director Fernando Méndez
Netflix seems to have abandoned trying to offer more obscure and cult films lately. At least to my eye. They’re letting their once robust DVD stock taper and decline and their streaming services have shriveled in the areas that most interest me.
So, when a flick like The Brainiac (1962) or The Vampire’s Coffin (1958) shows up, it pops out on the site. Both films star Abel Salazar and come from a Mexican film industry with good production values and are both “Spooktacular!”, if you will. I would love to see more 1950’s-1960’s Mexican horror films, if anyone is listening.
Besides sharing Salazar, the two films seem moderately randomly chosen, perhaps more so The Vampire’s Coffin (original title: El ataúd del Vampiro), which turns out to be a sequel for the 1957 El vampiro, also starring Salazar and directed by Fernando Méndez. Why have the sequel and not the original?
It matters little to figuring out the story, though at the same time, the characters are constantly referencing the events of the first film, in which they uncovered a vampire and apparently killed him. The Vampire’s Coffin starts out with grave robbers, one of whom is a doctor interested in researching the vampire for science. What I’m guessing is a seriously convoluted happenstance, this ghoulish doctor’s co-worker is Dr. Enrique Saldívar (Salazar) who happened to have been the one to have killed the vampire in the first place.
The film slues back and forth between eeriness and light comedy. The vampire, played by Germán Robles, is straight out of central casting, all ready for Halloween, dressed like Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee. At times, he turns into a very squeaky bat, dancing around on very visible wires. And to be honest, he’s a pretty ineffectual vampire. He rarely sinks his teeth into anything that sticks.
The film is actually very effectively shot, with some nice scenes in both a graveyard and later in a wax museum. It shows signs of a very slick film industry, one which sadly hasn’t been imported nearly enough. I would love to see more.