September 12, 2012

Alucarda (1977)

"A young girl's arrival at a convent after the death of her parents marks the beginning of a series of events that unleash an evil presence on the girl and her mysterious new friend, an enigmatic figure known as Alucarda. Demonic possession, Satan worship, and vampirism follows."

Due to a recent debate on the "Better Geek Than Never" podcast about naked exorcism scenes which nobody seemed to know about, I thought I'd better do a very quick review and recommendation of "Alucarda" for you.

Unless you are the kind of person who loves Jean Rollin, Jess Franco, and most of the "nunsploitation" movies released by Redemption on VHS back in the '90s, you probably haven't heard of "Alucarda" or its director Juan López Moctezuma before. I can't say that all of his movies are worth acquiring if you are just an average horror fan, but "Alucarda" certainly provides a nice upgrade if you were brought up with Hammer.

Juan López Moctezuma's first movie, "The Mansion of Madness" (1973), is on the Mill Creek Entertainment "Chilling Classics" pack, and it's the one which most people have seen. Far fewer people have encountered his second movie, "Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary" (1975). It was a considerably better yet slightly too talky pulp horror movie which led to Moctezuma getting quite a reputation for having lots of blood, nudity, and attractive girls in his films. The badly paced plots of all three of his '70s horror movies were, arguably, more of an afterthought than anything else, but "Alucarda" was the last of these as well as being the peak of Moctezuma's career.

Susana Kamini and Tina Romero (above) are, obviously, the best reasons for watching "Alucarda" unless you just want to see priests and nuns flagellating each other. It's not really worth spending a great deal of time talking about the merits of the rest of the cast, since although they all did a great job, most of us have ever heard of any of them anyway.

Undoubtedly, the most famous actor in this, Claudio Brook, who is highly entertaining in a dual role as Dr. Oszek and the "Hunchbacked Gypsy", will only be known to you as the preacher in "The Devil's Rain" (1975), which is another underrated gem which I have yet to write a review of.

As you can work out from the very poor anagram in the title, "Alucarda" is mostly a vampire movie based very loosely on "Carmilla" by Sheridan Le Fanu. As such, it follows much the same pattern as Hammer's earlier "Karnstein" movies, but it has a possession angle to it which may have been inspired by "The Devils" (1971). Despite some oustanding camerawork and a couple of really nice effects for the time, "Alucarda" doesn't have much originality. It even blatantly borrows from "Carrie" (1976) for one of its later scenes.

Personally, I've always thought that Susana Kamini as Justine was not only better looking but a much better actress than Tina Romero who played Alucarda. Your opinion may differ as, in fairness, neither of them seemed to have all that much acting ability, even though it was more than enough for what the story required them to do.

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