Director: Emilio Vieyra
Mondo Macabro USA

Move over, CURIOUS DR. HUMPP! Mondo Macabro, home of all things weird from every corner of the globe, has re-released their U.K. disc of HUMPP director Emilio Vieyra's color vampire epic BLOOD OF THE VIRGINS and while it's not as delirious as that sex-n-sci-fi masterpiece, it's a surprisingly good vampire tale with go-go dancing and splashy gore thrown in for good measure.

In the 1800s, lovely Ofelia is in love with mysterious Gustavo, but her parents refuse to let her marry him. She is forced to marry rich Eduardo and on their wedding night, Gustavo kills the groom and vampirizes the lovely bride. Cue the amazing animated opening credits! Flash-forward to the swinging 60s, where an annoying group of twenty-somethings ride all over the country on vacation, skiing, go-go dancing topless on bar counters, making out on a yacht, and having a good old time wherever they go. Their fun is about to end as they run out of gas near an abandoned castle which locals say is haunted. Group leader Raul is introduced to the specter of the house, the vampire Ofelia who has a lengthy sex scene with him (ooh-la-la! forget about the girlfriend, eh?). When he awakes the next morning, the other couple and his girlfriend Laura are missing... It all gets weirder and kookier from there, with Gustavo setting his sights on Laura and terrorizing the young couple (apparently Ofelia isn't hot enough for him anymore).

BLOOD OF THE VIRGINS proved to be Vieyra's last horror film, and it's a shame too because his transition to color was a successful one. It's not a classic vampire flick by any stretch of the imagination, but there is plenty of atmosphere, the women are beautiful, and the eye-popping gore, which comes out of nowhere, really sets this film apart from any other vampire film made in the world! Just one of Vieyra's odd touches is a series of red-tinted inserts with a seagull flying (in place of the standard vampire bat), which sounds ridiculous but only further adds to the unique viewing experience. It's a very special curio I'm glad Pete Tombs and Co. chose to unearth, and despite a few dragging moments, it's highly entertaining and should please horror fans who think they've seen everything. Unfortunately the film's mix of blood and sex wasn't looked upon too highly by the Argentinian government, which banned the film for four years before finally releasing it to bewildered audiences. By that time, Vieyra had moved on to action pictures and western adventures. Beautiful melon-breasted blonde Susana Beltran ("Ofelia") appeared in all of Vieyra's horror films; fans will remember she is the exotic lab assistant in CURIOUS DR. HUMPP who offers the mad doctor "Use my body to keep you alive!" She can't act, but takes off her clothes at the right times and was a superb vixen in all her movie appearances.

The fullscreen color transfer, culled from an original negative, may show a few speckles here and there at the start of reels, but yellows, blues, and reds are in full bloom, without bleeding, darks are solid, and there is very little grain present. This is a beautiful presentation of a film that after being banned in its home country for years should logically be lost! The mono audio, Spanish with optional English subtitles, features some scratching and surface noise that show the age of the film, but overall it's a good mix and the great go-go music is delivered well! (On a side note, the same music also appeared in Vieyra's THE DEADLY ORGAN!)

I can't believe there are so many great extras for such an obscure film, but here we have a very nice platter of supplements complimenting this Argentinian horror story. Most important is an episode of the U.K. show "Mondo Macabro" discussing the exploitation films of Argentina. There are tantalizing clips of some of the first Argentinian horror films (1951's EL EXTRANO CASO DEL HOMBRE Y LA BESTIA and 1953's EL VAMPIRO NEGRO, which despite looking very promising seem to be lost forever, along with their other horror contemporaries), plus amazing glances at Leon Klimovsky's MARIHUANA from 1950! Split into two sections, the first segment deals exclusively with Emilio Vieyra's warped horror quartet, including a look at the very obscure LA BESTIA DESNUDA. You also get to see clips from CURIOUS DR. HUMPP, DEADLY ORGAN, and of course BLOOD OF THE VIRGINS. Vieyra is interviewed, looking very intelligent, and talks about his work in the exploitation field with no regrets. The second segment deals with Armando Bo and his sizzling sex siren wife Isabel Sarli, star of such amazing sex romps as FUEGO and VIRGIN GODDESS! Most importantly, you get to see Ms. Sarli as she is today, looking much older but a very warm interview, discussing censorship problems with her films, her film debut, and various offers to star in British and American productions, including THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (?!). See clips from the horse-love epic FIEBRE, her first feature film THUNDER AMONG THE LEAVES, EL ULTIMO AMOR EN TIERRA DEL FUEGO, and Sarli's last gasp as a starlet, VIRGIN GODDESS. Those who saw this documentary on the U.K. BLOOD OF THE VIRGINS disc will want to upgrade if they haven't considered it, as now there is a brand-new interview with VIRGIN GODDESS director Dirk DeVillers, who dishes the dirt on working with Sarli. Here's hoping Mondo Macabro releases an Isabel Sarli boxed set! She's made so many films, so many which have never been seen outside of Argentina, that this would be an amazing endeavor. Mr. Tombs, make this dream come true!!

The biggest addition to the U.S. version of BLOOD OF THE VIRGINS is a gallery of Vieyra trailers, kicking off with BLOOD OF THE VIRGINS (SANGRE DE VIRGENES) and continuing with all of his horror films (LA BESTIA DESNUDA, CURIOUS DR. HUMPP, DEADLY ORGAN). Strangely, the last two trailers have the SWV watermark on, okay. Completists will like seeing previews for Vieyra's non-horror outings, such as the musical GITANO, starring popular Argentinian lounge singer Sandro, the action-packed western LOS IRROMPIBLES, the ultra-violent LA GRAN AVENTURA (which does look pretty amazing), the hostage thriller OBSESION DE VENGANZA, and the sex comedy EL PODER DE LA CENSURA, but they're not required viewing. An interesting look at other Argentinian films. Pete Tombs contributes a lengthy essay discussing Emilio Vieyra's exploitation films and their importance in Argentinian and world cinema, and a short stills gallery consisting of lobby cards and promotional stills are provided by SWV's Frank Henenlotter (who gets a kooky thanks at the end). Topping off the extras is a promo reel for other Mondo Macabro USA releases (including clips from the upcoming CRAZY LOVE).

One of Mondo Macabro U.K.'s best discs is now one of Mondo Macabro USA's best discs. It's a no-brainer you should pick this up: you get a wild Argentinian vampire movie (and you're never going to say THAT again, as this is the only one!) complimented by informative and fun extras. Definitely one of the best of 2004. (Casey Scott)