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Onna kyuketsuki


D: Nobuo Nakagawa C: Shigeru Amachi, Yoko Mihara, Keinosuke Wada

In the fifties and sixties a new avenue for science fiction and horror was found in the so-called popcorn market. Fifty years later, something similar happened in Japan and Korea. These movies also became extremely popular in the West, whereas originally such ghost stories mostly appealed to an adult audience. ONNA KYUKETSUKI (“the female vampire”, of which there are none in the movie) is an early attempt to break through to the Western market. Gone is the medieval setting of the No theatre drawing heavily on folklore, being replaced by youngsters swinging to jazz music and singing “Happy Birthday”. Nor is the vampire the elemental creature of Japanese mythology, but the caped gentleman styled by Lugosi and rejuvenated by Lee, even though he looks more like a gangster. To brighten things up, he is allergic to moonlight, which changes him into a vampire, but also ages and kills him. Like the mummy, he is looking for a reincarnation of his long lost love, and having so far been frustrated in his search, like another Bluebeard placing his victims in suspended animation – the only erotic image in the whole movie – with crucifixes (which don’t seem to affect him). There’s also a dwarf, a bald strongman and a single honest-to-goodness Japanese witch. The result is an indigestible hodgepodge, which is neither East, nor West. Even the stylish widescreen black-and-white cinematography is wasted, the “castle” being one room and some stairs at the end of an underground tunnel. In all this oddity one scene stands out, a killing-spree in a nightclub eliciting mere shrugs from the onlookers. In place of the rousing finale of Fisher’s DRACULA, there is a seemingly interminable hopping around with whips and swords. You might think that the confusion of incompatible elements would supply a minimum of entertainment value, but you would be sorely disappointed.

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