Young Hannah, Queen of the Vampires (a.k.a. Crypt of the Living Dead)
DVD released 2001 by VCI Entertainment
1973, 85 minutes, rated PG, in color with Dolby sound
Presented in original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio
Extras: Cast and crew bios, trailers
Manufacturers suggested retail price, $14.99
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The mid-70s was a transitional period for horror, and a weak period for the old familiar monsters. Hammer Films, which had kept Dracula and Frankenstein alive through the 1960s, was teetering on the brink of irrelevance. Everyone went to The Exorcist (1973), but this hit spawned only a few worthy imitators in the demon-possession subgenre. The psycho and flesh-eating zombie cycles were still alive and well, largely due to the efforts of Italian and Filipino filmmakers. Female vampires were still doing all right, particularly in Europe, and primarily because of their potential for mixing softcore sex with picturesque but inexpensive violence.
In this exploitative atmosphere, Young Hannah is an anomaly, almost an anachronism: a PG-rated Eurohorror film. It delivers none of the nudity and very little of the gore that fans of Eurohorror have come to expect, or put up with, depending on taste. Its framed in a very traditional dichotomyscience vs. superstitionand features a very traditional vampire.
The story concerns Professor Bolton, a sedated Indiana Jones type, has set up shop on “Vampire Island” off the coast of Turkey, in a climate of continuous howling winds and frequent thunderstorms. To lure workers there, he has established a school, enlisting a young teacher (Patty Shepard). She brought her brother (Mark Damon), a frustrated writer whos drying out after a drug binge. “I dropped out,” he says. “I tried every scene in the book and then some. You name it; I did it. I took uppers and downers and inners and outers until I was blown out, spaced out, beat up, shot up. I tripped and I ripped. I mean, I shot everything but aspirin and blew my house down.” Now hes a self-described “jack of all trades"from the appearance of the natives, all trades except barbering.
In the opening scenes, the inquisitive prof is exploring the local castle, and is set upon by Damon, who is dressed as a sort of priest for a Latinate ritual, and a hunchback type assistant. These two strangle the scientist and shove his body under a massive stone crypt, then knock out the supports, crushing his corpse for no particular reason.
Complications arrive in the form of Boltons son (Andrew Prine) who shows up with a David Carradine attitude and a suitcase full of turtleneck sweaters, and insists on recovering recover his fathers remains for a proper burial. The local fishermen warn Prine that moving the crypt could unleash the vampire Hannah, but he pooh-poohs their superstitions and admonishes them to honor the memory of his science-loving dad. Funny how this diehard rationalist is so insistent on an unnecessary burial ceremony, but never mind, Hannah gets loose, fishermen get bit, Prine changes his tune and the hunt is on.
Teresa Gimpera, buxom star of other Spanish horror films including the Frankenstein tribute Spirit of the Beehive, plays “Young” Hannah. According to the fishermen shes the ex-paramour of Louis VII, entombed for 700 years. She was recruited by the bloodsuckers of Vampire Island when on her way back from the Second Crusade (by the way, one of the more idiotic of the crusades, accomplishing nothing but the introduction of sugar to Europe). Though evidently incompetent in the art of war, Louis managed to dispatch all the islands vampires, but then spared his fiancé, merely burying her alive. This sounds a lot worse than killing her, but this Louis was not the brightest bulb. The fishermens tale calls into question the education that the professor was supposed to be providing, because a 700-year interval would put her initial burial around the time of the equally pointless Eighth Crusade of 1270, led by Louis IX (another knucklehead).
Anyway, Hannahs corpse is perfectly preserved, and far from being crazed by seven centuries in solitary confinement, shes in a good mood, and cracks a pleasant little smile upon taking her first breath. Though obviously a morning person, shes still weak, and can only take the form of a scrawny wolf to attack a dog. Having breakfasted this way, though, shes back in business.
Warns the obligatory wise old man in the obligatory tavern scene, “No telling when shell find all the sealed-up vampires, and theyll go cavorting around naked holding black masses, sucking up babies blood.” That would have been entertaining all right, but he overestimates poor Hannah. She racks up a pretty low body count and ends up bereft of acolytes, mutilated by flames and surrounded by stake-wielding enemies. In a scene that manages to be touching, she covers her burned face, sobbing helplessly for a moment, before regaining her composure and trying a final desperate attack.
Despite the distractions of gaping plot holes and gratuitous jump-out-of-the-shadows shocks, this movie has its good points. Perhaps inadvertently, it paints a rare picture of the old-style vampire, a stealthy figure who is quite vulnerable when found out. The director, American actor Ray Danton, makes the most of the obviously low budget. The special effects and makeup in this movie have lost whatever oomph they once had, and the dialogue is often silly. But the look is atmospheric, and Danton manages some poetic images, such as a scene in which Hannah rises over her tormenters in an angelic pose and changes into a mist.
VCI appropriately presents this modest little movie in a modest DVD package. Its a widescreen presentation with little in the way of extras except some adequate biographies of the principals and trailers. The picture quality is quite acceptable but not spectacular, and the sound is rerecorded in crisp Dolby digital stereo.
Young Hannah breaks no new ground (so to speak) and its hardly the “classic” the cover blurb claims, but its not all that bad; its worth a rental for serious horror fans, and vampire completists certainly should to give it a spin.