Movies from the Black Lagoon

The Vampire - 1957, Unrated

By Tom Doty - For The Hazard Herald

A dim doctor accidentally ingests an experimental serum (made from the blood of vampire bats)and goes on a kill crazy rampage in this morbid shocker from the fabulous fifties.

Our film opens in the peaceful suburbs of Anywhere, USA. A bicycle riding boy from “Bob’s Pet Zoo” is stopping off at Dr. Campbell’s to deliver some lab rats. He finds the good doctor slumped over his desk and mumbling,” Get Doctor Beecher.” The lad does just that but doesn’t warrant a tip as Campbell’s dead by the time help arrives.

Beecher finds a pill bottle at the scene and pockets it (since this is 1957 and there is no CSI snot bag to bawl him out for tampering with a crime scene). He also declares that Campbell died of a heart episode based on a history of cardiac problems. This is still the 50’s so nobody question this snap diagnosis. Beecher heads back to his private practice.

We learn that the Beech-meister is a single dad, has a tween daughter, and just took on a pretty new nurse who is setting local tongues to wag amongst house wives(and just flop out of the mouths of the men folk). We also find out that the good doctor suffers form migraines and before you can say “switcheroo” he suffers a major oops when his daughter brings him the wrong pills form his coat pocket.

The next morning he wakes up feeling a little fuzzy headed but before he can figure out what’s up he is called out to see a cardiac patient in her home. She bolts upright at the sight of him and promptly dies of a coronary. This suspicious behavior doesn’t keep our mad medical man from diagnosing her death as a heart attack despite the odd puncture wounds on her neck.

That night Beecher gets real antsy and starts in to pacing. Before you know it he is reaching for that pill bottle . Once again he wakes up fuzzy but knows he did something wrong. It ‘s promptly confirmed when he learns that a scientist investigating Campbell’s research has died with the same wounds on his neck. Beecher tries to confess his worries to his nurse but duty calls and he is soon operating on a patient while his need for a new dose of pills comes upon him.

This time he kills another patient and we finally see what the drug has done to his appearance. Under the influence he transforms into a fierce physician with lumpy skin who looks like he was dipped in oatmeal. The doctor finally stops popping those dang pills but wouldn’t you know it- he doesn’t need them to change anymore.

This may be a dumb one but it has a canny sense of atmosphere. It features a skillfully rendered “stalk and kill ” scene as well as a grisly moment in which the monster stuffs a man into an incinerator . The make-up is passable too even if they got most of it out of a ‘Quaker Oats’ jar.

The underlying message, that drugs can make monsters, is powerfully delivered thanks to the film’s frank depiction of withdrawal symptoms. We see the doctor struggle with his need for pills and a few sincere attempts to get help. The film pulls no punches either as we see the good doctor become a liar, a killer, and an absentee parent as he gives in to his need for this new high.

The cast hit their marks with John Beal doing a fine job as Beecher. “Rawhide ” fans will enjoy Paul ‘Wishbone” Brinegar as “Willy the amiable Mortician.”Coleen Gray is fine eye candy as the nurse and even flashes some stocking when she is manhandled by the creature (which is never called a vampire) during the finale.

This is a cheap high too as it’s under ten bucks and shares a disc with the equally creepy 1958 flick,” Return of Dracula.” It’s a fine addition which finds the count digging everything Southern California has to offer when he impersonates a Czech artist dropping in on his American relatives.

Best Line: “Henry complains a lot but deep inside he’s a frightened child seeking approval.”

The Vampire – 1957, Unrated

By Tom Doty

For The Hazard Herald

Tom Doty is a columnist for The Hazard Herald.

Tom Doty is a columnist for The Hazard Herald.

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