THE VAMPIRE'S GHOST
(1945, Dir. Lesley Selander)
I'm beginning to suspect that Republic should've simply shied away from horror films and stuck to cowboys 'n' serials; the general reaction to Republic horrors is, "a sequel to Spy Smasher would've been better." By 1945, the wartime horror craze was over, Universal had closed down its monster army, and RKO had given up the ghost (so to speak), leaving Monogram and Republic and other so-called Poverty Row studios to try and pick up the slack. Republic took advantage of standing jungle and ranch sets to churn out this quickie, and the result is... different, to say the least.
In a small African port, dock workers are showing up with holes in the neck and drained of blood, so dashing foreman Charles Gordon goes poking around and pokes right into John Abbott, the only bloodsucker you're ever likely to see wearing a blazing white suit at all times. Abbott stares at Gordon and Gordon instantly becomes his slave, only instead of eating flies and chuckling maniacally he basically goes and lays down for the rest of the picture while Count Abbott stalks such victims as Republic stalwarts Roy Barcroft and pretty Peggy Stewart. Local priest Father Grant Withers (who wears the priest robes with a pith helmet, and if anybody on-set noticed how ridiculous he looks, they should've told him) eventually helps nail the vampire to his coffin, so to speak.
Leigh Brackett (The Empire Strikes Back, The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo) co-wrote this thing and at less than sixty minutes, that's probably somewhere between 30 and 60 pages of work for a co-writer, not a bad payday, even by 1945 low-budget standards.
Father Grant Williams to those who believe in vampires: "What you need is more faith and less imagination."
Indeed, the script is literate (perhaps too literate for its own good), but lacking the scare moments or moody shadows of the classic vampire films, its appeal to fans of Universal monster movies is surely limited. John Abbott's vampire comes across less as a fearsome stalker in the night than as a rather slightly creepy member of a small-town school board (he has no trouble walking around in daylight, incidentally, so long as he wears his non-prescription sunglasses). The laugh quotient is relatively high, though: you'll enjoy the "African natives," most of whom dress like South Sea islanders or gypsies. I know I did.
The best thing is the Olive Blu-ray: it's a gorgeous print, sizzling on the screen. Thanks to Olive for rescuing this minor but fascinating horror gem from the vaults of forgotten horrors!