Pick of the Week

Musical Vampires!

So the Loft Cinema is showing an old vampire movie.

Wait. That's not particularly noteworthy. It turns out the Loft is showing an old Mexican vampire movie.

That's a touch more interesting, but it's still not really worth all of this space. So we'll try one more time: The Loft is showing an old Mexican vampire movie, turning off the sound and having live musicians play an original score, including sound effects and new dialogue.

OK, now that's cool. It's part of the Some French Friends festival, happening around Tucson all week. (For more information, see "French Connection," Music, Aug. 14.)

El Vampiro was originally released in 1957, and it includes a full score and dialogue.

"I had seen that film, before they proposed doing (the original score and new dialogue), and it's a really interesting movie," says Jeff Yanc, the program director at the Loft. "It's kind of campy, you know, because it's from the '50s, and it's a horror movie, so it's sort of a cheap film, and it's got some cheesy special effects. It's actually really atmospheric and creepy, and really kind of scary at points. It's pretty well-regarded among people who know horror movies."

Yanc also says that El Vampiro was also fairly influential, with elements that can be seen in later vampire movies, particularly the early films that starred Christopher Lee as Dracula.

El Vampiro is obviously not the first film to receive a treatment like this. What's Up, Tiger Lily? saw Woody Allen adding a humorous vocal track to a Japanese spy movie, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 added mocking observations to numerous cheesy old films. But this particular type of soundtrack replacement has its origins in France.

"The guy who thought of this is named Laurent Mareschal, and he worked for a long time with this film festival in Nantes, France, called Festival of the Three Continents, where they show kind of obscure films from Africa, Asia and South America," says Jeff Grubic, one of the musicians performing the new soundtrack. "For helping to organize that festival, they would let (Mareschal) do one night of his own ideas. ... He's done a few different versions of this idea, of taking a film and removing the soundtrack and having whatever people he picks put in a new soundtrack. It also comes from a French political movement in the '60s, the Situationists; they used to do that, too."

Those French origins for the project relate the film to the Some French Friends festival, which also includes music and plays. One of the acts showcased will be French Cowboy, a band whose lead singer is also involved in the El Vampiro project.

"One of the guys I'm working with, Federico (Pellegrini) ... he's the one in charge of putting in new dialogue," says Grubic. "So he replaces all of the dialogue with his own dialogue, which is from anywhere--it could be a story he comes up with or anything. Sometimes, these two women would be talking. ... He was making these two women say things that they wouldn't normally say to each other--just kind of funny things or sexual innuendos, or things like that."

Although the dialogue used in the film may contain occasional jokes, the goal of the production isn't to mock the film or make it into a comedy. According to directions from Mareschal--who is acting as a producer for this production--part of what will make El Vampiro unique is a dialogue focus that's not totally comedic, since most productions that replace a film's dialogue, especially in the United States, wind up mocking the film.

Grubic became involved after he toured France.

"In 2005 ... a bunch of bands from Tucson were in France. The government in France paid for all these bands to come out there and do a tour. ... I stayed a lot longer than most of the people, and I happened to be out there when they were working on (a similar project), and they just asked me to do it, and I did."

El Vampiro with the live music score will be shown at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 23, at the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd. Tickets are $8, with discounts available. For more information, contact the Loft at 795-0844, or visit the Loft Web site. For more information on Some French Friends, visit the festival Web site.

About The Author

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment