Psychotronic Ketchup & Rixflix A to Z: Atom Age Vampire [Seddok, l'erede di Satana] (1960)

Director: Anton Giulio Majano // Manson/Topaz; 1:26; b/w
Cast Notables: Alberto Lupo, Susanne Loret, Sergio Fantoni, Franca Parisi
Cinema 4 Rating: 4

A few years back, HBO ran a series of films called Creature Features, which were not so much remakes of old 1950s Samuel Arkoff-produced science-fiction and horror films as they were remakes of the titles of those films. Instead of Earth Vs. the Spider being about a giant tarantula, in the new version, the filmmakers were inspired to create a more horrific take on Spider-Man, with the kid infected with radioactive spider blood becoming a blood-slurping villain after trying to use his powers for good. Most of the re-dos of old titles did not really work (though I have much affection for the new version of The She-Creature); it was an interesting experiment, but I thought some of the filmmaker choices were poor and I felt that a little more care should have been to quality control. This might seem a strange concept when speaking of making a movie out of a mere conceptual title, but its not like it hasn't been done successfully before throughout film history. But if you wanted your high-concept series to actually be successful, they should have tightened the reins on some of the directors (especially Larry Clark, who should have never been approached), and made sure the series was actually entertaining, which it only was sporadically.

What I would have been far more interested in is if they had taken the actual scripts from those old films, combined them with some decent acting and special effects, and outright re-filmed those old titles. And I don't mean that they should have camped up the old scripts acting-wise, but would instead play them perfectly straight (allowances could be made in the scripts for modernities, unless they decided to leave them in their original time period). I don't need to see this done; I am merely offering up my opinion on what would be far more interesting to see. I know that many times Roger Corman and his cohorts at AIP often had to make their films from scratch with only a title that they were provided, so I understand what they were trying to do with the Creature Feature remakes. It's just that the cultural atmosphere is far too different now for audiences to really be attracted in a large way to such an experiment, and so more effort should have been made to ensure that the show would entertain, and so that you wouldn't end up with a soft-core, boring and thoroughly nauseating (and not in a good way) version of Teenage Caveman.

Atom Age Vampire is not an old Sam Arkoff AIP flick, but material-wise it certainly could be. It possesses some of the same facial disrepair concerns as The Wasp Woman, and not only has a mad doctor performing cruel experiments on women, but he also occasionally turns into a monster and goes out at night to kill innocent victims. Not content with just these elements in its weirdly crowded plot, the filmmakers toss in a little more serious Gojira-style flavor and decide to give the doctor a past where he worked in Nagasaki after the atom bombs were dropped during WWII, and saw firsthand the nuclear devastation to the human populace. Yes, the Italian acting stepped out of a panini, with both ham and cheese intact, but the women are beautiful, and the location work is interesting. And there is the camerawork, which, as is often the case in 60's Italian horrors and giallos, always interesting. I like the way the main female character pulls off a robe and tosses it over the camera as she is departing a room, and I also enjoy the atmosphere in the damp, crudely lit basement where the doctor digs out his escape route for his monstrous alter-ego.

The film is as stupid and incoherent as a thousand other movies of this type, but there is something about it that is fascinating (apart from the items I ticked off above) and not once did my attention wander from it, as may happen when you have watched a thousand other movies of this type. I saw Astro-Zombies and The Atomic Brain bookended around this film, and while the films have similar themes, the differences in quality are incredibly noticeable when you approach it that way. It may seem cruel that I give a movie that I enjoyed watching only a "4", but this the level to which its overall quality brings it down, despite the fact that I will easily watch this again over most of the "5"-rated movies on my list. (It also shows the vast difference between a "4" and a mere "3" or "2", as the surrounding films I viewed were rated.)

Which leads me to my belief that a series of remakes much in the style of Creature Features, but of the actual scripts instead of the titles, would be fun to pursue. This film would be one of my picks, but careful consideration would have to be given to who would create the remake. My choice for this film would be David Cronenberg, who would probably never do it, but it wouldn't hurt to try. After all, he did a bang-up job on The Fly, and this film does touch on some of his pet themes which have recurred throughout his films. Now that he is an Oscar-nominated guy, it might be harder, but he does have an affection for the genre. As for the other films in the series, I am going to have to think about it, but for it be successful, one thing is sure. No films with naked street kids in it. We don't need Larry Clark buzzing around this project like a fly to a crap-splattered teenage buttock.

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