Wednesday, March 16, 2005

THE LIVING CORPSE

From the other side of the world – Pakistan, to be precise – comes another Mondo Macabro release, THE LIVING CORPSE (aka ZINDA LAASH, 1967). CORPSE is another in the endless line of adaptations of Bram Stoker’s DRACULA, albeit with some distinctively South Asian twists.

Obviously inspired primarily by Hammer Film’s version of the legend, THE LIVING CORPSE repeatedly echoes shots and scenes from the 1958 Terrence Fisher/Christopher Lee film. But while it uses the Hammer film as a template, it deviates from it in some important respects.

For one thing, there wasn’t any singing and dancing in Terrance Fisher’s film. According to the audio commentary, musical numbers are a required element of Pakistani and Indian cinema. In THE LIVING CORPSE, these musical numbers pop up at the most unusual times, adding to the surreality of the experience. I almost did a Diet Pepsi spit-take when the vampire chick started go-go dancing. For another, the setting of the film is contemporary, set very clearly in mid-Sixties Pakistan rather than Transylvania.

The plot follows earlier versions of the story very faithfully – only the names and the vampire’s origin are different. In this case, the vampire is Professor Tabani (Rehan), a scientist attempting to acquire eternal life through chemistry. The black and white photography is quite atmospheric; at it’s best evoking the classic Thirties horror films from Universal. The strict censorship of the time forces the film to resemble those Golden Age horrors in another way: blood is at a minimum, and much of the horror is suggested, rather than shown.

Until just a couple years ago, this film was considered lost. Very few reference sources even acknowledged its existence. But Pakistani film historian Omar Khan remembered it, and set out to track it down, eventually discovering the original negative in a dusty film vault. Mondo Macabro’s disc is culled from that original negative, and the result is astounding. While there’s some print damage here and there, the majority of the movie looks great – with sharp, crystal clear images and perfect contrasts.

The disc includes several fantastic extras, the best being a riveting episode of the British MONDO MACABRO television show covering the genre films of India and Pakistan and a documentary on the making of THE LIVING CORPSE, including interviews with the star, Habib, and director Khwaja Sarfaraz, among others. The TV episode is a mind-blower with so many delicious clips from Bollywood fright flicks and action movies that it started this cult movie fan drooling. Also included are an informative audio commentary by film experts Pete Tombs and Omar Khan, a theatrical trailer, a text feature on the film’s rediscovery, a "lost" song sequence (audio only), and a nicely edited preview of other Mondo Macabro releases.

MM’s THE LIVING CORPSE is an excellent presentation of a rare and fascinating horror film, one that is sure to please fans of vampire and Gothic cinema.

BUY:
The Living Corpse