1964 – Il mostro dell’opera

1964 – Il mostro dell’opera

Il mostro dell’opera (Il vampiro dell’opera, L’orgie des vampires)

1964 - The Monster of the Opera

Sandro – Marco Mariani (as Marc Marian)
Stefano/the Monster – Giuseppe Addobbati (as John McDouglas)
Giulia/Laura – Barbara Howard
Achille – Alberto Archetti (as Albert Archet)
Release date – Italy 30 June 1964
Director – Renato Polselli
Writers – Renato Polselli, Ernesto Gastaldi, Giuseppe Pellegrini
Music – Aldo Piga
Production company – Nord Industrial Film di Ferdinando Anselmetti
Length – 80 mins
Sound – Mono
Colour – black and white

The film opens with an elaborate prelude in which the main female character (i.e. Christine Daaé) is chased through the backstage and underground areas of a theatre (and then, mysteriously, by coach and horses somewhere outside) by a cackling figure who looks very like Count Dracula in his Christopher Lee incarnation. She is defended in vain by a uniformed theatre employee, but just as she is finally bitten, the action switches to where the same woman, now called Giulia, wakes up screaming, having dozed off during a warm-up session with the rest of her performing arts troupe. This is soon interrupted again after a telephone call with their leader (Sandro), who has found the perfect theatre for them to move into while they prepare their new show—despite the warnings against this course of action from the same theatre employee (Achille) who appeared in Giulia’s nightmare… when the two meet at the theatre later, both are unnerved by their sense of mutual recognition.

Just as in the 1937 adaptation, the troupe does everything together: cleaning up the run-down auditorium and stage, flirting, improvising dance routines. But Giulia soon runs off to explore the below-stage area, where she finds a mysterious but somehow compelling portrait (which we recognise as the Dracula figure) before Sandro (who is her lover) brings her back up on stage. Achille is also down below, face-to-face with the monster himself, saying that even though he is the monster’s servant, he will fight him.

Sandro’s idea is for a radical new kind of wordless spectacle based on Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, one which features music and dancing from different historical periods. After an attempted run-through, the troupe get back to their flirting—men with women, but also women with women—before Sandro demonstrates the famous soliloquy ‘Un baiser, mais à tout prendre, qu’est-ce?’ (‘what, after all, is a kiss?’). Unexpectedly, he earns the applause of the monster, who appears in the central box, and then descends to the stalls, introducing himself as ‘Un appassionato del teatro vecchio stile’ (‘An enthusiast for old-style theatre’). Mounting the stage, the monster tries the lines himself, ominously focused on Giulia, until one of the other actresses notices that he is invisible in her makeup mirror. Achille, who has meanwhile climbed into the fly-tower, tries to take advantage of the situation to drop a heavy counterweight on top of the monster, but the latter is unperturbed. Many of the troupe, on the other hand, are terrified and want to leave, and sure enough, the lights soon go out, the doors mysteriously close, and the monster begins stalking the female members of the company.

Giulia confronts him: we gather that she is a reincarnation of the monster’s beloved, Laura. He forces her into a coffin, which acts as a portal to a mysterious space where the monster’s female victims are held prisoner. Through a flashback (apparently to the Renaissance) we learn that the aristocratic Laura had her lover Stefano walled up alive, where he summoned up evil supernatural forces. Meanwhile Giulia’s colleagues, led by Sandro, are hearing the same story from Achille. But when the monster tries to strike Giulia/Laura down, she asks his forgiveness, and he admits he still loves her; he warns her to run, because he can only draw her (and the other women of the troupe) to him if she stops moving. A forced dance ensues, but when one of the women is exhausted, she is claimed by the monster. Laura sets off in pursuit, while Sandro has the idea of burning Stefano’s portrait. This brings him back in to the theatre, where he eventually turns to dust under the flames of the company’s torches. Giulia and her friend are saved.

This is a rare film, currently unavailable commercially but viewable in full in a version with English subtitles (NB these are rather brief and/or inaccurate in places): www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNXIvaIYPR8.

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