Atom Age Vampire
atom age vampire | anton giulio majano | gino de santis | alberto bevilacqua | alberto lupo | susanne loret | sergio fantoni | vampire | radiation | sci-fi | sci fi | monster | creature | italy | france | franca parisi | ivo garrani | andrea scotti | rina franchetti
Film: Atom Age Vampire (Seddok, l'erede di Satana)
Director: Anton Giulio Majano
Writer: Gino De Santis, Alberto Bevilacqua and Anton Giulio Majano
Starring: Alberto Lupo, Susanne Loret and Sergio Fantoni
This was a movie that I’ll be honest, I never heard about until going through the list of 1960 horror films on Letterboxd. The movie sounded intriguing and I already had figured out what 2020 movie I was going to do, so I decided to give this a go since it was close enough. The synopsis here is a stripper is horribly disfigured in a car accident. A brilliant scientist develops a treatment that restores her beauty and falls in love with her. Now he’ll do whatever he can to keep her.
I’m going to preface that the version on Amazon Prime Video and on Tubi was what I read to be the American cut that runs 68 minutes. The actual European cut is 108 minutes. I ended up watching the cut that was on YouTube that is 87 minutes. I’m not entirely sure what was missing, but wanted to get you up to speed.
We start off though with Pierre Mornet (Sergio Fantoni) telling Jeanette Moreneau (Susanne Loret) that he can no longer see her due to her profession. Calling her a stripper is a bit misleading for what we see later. She is more akin to a Go-Go or belly dancer. Regardless, he leaves her and she ends up getting in a fiery car accident. She wakes up in the hospital with bandages on and depression. She’s told that she’ll never lose the scars.
News of her accident gets to Professor Alberto Levin (Alberto Lupo). He tells his assistant that he believes they can help her. His assistant is Monique Riviere (Franca Parisi). She goes to Jeanette to tell her this, but she is too emotionally distraught to believe her. Monique goes to leave and tells her not to reveal that she came and if she decides to take her up on her offer, to not tell anyone where she’s going.
Jeanette gives in and goes to the ‘clinic’ which turns out to be a house. Helping Alberto and Monique is Sacha (Roberto Bertea), the mute gardener. He does live in the greenhouse, but this also is a bit of a cover for him. Alberto is leery about the serum since they haven’t used it on humans. Monique pushes him by injecting herself with Derma 25, which the trials turned animals into monsters. He then has to use Derma 28 to cure the effects before it is too late. So despite inviting Jeanette to use this new treatment, they weren’t completely sure it would work.
They then administer it on her and it works. The problem is that the effects aren’t permanent. Monique wants to send her away as she can see Alberto has fallen in love with her. He begs her to help him and to complete the research. The problem is that Alberto needs more of the serum and this involves killing young women to create it. Not even Monique is safe. Jeanette wants to leave, but Alberto won’t allow it. The police get called to the house by Alberto himself. This seems in part as a ploy to keep them off his trail while also putting him on their radar. Alberto though can’t commit the horrible act he needs to in order to get the ingredients for the serum, but when he injects himself with Derma 25, he becomes a monster that can.
That’s where I want to leave my recap, as I feel I’m giving a bit more coherence to the story than what the movie actually does. I don’t want you to think I hated it completely, but it appears that even back as far as the 1960’s, the Italians didn’t always stick to the most coherent storylines. Part of this could also be due to the translations, which is funny since there is no vampire in this movie. It is a mistranslation of the original title.
The first thing that I really wanted to delve into is the Atom Age part of the title. The 2 nuclear bombs have been dropped and the 1950’s really were scared of what radiation could do. That is rightfully so, I don’t want to diminish this feeling in any way. Alberto relays to Commsario Bouchard (Ivo Garrani) and the other cops as well as what I’m assuming is the medical examiner about his studies in Japan into the effects the atomic bombs dropped there. He has a souvenir that is a bit morbid of bottles that fused together due to the heat. This all is a cool way to showcase that Professor Levin is an expert on the radiation.
Taking this farther with the mad scientist angle, I even like them using more radical forms of treatment. We use radiation to battle cancer and this started back in the early 1900s. They learned that it could cause and potentially cure cancer. I like them taking it farther to see if it could be used as a way to fix scars. This also plays into that it can create monsters, a leftover fear from the 50’s.
The story though does fall apart for me. Alberto falls in love with Jeanette. His way of keeping Monique around, who loves him, is to tell her at one point he just has infatuation with Jeanette. I think this is completely true, but the more we listen to him, he keeps thinking it is true love. This is fine for him to be driven mad, but they could also play more with the angle that he’s committed to proving his research actually works. I think this is just using the easiest concept and it didn’t really work for me.
What also doesn’t work is that this plays like a Jekyll and Hyde narrative. Alberto uses the serum that creates monsters to change into one to do what needs to be done to collect the samples. He then has a machine that can change him back. If that can be done, why doesn’t he just use that on Jeanette? There’s no reason to do the things he’s doing, unless he needs to prologue her until the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ takes over. He’s smart so I think he can placate her enough without doing what he is in my opinion. It is interesting this is a co-production of France, as this feels a lot like Eyes Without a Face, which comes from there in the same year. There are similar sets and some of the concepts used.
The last aspect for the story is the vampire stuff. I’m not going to fault the film for the mistranslation. They are removing a gland from what I’m gathering and I think some blood is needed, so the confusion makes sense. I’m not even upset looking at what Alberto becomes as a new age vampire like monster. He doesn’t need to live off blood, but he does need it for other reasons.
Speaking of the ‘vampire’, I’ll go to the effects of the movie. The look of the creature I really dug. The movie shows us actual photographs of burns caused by the nuclear explosions and they modeled the monster to look as it has something similar. I really liked doing this and it impressed me. Is the monster the best looking? No, but I’ll give credit to here is we got a transformation scene done with time lapsed camera work. There might have even been a bit of claymation as well, which I have a soft spot for. Aside from that, we don’t get much. This is in black and white so that does hide things. The cinematography aside from what I’ve already covered was good as well.
The last thing I want to go into would be the acting. No one really stands out to me if I’m honest. Lupo is fine as this villainous mad scientist. I believe that role, but some of the writing makes it a bit problematic for me with things that he does. Loret is beautiful, but aside from that she doesn’t really blow me away. Fantoni is kind of a jerk as well. The first things we’re seeing is him break up with Jeanette, because of her job. That is fine. He does care about her from what we see so he did redeem himself in my eyes. Parisi is also attractive and I liked her as the assistant scientist who is bold. Garrani and the other cops are fine. The best performance for me though is Bertea. He is a mute so everything he does is hand gestures and facial expressions. It is a bit convenient that everyone knows what he is getting at from these, but it is what it is. The rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.
So now with that said this is an interesting little piece of cinema that is left over from the past era. There are some really good ideas it is exploring with nuclear radiation, its medical applications and the possibility of the monsters that it could create. There are some issues with how some things are written that don’t really work. The acting is decent, but no one really stands out in my opinion. I do think that the effects were pretty good for what they were attempting. The soundtrack fit, but didn’t necessarily stand out to me. I will say the movie was a bit boring as well as it struggled to find its way with the version I watched. With that said, I’d rate this as just over average for me. It is higher than most, but I really like some of the commentary and the ideas they’re playing with for sure.
My Rating: 5.5 out of 10