One thing missing from contemporary horror films is the presence of bona fide horror stars. Modern audiences may know him as Saruman from the Lord of the Rings films, Count Dooku from the Star Wars prequels, or even the father of Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka, but Christopher Lee was once one of the most recognizable faces of European horror. Probably best known for starring in the Hammer Dracula series, Lee is the last of a line of actors that included the likes of Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, and Peter Cushing.

Arriving on DVD this September 12 is the tantalizingly obscure Christopher Lee film Crypt of the Vampire (1963). An Italian-Spanish co-production from what is commonly referred to as the golden age of Italian horror. Lee plays Count Ludwig Karnstein, whose family lives under a curse. One of Karnstein's ancestors was burned as a witch and, according to legend, the witch will reincarnate as one of her own descendants. The Count races to find his ancestor's burial place as a series of vampire murders break out in the family castle. Could Karnstein's own daughter be responsible?

Pic is based on the Novella Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (published in 1872), which was also the source for The Vampire Lovers (1970), Roger Vadim's Blood and Roses (1960), The Blood Spattered Bride (1972) and countless others, all with widely varying degrees of faithfulness. After Bram Stoker's Dracula, Carmilla is probably the second most filmed work of vampire fiction. The Image Entertainment disk has no extras, but seeing this little known black and white oddity in widescreen format should be worth the suggested retail price of $14.95. Despite the fact that Lee's first name has been misspelled on the cover (proof read, people!), Image has done nice work in the past bringing classic European horrors to a modern audience (the films of The Mario Bava Collection come to mind), and so I have high hopes for this disk.
categories Cinematical