Crypt of the Living Dead

Director: Julio Salvador & Ray Danton

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Crypt of the Living DeadMoody b/w photography & gloomy sets & locations give La Tumba de la Isla Maldita (Crypt of the Living Dead; aka, Young Hannah, Queen of the Vampires, 1972) a winning vintage horror film look.

As the film opens, void of dialog, the camera follows a graveyard exploring archeologist (Mariano Garcia Rey) into a labyrinth to investigate a 1,700 year old crypt.

The sequence culminates in his murder, the archeologist's body placed beneath the raised sarcophagus the legs of which are then broken off with a sledge hammer, crushing the anthropologist's corpse.

Crypt of the Living DeadLa Tumba de la Isla Maldita was the last film by Spanish director Julio Salvador. The English edit Crypt of the Living Dead is credited only to Ray Danton.

The story is based partially on G. F. Loring's classic vampire tale "The Tomb of Sarah" (1900), though the adaptation doesn't not much resemble the original. After the promising opening, the tale goes downhill, the bulk of the film being all talk & little action.

The dead man's son Chris (Andrew Prine) shows up on the isle of reticent fishermen known absurdly enough as Vampire Island.

He is befriended by Peter (Mark Damon), who together with a scar-faced wild-man (Ihsan Gedik) committed the murder, but the son trusts him.

Crypt of the Living DeadChris has to construct hoists & hire men of the island to get the two-ton crypt off his father's body. It is difficult to find the labor, for all believe the woman in the crypt is a vampire from the days of the Crusades.

Someone should've told Chris about house jacks, as the hoist & pulley system he rigs is not strong enough to lift the sarcophagus with its heavy lid intact. Thus (and oh no!) he must first lift off the lid.

When it is opened, the corpse of a beautiful woman is found perfectly preserved for over a thousand years, though even then Chris doesn't believe what the islanders know.

Her spirit goes abroad as a wolf that preys on animals; but when she is sufficiently strengthened, she will break from her coma & begin to prey upon island residents.

Crypt of the Living DeadThe image from the contemporary poster which shows a wolf-headed woman does not actually occur in the film.

But given how few interesting visuals can be found anywhere in the film itself, it's easy to understand that the advertisers would trump up something that would've been much more interesting.

The meandering final third of the film is so slowly paced as to remain deadly dull until the climax. There are several largely nonsensical incidents after the vampire Hannah (Teresa Gimpera) gets loose from the crypt.

We don't really see much in the area of her taking victims so she doesn't seem all that threatening. She's pretty, though, & her fiery demise makes for a somewhat decent conclusion.

Crypt of the Living DeadIf a viewer tries hard in retrospect, the sundry incidents can be sewn together to form an almost coherent story, but not quite.

I.e., Peter & the wildman killed the archeologist knowing his son would come to claim the body & be forced to remove the sarcophogus lid releasing evil Hannah, who is served by the wildman & Peter (how & why we don't know).

But why they didn't simply open the sarcophogus themselves is never adequately explained. So really everything that happened from the murder onward seems unnecessary, as they could've used the same sledgehammer to smash open the lid.

Crypt of the Living DeadThe acting isn't as bad as for most cheapies of the 1970s, as Andrew Prine was transiently almost a real star at the time.

Additionally, the vampiress is genuinely pretty, & love interest Patty Shepard prettier still, though her role is awfully tangential.

The location shooting in Turkey (posing as a Mediterranean isle) is pleasant enough. The background cast (Turks posing as Greek fishermen, though ethnicity on Vampire Island is basically generic, despite a schoolroom sequence shows children singing in Turkish) provide credible physical presences who look like real peasants.

A side-story with two children (played by Turkish child actors) is momentarily attention-holding. And the co-mingling of werewolf & vampire lore might be regarded as sufficiently novel that the routine tale has at least a smidgen of originality.

In all, though, Crypt of the Living Dead is barely worth the effort, as it is fundamentally a dull film.

Continue to the next vampire movie:
The Wisdom of Crocodiles (1998)

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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