The Vampire Happening (1971)

Italian producer Pier A. Caminnecci, who was the money behind SuccubusCastle of the Creeping FleshTwo Undercover AngelsDeath on a Rainy Day and Kiss Me Monster, wanted to make a movie for his wife Pia Degermark, whose movie Elvira Madigan had been a major success. We’ve seen it before, but have we seen it as a ripoff of The Fearless Vampire Killers* with British horror director Freddie Francis, an international cast based in West Germany and the producer’s wife playing two roles, much less the producer himself in a cameo?

Decades later, as part of Italy’s Fantafestical 86, Francis would explain, “I was aware from the start of the difficulties in shooting a horror parody. I really believed that I was working with normal people in the movie industry, and thought I could have made a decent film. With time, I became aware that the producer was an imbecile who treated the project like a home movie. He wanted to do the casting, make cameos in the film, and wanted his wife as an actress. It was a disaster which I can’t say anything serious about.”

Degermark plays American actress Betty Williams and her great great grandmother Clarimonde, one of the many vampires here. She’s also nude for most of the movie, which I’m certain that came from her getting to show off for her husband. As soon as the vampiric relative rises from the dead, she sets about devouring and turning all of the young priests and nuns at the nearby monastery and girl’s school.

This is still not the strangest vampire movie Francis would direct, as just three years later, he’d make Son of Dracula. But that’s another story.

It’s not a great movie, but hey — at least it’s interesting. And quite frankly, Degermark is gorgeous. Sadly, this would be her last film and she’d divorce Caminnecci two years later. She suffered from anorexia, got into drugs and fell into a bad crowd, but then went further by being charged with stealing money from charities run by her stepmother. She lost her son to the child welfare system and went to jail for a period. Here’s hoping her life improved, as it seems like it was getting better in the last interview that I could find from her, which was conducted in 2004.

*It’s so influenced by that movie that Ferdy Mayne shows up as Fürst Christopher Dracula. Mayne also played a vampire in My Lovely MonsterFreckled Max and the Spooks and, of coure, Polanski’s comedy vampire effort. He’s literally Dracula here, showing up in his own helicopter.

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