|CRYPT OF THE
LIVING DEAD (1973)
crosses to bear
This low-budget horror film of
little distinction is one of the few movie productions from the United States that
actually treats its Turkish characters as real human beings!
The only trouble is...
They are never referred to as
arrives on the mysterious island
I knew something was up when Chris (Andrew Prine) arrived on
"Vampire Island," riding a boat named "Bulur." That looked like a
Turkish word (meaning something to the effect of "finder"), so I stayed tuned
for other clues. Chris arrived to tie up loose ends regarding his archaeologist father,
who had recently met his demise (in the prologue, he was shown being murdered).
The "Turkish portrayal" didn't look promising (before I
realized these people would never be identified as Turks) when the villagers very rudely
gave the new arrival the cold shoulder, very much out of keeping with typical Turkish
hospitality. However, this was the old "we are living in a cursed place"
behavior that one can recognize from some horror movies.
As luck would have it, one of the two or three islands Turkey was
allowed to keep in all of the Mediterranean had to be the one inhabited by vampires.
scarred and sightless sailor has
better vision than everyone else, even
though he's a poor musician
Andrew is picked up by Peter (Mark Damon), the
other outsider on the island who kept Chris' father company. When we are introduced
to Peter's sister Mary (Patty Shepard), she is seen teaching some kids in a decrepit
old classroom... and the kids are shown clearly singing a song in Turkish, so that
clinched their ethnic identity.
It's not long before Chris releases the
entombed vampire on the island, after enlisting the help of the now-slightly warmed
up villagers. Blind Abdul Hamid (Frank Brana), who knows how to play only one song
on his accordion, gives the standard prophesies of doom... to no avail. (He will go
on to exclaim: "You fool, you freed the vampire, and my dog lies dead to
prove it!") The writing is on the wall: the skeptical scientist will have
to deal with the forces of superstition, once the bogeyman (or bogeywoman, in this
case) is let loose.
The vampire is Hannah, identified as the wife
of the 13th-century French crusader-king Louis VII; the tomb says she died in 1269,
and was interred by her infidel-slaughtering royal fiancé because she was turned into a bloodsucker (once her ship was lost at sea and
she and the ship's crew were marooned on this accursed island); Louis shows up too
late to rescue her bride, and hasn't the heart to kill her after destroying the rest
of the vampires. Therefore, the king has her sealed underneath four tons of marble,
where she will lie around for seven centuries, having nothing to do but twiddle her
However, from a historical perspective...
Louis VII reigned in France from 1137-1180,
having caused his holy terror during 1148's Second Crusade... when he was wed to
Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor never sported fangs, as she had her marriage to the
dour Frenchman annulled, and wound up as the wife of England's Henry II (what are
the chances of a woman being courted by not one, but TWO kings? Even though Henry
was just a prince at the time...), later going on to spawn King Richard I (the Lion-Heartand
one). So probably the date on Hannah's tomb should have been 1169, and not 1269.
Gimpera is Hannah, the
homecoming queen vampire
Louis IX (1214-1270) would have been the
crusader king (he went on the Sixth Crusade in 1248) during Hannah's time, but he
was really into the Christianity business (known as Saint Louis) and most likely
would have frowned upon allowing a profanely unholy beast from Hell to go on living.
As portrayed by Teresa Gimpera, Hannah certainly is easy on the eyes... but her
beauty probably wouldn't have carried much weight with her religious fanatic
There is one interesting point in the film,
when Hannah sheds tears... possibly indicating having gone bonkers after many long
years of entombment. She's a sensitive vampire... one who walks very, very slowly,
and with a semi-smile, most of the time.
displays his puckering-up ability
Meanwhile, Chris falls in love with Mary... in
predictable fashion. In fact, Chris has no problem at all in getting the girl, and
the resulting romance is pretty unbelievable.... while comfortingly formulaic.
Peter heartily approves, giving us a chance to
learn more about the island's past and Peter's failed attempts at being a writer.
Unfortunately, for the sake of suspense, the viewers are already aware that Peter is
one of the "villains," from the prologue... where he was seen murdering
Chris' father, with the help of a one-eyed "wild man" dressed in a woolly
The Spanish production was the last film directed by
Julio Salvador, before he passed away in 1974... originally entitled La Tumba de
la Isla Maldita (Tomb of the Cursed Island); Ray Danton is the solely credited
director, indicating he re-edited this previous version, along with shooting extra
footage for the English language version.
In the cast populated mainly by American and
Spanish actors, I was curious to see which roles would go to the Turks. After all,
the visitors were shooting fairly far away from home... surely some of the people in
the movie would have needed to be recruited from among the locals. (And the extras
obviously appear to have been from the region... especially the ones who stand
around in wooden fashion.)
We have a young Turkish character named Adnan,
who is seen in one shot with flies disturbingly walking all over him. He is an
obvious American, the son of old-time Hollywood actor, Jack La Rue. Then there is
the actor playing Adnan's father... one of the vampire's victims who begs his fellow
villagers to kill him, uttering the unforgettable phrase, "MY MIND IS
GONE!" However, once again, the actor is an American (Edward Walsh)... who
received his vampire training as the assistant from the "Count Yorga"
Abdul Hamid, the blind sailor, was played by
the Spaniard, Francisco "Frank" Braña (who also happened to be in all of
the Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood "Man with No Name" movies).
There is a little "subplot" in the
film featuring two of the kids in Mary's classroom (among the rest who pretended to
understand Mary's English), who are warned not to play in the graveyard. By the way,
there must have been quite a few Christians buried in the Turkish graveyard:
I guess this is where the remains of the 1.5
million Armenians must have been buried... since their "en masse"-acred
corpses couldn't be found anywhere else!
her worry beads
At any rate, the lead kids in the cast is where
Turkish actors were finally allowed to shine... Jem Osmanoglu played the little boy,
and Shera Osman appeared as Zora, the fair girl.
However, neither of these children were
professional actors, and must have been rounded up from whatever little bodies
readily available. Wasn't there at least one professional Turkish actor that the
producers could have considered for a somewhat juicy part? Granted, maybe not too
many Turkish actors spoke English flawlessly in 1973, but all the other
"Turks" in the film spoke with accents... so this couldn't have been an
After all, in the only heartily
"pro-Turk" Western film production I'm aware of... George Lucas' Indiana Jones Chronicles, from
1992... the cast was filled with Turkish actors, speaking very acceptable English.
Couldn't CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD have given one lousy job to a professional Turkish
Well, there was one meaty role the producers
figured could be handled by a Turk.
The "Wild Man" was played by Turkish
actor Ihsan Gedik, and his job was to go around brutally killing people..!
LOOK AT "GREEK" HORROR
BLOOD TIDE (1982) was a British-Greek co-production, co-produced and
co-written by Nico Mastorakis... starring James Earl Jones and José Ferrer. The story had
some interesting parallels to CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD.
Americans arrive at a Greek island, where the initially inhospitable
villagers (led by the "mayor," José Ferrer)show signs of the old "we are living in a cursed place" behavior. A lead girl
character (as played by Rania Photiou) gets mixed up in the goings-on, along with other
children. There is an American sister cooped up on the island. Another American (as played
by James Earl Jones) disturbs a sleeping monster from its long sleep, who then goes on to claim a good several island inhabitants, before being done away with.
CLICK ON PIC
to hear what James Earl Jones
had to say about José Ferrer and the
Even though this isn't the most "pro-Greek" movie, the
setting is definitely identified as Greek... and as we get to know the inhabitants
further, they are definitely a good lot. Even if they have to sacrifice a virgin to
appease the sea monster.
The one thing I couldn't help thinking was how similar the Greek
islanders were to the Turkish islanders... and yet, we can always expect the differences
to be stressed. Oh, the humanity.