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  Vampires in Havana Tanning Potion
Year: 1985
Director: Juan Padrón
Stars: Frank González, Manuel Marín, Margarita Aguero, Irela Bravo, Carlos González, Mirella Guillot, Krikor Melikyan, Juan Padrón, Carmen Solar
Genre: Horror, Comedy, AnimatedBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ever since the nineteenth century, vampires have been looking for a way to venture out into the sunlight, with Count Dracula the keenest of all. His son, Amadeus, was a professor who tried out various formulae on vampire dogs, but had difficulty finding one that worked until one fateful day. Dracula himself drank down the potion and the next dawn went out on the prowl - and was promptly reduced to ashes. So that didn't work after all. However, Amadeus persevered and fled from Europe to Cuba where he discovered something that was effective, or it worked on his nephew Joseph, at any rate. This meant that Joseph grew up not knowing of his bloodsucking roots, and believed himself to be an ordinary human. But now there's trouble ahead as two vampire factions are at war, the Americans wanting to destroy the formula and the Europeans wanting to preserve it - who will win out?

Here's a strange one, a cartoon feature from Cuba that mixes sex and violence in its own winning formula to create a comedy that can be enjoyed by the forces of darkness and the denizens of light in equal measure. Scripted by Ernesto Padrón and director Juan Padrón, the film is vivacity all the way with a plot that never settles down from scene to scene, and as the running time is around seventy minutes, there's no space to be bored. That said, it all moves at such a gallop that it can become slightly incoherent in places, especially if you're relying on subtitles to follow the action (Joseph is called various names by various characters, for example).

The animation is not exactly Disney level, but then Disney wouldn't have much in the way of sex and violence in their cartoons, so the highly stylised characters, amateurish though they may look, fit right into Padrón's technique. As this is from Cuba, there's a revolutionary mood to the story, set at the time of General Machado's regime where trumpet-playing Joseph does his best to fight back against the authorities when not singing and blowing tunes. Actually, less than a horror film Vampires in Havana (or ¡Vampiros en La Habana! as it was originally known) is more of a gangster movie from the nineteen-thirties, complete with American gang bosses leading the motion against the potion.

Joseph is also something of a lothario, and makes it his business to romance the Chief of Police's younger wife, as we see early on. This also provides his friends with a diversion to break into the Chief's safe later, but when will the penny drop about the vampirism? His true love, Lola, certainly has a bumpy ride through their relationship, although it's she he dreams of settling down with (literally). But finally his uncle breaks the news and Joseph starts acting vampiric, although he never bites anyone's neck, not even Lola's. There is the odd musical interlude or two, and gags galore such as the bar which serves alcoholic blood for its patrons - that is, the blood of alcoholics - and a werewolf who receives the unwelcome attentions of a randy dog. Presented with a wild joie de vivre, which is ironic considering it's concerned with the undead, not every joke is laugh out loud funny, but Vampires in Havana is more fun than any of the Blade movies.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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