Exterior. Churchyard. Night. A Catholic Mass disburses while Dr. Malthus (Fernando Casanova) lurks in the shadows. He follows and abducts a female member of the member of the congregation, carrying her to his secret laboratory. So far, so Gothic. It's the mid 19th Century in Mexico but the black and white cinematography seem to take into account the camerawork of Mario Bava in such previous Italian horrors as I VAMPIRI (1957) and MASK OF SATAN/BLACK SUNDAY (1960). The police burst in as he prepares to pump the blood out of the woman's veins and into his own. It's all part of his program to achieve life is "continuous" according the opening narration, added by Warren over the opening credits and most subsequent dialogue scenes involving the original Mexican cast.
Malphus is rushed to the gallows by local police after which the first of several Warren generated scenes commences, with an American cast. This scene goes for almost a reel, featuring actor-producer Bruno Vesota as a police official who carries on a rant about the evil Malthus with another official (Lloyd Nelson) at a sauna. VeSota, a portly, busy character actor in over 80 films (Corman's THE UNDEAD, A BUCKET OF BLOOD) and television shows (BONANZA) from the early 1950s until his death in 1976, was also a stage, radio and film director, partially responsible for the delirious 1955 B noir/horror item DEMENTIA, a surrealist-expressionist nightmare which illustrates a wordless scenario involving a fallen women wandering through the streets of Venice, California. DEMENTIA remains a rare example of 1950s underground cinema surfacing into the commercial mainstream genre pool, anticipating the look of the 1958 Orson Welles noir, TOUCH OF EVIL. Given that, and VeSota's atmospheric Z sci-fi programmer THE BRAIN EATERS (1959), suggests maybe Warren should have let him direct this extra footage, it couldn't have been any worse.
The action moves into the mid 20th Century with the grandson of Malphus finding his secret laboratory, disintering and reviving the mad scientist. The original Malphus once again pursues modern day women to maintain his youth, finally focusing on his grandson's wife. It all climaxes in a laboratory inferno as the grandson and some abducted victims escape captivity, but not before the absurd dialogue continues in other sequences featuring Warren regular Katherine Victor (THE WILD WORLD OF BATWOMAN), in which the actress appears as a witness to another Malphus abduction. Recounted in a sober fashion, these scenes, including a seance conducted by Victor, provide some moments of unintentional humor. The constant use of narration, which guides the viewer through events obviously not in need of further exposition, drives the absurdity level even higher. Other new scenes and characters appear in yet another subplot involving DRAGNET style police detectives, who talk in circles about investigating but never accomplish anything.
The bombastic music and liberal use of stock footage make evaluation of the original thriller impossible in this context. Unfortunately, I have not been able to track down the original, which from the surviving footage, looks like an surgical horror effort somewhat like those of Spanish B director Jess Franco, but without Franco's quirky sense of style. Warren would move on to mutilate more Mexican horror films with his ATTACK OF THE MAYAN MUMMY (originally Rafael Portillo's 1957 LA MOMIA AZTECA) and FACE OF THE SCREAMING WEREWOLF (1964), the latter which includes footage of Lon Chaney Jr and Mexican comic Tin Tan.in LA CASA DEL TERROR (1959), a Mexican horror-comedy. Cortes directed over 80 features, many of them comedies, in a 40 year career. The nonexistent "Rock Madison" is credited as the lead actor in the Warren version. Fernando Casanova is a wooden protagonist as the grandson and is only slightly more animated as the revived Dr. Malthus.
This was released on DVD as part of THE JERRY WARREN COLLECTION, VOLUME 2, with two other Warren efforts.
(C) Robert Monell