Inspector Frank Dorin (Adrian Hoven), a US detective working for Interpol, has just closed his latest case and is hoping for a vacation. We see him at a bar and on deck of a Mediterranean cruise ship. But Frank’s boss does not care about his wish for a holiday. A nearby police force is struggling with a spate of deaths among young women and has been asking for assistance. So Frank finds himself on the way to a remote mountain village, where he is greeted with suspicion by the superstitious locals.
Another death, as well as other unexplained occurrences, cause Frank to consider supernatural explanations. He is encouraged by the local “witch”, but mocked by the village doctor. And how do the German professor and his black servant fit into all of this, who live in the castle that sits on top of the alleged vampire grotto?
This black-and-white film tries to satisfy the audience’s demand for titillating horror, while modelling its hero and its story-telling after the highly successful German Edgar Wallace adaptations which had been taking German cinemas by storm in those years.
The whole feel of the film is that of a traditional detective or spy story of the time. The opening sequence, the character of Frank Doren, the music used for the opening and end credits – they all match that style. As a result, when the film tries to mix in some supernatural elements, it never really fits.
This German-led production was shot in Yugoslavia, and apart from John Kitzmiller (known from the James Bond film Dr. No) the cast is predominantly Austrian or German.
We are never told where this village is supposed to be, but it seems to be somewhere in northern Yugoslavia or the border regions to Italy, as these are the areas that can be seen at the map in the police headquarters. The fact that the German professor, an aristocrat, claims the castle as his family’s heritage, also suggests an area within the former Habsburg Empire. Northern Yugoslavia would also fit in with tradition, given the historic cases of vampire panic in the area.
Apart from Kitzmiller the most prominent cast member is veteran German actor Wolfgang Preiss, who might be best known for his role in A Bridge Too Far. The acting in this film is solid – Hoven especially convinces as the self-assured US agent – but none of the actors are given any material with which to shine. The story is pretty bland, with absolutely no moments of excitement of passion. The dialogue is pretty nonsensical at times, but that may in part be a dubbing issue as I had to watch this film in English.
The film has some nice sets/locations and cinematography. There are a number of scenes in crypts and natural caves, and with some of the wider shots I suspect that they have been shot in actual caves, not on a soundstage, and they look really good.
Films of the era that tried to appeal to a horror audience often made the attempt to impress with practical and special effects, and Der Fluch der Grünen Augen is no exception. The filmmakers tried to sprinkle in a couple of effects, like a crumbling skull or a mild combustion. There is also a double-exposure-like scene in which a hearth fire reveals an image of dancing women. And a scene intended to represent the image Frank sees in the dark caves when looking through his special “infra-red” device. On the more traditional side, the film tries to employ some shadow-work in the style of Nosferatu, but most of it looks weak and is not very effective.
As I said, the story is pretty bland. Allegedly director/producer Ákos Ráthonyi “contributed” to the script – that could either be a sign that the screenplay by Kurt Roecken was weak and Ráthonyi knew it; or it could mean that Ráthonyi meddled and made it worse. Be that as it may, the writing lacks even the bare minimum of finesse, and this is sorely missed in a film that is basically a detective mystery story. The plot is meandering along, seemingly without ever getting to the point. And in the end there is no big revelation, no final battle, no showdown – the film just ends.
This film is definitely not worse than many other vampire films of the time, but it is less interesting, for example, than the Mexican films I have seen. And it is certainly less iconic than a Santo film. So I don’t think I can recommend this to anyone.
Rating: 5 out of 10.