Even though it takes place mostly during the day and certainly contains no orgies, León Klimovsky’s The Vampires’ Night Orgy (aka La Orgía Nocturna De Los Vampiros, aka Orgy of the Vampires aka Grave Desires (US) (1973) is a fun excursion in Spanish horror from a director quite new to me, but apparently best-known for his work with the late Paul Naschy (and let me tell you, any director who comes out with work entitled The Werewolf Versus The Vampire Woman is probably going to feature strongly in my spending future!)
The film starts with a group of domestics travelling to their new appointment at a remote country house. Yep, I assumed that the remote country house would be the problem – but instead the group’s troubles begin when, exhausted, they decide they are going to take a detour via a town called Tolnio so they can get some rest. Before they can arrive at Tolnio their bus driver dies in an unexpectedly brief, comedic way but, with a tavern awaiting, they decide to leave his corpse on the bus! They don’t get the quick service there that they hoped, though – the whole town is completely deserted. Unsure what to do, they decide to help themselves to liquid refreshments and beds (where Jack Taylor (as Luis) is up to his usual tricks, spying on the beautiful Alma (Dyanik Zurakowska) through a hole in the wall!) and to look for the townsfolk in the morning.
Sure enough, by the next day the town is a hive of activity. The town’s mayor Boris (José Guardiola) apologises for not being able to receive them properly the night before, as all the citizens just happened to be at the cemetery, seeing off a valued member of the community. They are welcome at Tolnio, though – just as well, as their bus will no longer start. Never mind, Boris says: the Countess will look after their needs, and will provide them with any money they may require. Some of the group agree to go and meet this mysterious Countess (Helga Liné, Black Candles) to express their thanks for her hospitality. She is all politeness, not to mention charming. It seems all will be well until they can get their vehicle fixed. But at night there is a different side to the people of Tolnio; now they’re not falling over themselves to help, but to feed. One by one, the visitors are picked off through trickery and become vampires themselves. Soon only Luis and Alma are unaffected.
There’s also a strange reference to cannibalism during the film: because there is no good food to offer to the guests, the Countess decrees that certain of her citizens will offer up an arm or a leg. This takes place at the hands of a strange character credited only as ‘The Giant’ and it’s not hard to see why the town may need new citizens if the old ones are being hacked up. Also, the implications of cannibalising a vampire throws up philosophical and technical questions which the film just doesn’t have time to answer – let’s just assume the body parts were very well done!
Although the film isn’t exactly a novel treatment of an old theme, and does descend into campery on several occasions, it’s all part of the fun. To suggest that it’s all just a pastiche, though, would also be doing the film a disservice. Some of the scenes are good and eerie, and a personal highlight is when the townsfolk lure two of the visitors onto the ‘fixed’ bus and then quite literally rise up to play with their food. There is little in the way of standard-issue biting; only the Countess bites in a ‘traditional’ way and most of the vampirism/consumption is implied, or we just see the run-up to the event. That a lot of what happens to the visiting party is implied makes the townsfolk a lot creepier. The colouration of the film does a lot to help it develop this creepiness. We are told that the vampires can move about by day as the town is always overcast, and accordingly the whole film is shadowy and muted. The daylight hours are as murky as the night.
For some reason best known to themselves, UK second-hand DVD stockists CEX currently have acres of copies of The Vampires’ Night Orgy in stock. But even if you’re not based in the UK and you like oddball European takes on the vampirism theme then you could do worse than own this. It does have a certain charm, and feels very, very Spanish somehow!