaker. But in all honesty, it may have been all that was available.
The extras aren’t plentiful, but you do get an excellent audio commentary with author Troy Howarth, who delves into the production and the main players involved with it at almost breakneck speed, providing plenty of valuable information. Also included is the film’s Spanish theatrical trailer, presented in HD; the film’s original Spanish credit sequence; and the U.S. alternate ending from a VHS source, which includes a “humorous” bit as the character of Max reveals himself to be a vampire and subsequently chases after one of the barmaids. It’s the ending which I’ve always been more familiar with, and is decidedly more upbeat by comparison to the film’s original nonsensical ending, yet is less preferable overall.
Fangs of the Living Dead has always been a curious film to me. I can’t say that it’s honestly one of my favorites, but it does offer enough horror value, particularly in the visuals department, that it keeps me coming back to it occasionally. And from here on in, Scream Factory’s crystal clear presentation of it is all I’ll never need if I wish to revisit it. A terrific upgrade overall.
- Tim Salmons