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When Dr. Paul Beecher is summoned to research scientist Dr. Matt Campbell's in-home laboratory, he finds Campbell very ill. Campbell tells Paul that, after many years of experimenting he has found "the answer," hands Paul a small bottle of pills, then dies. Later, Paul delivers his report, indicating that Campbell died of a heart attack, to police detective Buck Donley. Buck tells Paul that Dr. Will Beaumont, an old friend of Paul and head of the nearby university's psychology department, will be coming to review Campbell's work, which he had been funding. At his home Paul, suffering a migraine headache, asks his young daughter Betsy to bring him a pill from a bottle in his jacket. Unknowingly, Betsy gives him one of Campbell's pills. Later, during a consultation with patient Marion Wilkins, Paul feels unwell and asks her to return the next day, then lies down. The next morning, Buck and Carol, Paul's attractive young nurse, meet as they both arrive at Paul's office. Paul has obviously just woken up and is surprised when Buck tells him that there was a report of a prowler in town the night before. Marion's cleaning lady then phones to tell Paul that Marion is very sick. Paul goes immediately to see Marion, but she is utterly terrified of him and after she dies suddenly, Paul finds two puncture wounds in her neck. Paul's own condition worsens and he asks Betsy if perhaps she did not give him the correct pill, but she is uncertain. Paul returns to Campbell's lab where he meets Will and his taciturn assistant, Henry Winston. When Paul asks Will what kind of research Campbell was engaged in, Will states vaguely that it had to do with regressing animals' minds to a primitive state, then reversing and advancing the process. After Will suggests that the work might have applications to human intellect, he adds that Campbell had developed a pill to induce primitive instincts but discovered that it was habit-forming. Henry reports that all of the laboratory animals, except some bats, have died of a virus and burns them in a furnace. Paul and Will leave, while Henry continues to work. Later that night, Paul leaves his home, and the next morning Henry is found dead. Buck asks Paul to examine the body and after they both note the same puncture wounds found on Marion's throat, an autopsy is ordered. When the coroner's doctor suspects that capillary disintegration, the complete destruction of body tissue, may be the cause of death, Buck decides to have Marion's body exhumed. Paul asks Carol to stay with him as he does not feel well and offers to take her to dinner after giving her custody of the pills. At the restaurant, Paul is summoned to the hospital to perform an emergency surgery and after secretly removing the pills from Carol's handbag, asks her to wait for him there. Much to the surgical crew's concern, Paul barely makes it through the procedure, then leaves suddenly. Meanwhile, at the cemetery, Marion's coffin is opened and reveals a corpse devoid of flesh. As the hour is late, Carol leaves the restaurant and while walking home is chased by a man, but safely makes it to her house. However, an elderly lady, walking her dog, is attacked and killed by a deranged Paul. The next day, after Paul learns of the woman's death and realizes that he is regularly regressing to a beast-like state, he arranges for Betsy to stay with an aunt. Paul goes to see Will at Campbell's lab and admits that he killed the woman and suspects he may be responsible for Marion and Henry's deaths as well. When Paul asserts that Campbell's pills have turned him into a killer beast, Will thinks that he has been hallucinating and urges a complete rest, but agrees to stay with him to prevent him taking any more of the pills, which he locks in a drawer. Later, while recording Campbell's notes, Will witnesses Paul's transformation into a beast. Paul kills him and throws his body into the furnace. The next day, after Buck receives the university's lab report confirming capillary disintegration, he wonders if Campbell and Will might have been experimenting on humans and, accompanied by an officer, drives to Campbell's to question Will. Unable to find anyone there, Buck and the officer stumble upon the recorder, which contains a recording of Will being killed by Paul. Meanwhile, as Carol opens the office, a distraught Paul tells her to go home. When Carol spots the syringe of poison with which he intends to end his life, Paul knocks her down then transforms into a beast. After Carol recovers, Paul menaces her, but Buck and the officer arrive and Carol runs out of the house, pursued by Paul. In a nearby glade, Paul catches her and is about to kill her when Buck shoots at him. After Buck catches Paul, a fight ensues in which the officer kills Paul. After his death, Paul reverts to his normal appearance.
John Le Mesurier
Robert S. Baker
John D. Faure
Jules V. Levy
The Vampire (1957)
< BR> The year before the release of The Vampire was an unusual one in the history of bloodsucker cinema thanks to the release of American International Pictures' Blood of Dracula, an attempt to fuse the troubled teen fad with the conventions of monster cinema in a manner similar to the more successful I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957). Serious vampires had been largely absent from American screens throughout the '50s, but the demand for updated twists on the monsters made popular by Universal quickly resulted in the same year's odd alien/vampire hybrid Not of This Earth from Roger Corman. In Mexico, another film also entitled The Vampire (El Vampiro), was released in 1957 as well, provoking no small amount of confusion in some horror movie guides with this particular title.
Taking a cue from Blood of Dracula, The Vampire minimizes the risk of bringing back an still out-of-vogue monster by introducing elements of science fiction, a far more popular genre on movie screens at the time. The fears of the atomic age are certainly present in this story of Dr. Paul Beecher, an all-American dad and scientist played by John Beal, a familiar character actor in films ranging from the 1937 version of Madame X to Amityville 3-D (1983), with a brief but memorable stint on Dark Shadows in between. Here he's cursed with a unique condition when his dead colleague leaves him in possession of some dangerous pills resulting from experiments with vampire bat extract. Thanks to an accidental switcheroo involving his daughter, the good doctor regularly turns into a murderous, hirsute predator.
Though it doesn't boast any particular major star power, The Vampire also makes for fun viewing for character actor fans. Reliable sci-fi veteran Kenneth Tobey gets a sizable role as the town sheriff, one of a string of monster-fighting roles alongside his earlier work in The Thing from Another World (1951), The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), and It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955). He would remain in demand on both the large and small screens for decades, gracing drive-in screens again in Walking Tall (1973) and Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974) before becoming a fixture in several films for director Joe Dante starting with The Howling (1981). As the chief damsel in distress is another familiar face, Coleen Gray, making her horror debut after an already busy career kicked off with a pair of film noir classics, Kiss of Death and Nightmare Alley (both 1947), and the western classic Red River (1948). This wouldn't be her last creature feature, however, as she went on to star in Universal's wild The Leech Woman (1960) two years later. Also lending support as the start of all the trouble is colorful TV favorite Dabbs Greer, best known as Reverend Alden on TV's Little House on the Prairie, who had already appeared in Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and also appeared in another 1958 matinee staple, It! The Terror from Beyond Space. Another TV regular, James Griffith, is also on hand, a World War II veteran and reliable guest actor on seemingly every single TV western show in existence and a surprising presence in films as disparate as Russ Meyer's Lorna (1964) and Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter (1955).
One of the strongest assets of The Vampire is its atmospheric score by composer Gerald Fried, a specialist in yielding maximum production value with very little money. This was not only his first horror film but also his first with the Fielder/Landres team, with whom he would also work on their two subsequent features. More relevant to film buffs, however, is Fried's status as Stanley Kubrick's composer of choice since their debut film, Fear and Desire (1953) (as well as the earlier 1951 short, "Day of the Fight"). By the time he scored The Vampire, Fried had also worked on Kubrick's Killer's Kiss (1955), The Killing (1956, also featuring Griffith), and Paths of Glory (1957). That would prove to be the end of their partnership, however, with Fried going on to a tremendous number of made-for-TV films, series, and drive-in features into the late 1980s. This is still one of his most full-blooded works, appropriately enough for a film that still refuses to die.
By Nathaniel Thompson
Paul Beecher (John Beal), a small-town doctor, attends to the death of a scientist who was working on a project devoted to expanding man's intellect. When Beecher later develops a severe headache, his young daughter accidentally gives him some pills the doctor had confiscated from the scientist's laboratory. Before you know it, strange things are happening in the community, like a series of unexplained deaths in which all the victims' bodies are found drained of blood. Upon investigation, Beecher eventually learns that the pills he took were part of an experiment involving vampire bats and...my, doesn't that neck look tasty?
Unfairly lumped with other grade-B horror flicks from its era, The Vampire (1957) actually deserves some credit for adding a new spin - pill addiction - to this overexposed horror genre and placing the story in a contemporary setting. The Vampireis also impressive for what director Paul Landres achieved on such a minuscule budget - $115,000 (small even for low-budget standards of the period) - in just six days!
John Beal, whose career dates back to early talkies in the 1930s, acquits himself well in the title role and manages to wring some unexpected pathos from his part as the doomed doctor. Kenneth Tobey, a veteran of such science fiction thrillers as The Thing (From Another World (1951) and It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955), also offers solid support as the sheriff investigating the vampire murders. In Attack of the Monster Movie Makers by Tom Weaver, Tobey recalled the filming of The Vampire: "That was another six-day wonder, and we were at locations all over Hollywood. Most of the outdoor stuff was shot at an undeveloped lot, and all I remember is running. I'd run out one end of the lot, then we'd have to go back and set up at the other end of the lot, and shoot me running out the other end! What I also remember is John Beal, who is a very, very nice man....Coleen Gray was nice, too; she tried to get me into selling skin products and things like that door to door. I told her, 'I may be unemployed but I'm not unintelligent!.'"
If the visual look of The Vampire bears some similarities to the horror thrillers of Val Lewton, it's not a coincidence. The cinematographer, Jack MacKenzie, once worked for Val Lewton at RKO Studios during the forties. There are other influences as well, such as Greek tragedy! In Science Fiction Stars and Horror Heroes by Tom Weaver, screenwriter Pat Fielder said, "On The Vampire, the theme of the father potentially destroying the thing he cared about most - the ultimate victim being his daughter - seemed to me a classic theme around which to build a story. It seemed to have a particular kind of horror, going back to the Greeks, to Oedipus and Medea, all the great classics."
Producer: Arthur Gardener, Arnold Laven, Jules Levy
Director: Paul Landres
Screenplay: Pat Fielder
Art Direction: James Dowell Vance
Cinematography: Jack MacKenzie
Film Editing: John Faure
Original Music: Gerald Fried
Principal Cast: John Beal (Dr. Paul Beecher), Coleen Gray (Carol Butler), Kenneth Tobey (Sheriff Buck Donnelly), Lydia Reed (Betsy Beecher), Dabbs Greer (Dr. Will Beaumont), Herb Vigran (George Ryan).
By Michael T. Toole & Jeff Stafford
The Vampire (1957)
Kenneth Tobey (1917-2003)
Born in Oakland, California on March 23, 1917, Tobey originally intended to be a lawyer before a stint with the University of California Little Theater changed his mind. From there, he went straight to New York and spent nearly two years studying acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse, where his classmates included Gregory Peck, Eli Wallach and Tony Randall. Throughout the '40s, Tobey acted on Broadway and in stock before relocating to Hollywood. Once there, Tobey soon found himself playing a tough soldier in films like I Was a Male War Bride and Twelve O' Clock High (both 1949); or a tough police officer in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye and Three Secrets (both 1950). Such roles were hardly surprising, given Tobey's craggy features, unsmiling countenance and rough voice.
Needless to say, no-nonsense, authority figures would be Tobey's calling for the remainder of his career; yet given the right role, he had the talent to make it memorable: the smart, likeable Captain Hendrey in The Thing From Another World (1951); the gallant Colonel Jack Evans in the "prehistoric dinosaur attacks an urban center" genre chiller The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953, a must-see film for fans of special effects wizard, Ray Harryhausen; and as Bat Masterson, holding his own against Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957).
Television would also offer Tobey much work: he had his own action series as chopper pilot Chuck Martin in Whirlybirds (1957-59); and had a recurring role as Assistant District Attorney Alvin in Perry Mason (1957-66). He would also be kept busy with guest appearances in countless westerns (Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Virginian) and cop shows (The Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones, Ironside) for the next two decades. Most amusingly, the tail end of Tobey's career saw some self-deprecating cameo spots in such contemporary shockers as The Howling (1981); Strange Invaders (1983) and his role reprisal of Captain Hendry in The Attack of the B-Movie Monsters (2002). Tobey is survived by a daughter, two stepchildren, and two grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Kenneth Tobey (1917-2003)
This film's working title was Mark of the Vampire.