The Playgirls and the Vampire DVD Review
Written by Joel Harley
DVD released by Nucleus Films
Written and directed by Piero Regnoli
1960, 81 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 2nd May 2016
Walter Brandi as Count Gabor Kernassy/The Vampire
Lyla Rocco as Vera
Maria Giovannini as Katia, the victim
Alfredo Rizzi as Lucas, the manager
Leonardo Botta as Fernand
Hubba hubba, playgirls and a vampire. Don’t get too excited though, True Blood fans, it’s all in black and white, and a true product of the early 1960s, meaning that those nipples and bloody bite-marks are left mostly under wraps. When their tour bus breaks down during a terrible storm, five beautiful showgirls (plus piano player and manager) hole up in a grand Gothic castle. Among its residents, as will surprise precisely nobody, is the titular vampire - a bona fide Count and everything.
Among the first of the sleazy-ish Italian knock-offs which followed Hammer Films’ Dracula, Piero Regnoli’s The Playgirls and the Vampire is a film with a familiar setup and results. If it’s not particularly well remembered, that’s likely because it’s barely remembered at all (aside from the likes of Kim Newman, anyway). Part sexy girls-in-a-castle romp, part sinister Gothic vampire movie, it rarely adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Which is a shame, considering that those parts include scantily-clad girls, an awesome castle and a bloodthirsty vampire. Watched now, it’s neither scary nor particularly sexy, and certainly not as humorous as it should have been to get away with using such a story and title. I tuned in expecting something akin to Carry On Screaming (aka the only tolerable Carry On movie, for what it’s worth) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and instead wound up with this oddly stilted, humourless and… British piece. Not bad for an Italian production. That title will certainly help this re-release shift a few more copies, but it’s not exactly representative of the film you’re getting. At least, not these days.
Worry not; there are boobs, but only fleetingly so. As a product of its time, The Playgirls and the Vampire just about pushes the boundaries one would imagine – containing enough brief nudity (the first of its kind!) and eerie terrors to keep fans of 60s Euro horror interested. It’s certainly aged well too, its black and white Gothic terror standing up nicely to modern scrutiny. The plastic fangs do let the side down a bit, though.
Video and Audio:
In spite of its age, the film still looks and sounds good, showing a masterful use of darkness and shadow (mostly to cover up the boobs, I’m afraid). The print isn’t as clear as one might hope, but it’s by no means distracting, apart from the occasional lag. The dialogue is dubbed to English but still sounds fairly natural, and the music is loud and melodramatic, as it should be. In an age of prestige cult re-releases, The Playgirls and the Vampire barely cuts it – which, sadly, might not be enough for the cinephiles and historians this film is most likely to appeal to.
But of course Kim Newman shows his moustached face, giving a cheery discussion of the film, its history and merits in Kim Newman: Vampire Hunter. Also included is the 8mm silent version of the film, here titled Last Fling of the Vampire, cut-down and serving as an effective best-of reel for the film. Trailers and a deleted scene are also included.