Atom Age Vampire (Anton Giulio Majano / Italy, 1960):
(Seddok, l'Erede di Satana)

Habitually dismissed as an Italianate reaction to Franju, this is, in its study of the frissons of mutated beauty, really a companion piece to Bava's Black Sunday. The heroine, Susanne Loret, is a nightclub performer whose risqué act (her lustrous, jazzed-up opening is among the victims of the dismembered U.S. version) costs her Sergio Fantoni, her beau; her distraught car ride ends up in flames by the side of the road, later at the clinic she removes her bandages to reveal a mangled cheek underneath a blonde mane. Loret is summoned for experimental treatment at Alberto Lupo's mansion-laboratory, he restores her face with a regenerative new serum (built on the "spontaneous reproduction of cells") and falls for her. The cure is only temporary, however, fresh glands from women are quickly needed: Lupo's assistant (Franca Parisi) is the first casualty, the doctor then transforms himself into a hooded ghoul and takes to the piazza with a scalpel, looking for hookers. The English title's inanity is quite useful -- Hiroshima figures explicitly in the doctor's medical expertise, vampirism applies to a new age of cosmetics (it is, like Corman's Wasp Woman, a parody of aesthetic narcissism, with much of the violence directed against mirrors). Wretched dubbing and chainsaw edits can't dim Anton Giulio Majano's assorted cinematic aperçus: The docked ship shrouded in fog (the missing link between Mr. Arkadin and Amarcord), the glass booth filling with steam "like some sacred ritual" following the villain's metamorphosis, the greenhouse jungle tended by a mute Igor, and, above all, the poetically monstrous manifestations of obsessive desire. With Roberto Bertea, and Ivo Garrani. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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