Also known as FANGS OF THE LIVING DEAD, MALENKA (directed by THE BLIND DEAD trilogy’s Amando de Ossorio) casts the voluptuous Anita Ekberg as Sylvia, a fashion model who makes the mistake of visiting her vampire uncle’s castle. Of course in classic Euro-horror tradition, Sylvia also happens to be the vengeful Malenka, a centuries old executed witch out for some payback. But if it’s old-fashioned musical bats in the belfry you’re looking for, not to mention every other great horror score trope, than the glorious guignol of Carlo Savina delivers the goods.

When he wasn’t conducting scores like THE GODFATHER and THE TENANT, this prolific Italian composer filled his crypt with such genre favorites as LISA AND THE DEVIL, NIGHT OF THE DAMNED and CRYPT OF THE VAMPIRE. His MALENKA abounds with the evil of lurking harpsichords, shimmering organs and psychedelic bongos. There’s a wonderful spooky-ooky feeling that makes you expect to run into Morticia and Gomez around the next cobwebbed corner. You’ll also find the same instrumental suspects prowling about in Savina’s score to I DIABOLICI CONVEGNI (aka THE FEAST OF SATAN), this time inhabiting a coastal village’s cult.

With more of an orchestra at his fiendish command, Savina engages in brooding, ever-escalating string suspense that I dare say presages Wojiech Kilar’s approach to the far more respectable DRACULA. Alternating with this striking mix of strings and organ are a bunch of Shagadelic numbers for the nubile young women who’ve definitely blundered into the wrong castle. But make no mistake that the music of MALENKA is delightfully essential chiller theater stuff, with Savina as the winking, eerily groovy host who delights in flashing his vampire teeth.

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