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The Vampire’s Ghost (Blu-ray Review)

The Vampire's GhostRepublic Pictures was the king of the Western, with John Wayne being their main star. Over time, studio executives realized that horror was quite profitable, so they enlisted director Lesley Selander to deliver them a supernatural picture unlike anything else he had made previously. Selander was reliable; someone who had turned in pictures on time with a small budget. The only drawback was his lack of experience with the horror genre, which unfortunately is evident within every frame of the film. The Vampire’s Ghost never rises above a cheap knockoff of the Val Lewton produced monster films of the age.

Film 

The Vampire’s Ghost opens in a small port city in Africa that has been struck with a series of bizarre murders. Of course this gets the attention of local plantation manager Roy Hendrick (Charles Gordon), who is concerned that this is going to stop trade due to frightened workers. Naturally starting at a local dive bar, he befriends owner Webb Fallon (John Abbott), who agrees to assist with the investigation. Webb has some unique quirks, though. He can break up a fight by peering into the eyes of the fighters. He hates mirrors. He has a box from hundreds of years ago with his initials on it. Poor Roy isn’t able to catch on fast enough, for he soon becomes a servant, rendering Roy bedridden for the majority of the film.

In a classic vampire move, Webb falls in love with Roy’s fiancé Julie Vance (Peggy Stewart).

The Vampire's Ghost

The Vampire’s Ghost is trying desperately to be a hybrid of Dracula meets Casablanca (Webb’s outfits are quite similar to Bogart’s), but it crumbles into a forgettable affair. The picture is meant to be hauntingly poetic, but the proceedings are so dull and monotonous and haphazardly edited together that the viewer feels shut out. When something interesting is about to happen, the scene transitions to another comatose moment. The significant moments seem to be in-between everything.

The film is schizophrenic when portraying the 500 year old vampire Webb. He’s debonair and dashing, then melancholy over his fate. He’ll be torturous towards Roy, mocking him, but in the next scene he’ll be caring for those around him. Abbott is trying for a silent elegance, but he can’t match the layered performance of Lugosi. Instead, he comes across as someone who has taken one too many sleeping pills. He constantly keeps us aware that he is acting.

The Vampire's Ghost

The colonial Africa setting adds one of the few morsels of originality. While not much time is spent with the culture (voodoo is mentioned a couple times), it does treat the native people with respect, never reducing them to gross caricatures. They are the ones who originally suspect Webb to be a vampire, and they are an important part of the climax, strategically helping the victims to safety.

The fact that The Vampire’s Ghost has no actual ghost is the least of the film’s issues. It’s a clunky concoction of unripe ideas.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  The Vampire’s Ghost is stunningly noir and beautiful. Shadows and lights are used to great effect, despite many shots being ripped directly from other films.  You can even make out the jungle and trees on the gorgeous jungle setting. Details are quite good, with both the sets and characters emitting plenty of intricate details despite how dark the film’s look is.

The Vampire's Ghost

Depth:  Depth work is pretty decent here.  Characters all look free of the backdrops, moving around smoothly and cinematically.  There’s a good push back and feel from foreground to background imagery as well.

Black Levels:  This is a very dark film; shadows are deep and rich. Details, like clothing texture, hair follicles and tree definition all comes through quite well.

Color Reproduction: N/A

The Vampire's Ghost

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are white/gray and keep a consistent look with the lighting a scene falls under throughout the film.  Details like stubble, make-up, dirt, face lines, sweat and such all are apparent in medium and close-up shots.

Noise/Artifacts:  There is a nice layer of inherent grain as well as some dirt/specs.  There are a couple moments of flickering a some scenes have some light streaks in them.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  The Vampire’s Ghost mono audio track finds a very good representation in this presentation.  There are some good moments of lower frequency in moments of horror. A bit with drums at the end truly stands out.  The balancing of score, effects and vocals is well done with each being able to shine without stomping on the other’s foot.  This film carries a bit of an audible hiss from its analog roots that adds to its genuine feel.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is good and clear.

Extras 

None.

The Vampire's Ghost

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I never stand in front of the elevator doors when they open. All because of the movie The Departed.

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