Movie Review: Cuadecuc Vampir (1971)/Umbracle (1972) – Severin Blu-ray

January 26, 2024

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

Jess Franco made himself an adaption of Bram Stoker’s classic fang bang terror tome Dracula back in 1970 (refresh your memory on that release, the Christopher Lee starring Count Dracula, right here) and hired Spanish filmmaker Pere Portabella to film a lil’ behind-the-scenes action for what was supposed to be turned into a documentary concerning the film’s creation… but it wasn’t and here we are…

Instead, Portabella conjured forth 1971’s Cuadecuc, Vampir; a black and white, hour-and-change, nearly silent (there is ambient (frequently not very) musical accompaniment, and closing remarks from Lee however) experimental film that certainly does present a fly-on-the-wall glimpse (no matter how impressionistic) into the film’s production along with it’s own loosey-goosey narrative.

To that end we get a visual tone-poem showcasing cast and crew toiling away… and it is a fascinating, if unconventional viewing experience. Additionally, viewing Franco’s footage in stark, crisp (sometimes purposefully over-exposed) chiaroscuro gives it that classic Universal monster movie vibe!

But wait, our man Portabella wasn’t done dipping into the wicked well with but one film related to Franco’s production…

In 1972 Pere presented us with Umbracle; which is basically an art-house number that poses the question: “What does Christopher Lee (playing himself… basically) do when he’s just dicking around on the day-to-day?”

The answer is obviously deliver rando Poe monologues, stand around and look like the class mother fucker he well and truly was, visit a museum, have a smoke, think about opera… the usual… while we intermittently see folks pontificating on socio-political themes, a train ride with a mystery woman (Jeannine Mestre), footage from a war movie, and a politically motivated kidnapping… just as one would expect… if they are deranged…

And as always here’s some fair warning, Umbracle does contain a sequence involving a chicken processing plant… so if you are sensitive to that sort of thing, be advised!

Both films are infinitely weird, but for fans of Lee’s oeuvre they are incredible curiosities that are sure to be enjoyed by the more adventurous of his fine fiendish fans!

As for special features, Cuadecuc, Vampir showcases an interview with Spanish Film Scholar Alex Mendibil, in which he discusses how the work of Portabella and Franco correlate, and the film’s trailer.

Also included is a booklet containing both Portabella’s feelings about the material at the time, as well as analysis from film critics Jonathan Rosenbaum and Frederico Karstulovich.

Bottom line; If you enjoy your Euro-Horror as artistically presented and unconventional as they come, Cuadecuc Vampir and Umbracle will be right up your arcane alley!

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