The Vampire Doll (1970)
Fog drifts in an eerie forest (霧が流れる無気味な森)
Beautiful lips... a knife draws near (美しい唇が…ナイフが迫る)
The curse of an undead beauty who has risen, (呪いに蘇った死美人が)
weeping in her search for fresh blood... (生血を求めてすすり泣く…)
The Vampire Doll (幽霊屋敷の恐怖 血を吸う人形 is a Yūrei Yashiki no Kyōfu Chi o Sū Ningyō, lit. Fear of the Haunted House: Bloodsucking Doll)1970 Japanese tokusatsu horror film produced by Toho. Inspired by the success of Western films featuring vampires produced by studios such as Hammer Films, it is the first entry in director Michio Yamamoto's Bloodthirsty Trilogy. It was released to Japanese theaters on July 4, 1970, and to select American theaters on August 6, 1971.
On a dark and stormy night, Kazuhiko Sagawa rides in a taxi to the home of his fiancé, Yuko Nonomura. The driver experiences some difficulty finding the secluded house during the storm, and asks his passenger if he is sure there even is a house. Kazuhiko is adamant that they are going down the correct road, and pays the driver in advance. Upon noticing that Kazuhiko has a wrapped gift with him, the driver asks if he has a pretty girl waiting for him. Kazuhiko responds that his fiancé was supposed to meet him at the station when he returned from America, but she didn't show, and he is now very worried about her. As lightning strikes in the distance, the driver finally points out the house, an old Western-style mansion. Kazuhiko knocks on the front door, which is slowly opened by an old, decrepit-looking man. Kazuhiko asks the man if Yuko is home, only for the strange man to suddenly become enraged and grab him by the throat. A woman with a scar on her neck shouts from the staircase at the man, Genzo, to let Kazuhiko go. The woman apologizes, explaining that Genzo is deaf and dumb, and introduces herself as Shidu Nonomura, Yuko's mother. Kazuhiko asks if Yuko is home, but Mrs. Nonomura regretfully informs him that Yuko died two weeks ago in a car accident. Kazuhiko is distraught, and follows Mrs. Nonomura upstairs. She shows Kazuhiko a memorial to Yuko in her bedroom, and he expresses his disbelief that Yuko could be dead after being so alive and joyful the last time he saw her. He asks Mrs. Nonomura how Yuko died, and she replies that she was caught in a landslide while driving during a storm, and died from injuries resulting from the accident. Kazuhiko stays for the night in the Nonomuras' home, and while laying restlessly in bed as the storm continues outside, he hears the voice of a woman weeping. Kazuhiko enters the hallway and tracks the voice to another room. Peering through the keyhole, he sees a woman in a white gown sitting in a rocking chair. Kazuhiko enters the room but finds no one there. Finally he calls out asking whoever is there to come out of hiding. He opens the closet and sees Yuko inside, her face pale white and bearing a ghastly grin. Suddenly he is struck from behind and knocked unconscious. As he begins to come to, Kazuhiko again sees Yuko's face with the same expression. Finally when Kazuhiko regains consciousness, he sees Mrs. Nonomura and Genzo watching over him. Mrs. Nonomura asks if he is okay, but Kazuhiko insists he just saw Yuko. Mrs. Nonomura affirms to him that Yuko is dead, and says she will let him visit her grave tomorrow to receive closure. Kazuhiko reluctantly returns to his room, but cannot sleep. He gets out of bed and opens the gift he had brought for Yuko, a small clay doll. As he looks out the window, he sees Yuko dressed in white walking through the yard. In his shock, he drops the doll, breaking it, then runs outside. Kazuhiko walks through a small forest of trees on the Nonomura property before finally coming to the family's graveyard. Kazuhiko sees Yuko's grave before him, but when he turns around he sees Yuko standing there. Kazuhiko says he knew Yuko was still alive and grabs her hand, which he notices is ice cold. Yuko, her face now bearing a sad and weary expression, begs Kazuhiko to kill her. Kazuhiko determines that Yuko must be sick, explaining why her mother was hiding her from him. He embraces Yuko, insisting he will make her better. While in Kazuhiko's embrace, Yuko's expression twists into a monstrous visage, with a completely pale doll-like face and yellow glossy eyes. Yuko's mouth forms a grotesque grin as she opens it, revealing inhumanly sharp teeth as she prepares to bite down on Kazuhiko's neck.
Keiko Sagawa awakens from a nightmare in her home in Tokyo on a Sunday morning. As she gets out of bed and looks outside her window, she receives a phone call from her fiancé, Hiroshi Takagi. Hiroshi apologizes for waking her, but suggests they go out on the town together for the day. Keiko replies that she is worried about her brother Kazuhiko, who still hasn't returned from going to see Yuko after over a week. When she says she is going to Yuko's house to find her brother, Hiroshi reluctantly says he will go with her because it's a nice day for a drive. After several hours of travel, Hiroshi pulls the car into a remote gas station. As the attendant fills the car, Hiroshi asks him where the Nonomura house is. The attendant points them to the only road which leads there, and remarks that what happened to Yuko is a shame. Hiroshi asks what the man is talking about, and the man is surprised he hasn't heard. Yuko died over half a month ago in a car accident, he explains. Hiroshi pays and thanks the man, and drives to the Nonomura home. Once they arrive, they are greeted by Mrs. Nonomura, who explains that Yuko is dead and that Kazuhiko already left days ago. She says that Kazuhiko probably already returned home, and that they will find him if they return. Before leaving, Keiko asks to visit Yuko's grave. Keiko and Hiroshi travel to the grave, and after seeing it Hiroshi suggests they leave. When he takes a step in front of the grave, Hiroshi's foot sinks slightly into the ground below. Keiko asks him what's wrong, and he replies nothing before noticing something glimmering in a nearby patch of grass. Hiroshi and Keiko approach it only for a flock of crows to fly in front of them. They notice a trail of dead crows with their necks all broken lying in the grass. They pick up the shining object they saw and realize that it is one of Kazuhiko's cuff links, which is covered in blood. As Hiroshi and Keiko prepare to leave in Hiroshi's car, it does not start. Hiroshi gets out to investigate and looks under the hood. Mrs. Nonomura asks what is wrong, and he replies that the fan belt is burnt out. He says he will need to call a mechanic to fix it, and Keiko points out that even then it won't be working until tomorrow. Hiroshi says that he knows it's rude, but asks if Mrs. Nonomura will let the two of them stay in her home for the night. Mrs. Nonomura replies that it would be no trouble, and instructs Genzo to prepare dinner.
As Hiroshi and Keiko dine with Mrs. Nonomura, Hiroshi compliments her home. Mrs. Nonomura explains that her husband was a diplomat who traveled abroad frequently, and for this reason had a Western-style home built filled with exotic decorations from his travels abroad. She says that the home is very old now and as a result is falling apart. As Mrs. Nonomura prepares to take the plates to the kitchen, Keiko offers to help, but Mrs. Nonomura very strongly tells her to stay put. She and Genzo then leave the room, while Mrs. Nonomura says she will make tea. As Keiko and Hiroshi sit alone in the room, they discuss the possibility that Mrs. Nonomura knows they tampered with the car and believes they are trespassing. Suddenly, they hear weeping echoing through the house. Hiroshi leaves to investigate, and tells Keiko to stay in her seat. Hiroshi walks through a dark hallway, tracking down the weeping noise to a door. He opens the door which reveals a staircase leading down to a closed door. Hiroshi slowly descends the stairs, with the weeping becoming louder. Mrs. Nonomura appears behind him and asks where he is going. Hiroshi nervously explains that the voice is giving him the creeps, to which Mrs. Nonomura responds that it is the sound of wind coming through the skylight window, which people say sounds like a weeping woman. She tells Hiroshi to never come down here again, as the walls are crumbling and it is unsafe. He apologizes and leaves, and Mrs. Nonomura promptly slams and locks the door behind them.
That night, Hiroshi sneaks out of the house to investigate some more. As he walks outside alongside the house, Genzo attacks him with a club. Hiroshi fights him off until Mrs. Nonomura appears and orders Genzo to stop. Hiroshi apologizes, saying he just went outside to clear his head and get some fresh air, but she replies saying she should be the one to apologize. As they return inside, Keiko investigates her room. She finds the severed head of the doll her brother had bought for Yuko inside the closet. When she turns around, she sees Yuko hiding in the corner of the room, her face bearing grotesque yellow eyes and an inhuman grin, holding a knife in her blood-covered hand. Keiko screams and in her panic knocks over a lamp, the noise alerting Mrs. Nonomura and Hiroshi. When they run upstairs and enter the room, Keiko insists that she just saw Yuko. Hiroshi apologizes and tells Mrs. Nonomura that Keiko must have imagined it, and suggests they get some rest. In the morning, Hiroshi gets the car running and leaves with Keiko. As they drive away, Keiko tells Hiroshi that she is sure her brother is still in the house. Hiroshi asks how she is so sure, and Keiko stops the car. She opens the glove compartment and reveals the severed head of the doll, which Hiroshi recognizes as the one Kazuhiko had bought for Yuko. The two decide to drive into the nearby town to investigate further. Inside the town hall, they ask a local government official to see Yuko's death certificate. He remarks that the family seems to be cursed by the "God of Death," explaining that 20 years ago a burglar broke into the Nonomura home and killed everyone except for Mrs. Nonomura. Genzo happened to be away when the burglary happened, and was the only other member of the household who wasn't killed. Mrs. Nonomura was so grief-stricken that she attempted to commit suicide, resulting in the scar on her neck. Following the failed suicide attempt, Mrs. Nonomura seemed to forget the entire tragedy, and her daughter Yuko was born not long afterward. After reading Yuko's death certificate, Hiroshi and Keiko see that she was pronounced dead by the town's doctor, Dr. Yamaguchi. The two visit his practice, where he has just finished treating a patient of his with a cold. Hiroshi apologizes for interrupting him, but says he has some questions. Keiko directly asks Dr. Yamaguchi if Yuko Nonomura is really dead, but Hiroshi informs her that is a rude thing to ask and simply says they want some information about her death. The doctor explains that Yuko died of internal injuries and contusions from the crash, but died looking as beautiful as ever. He says that her arm had been crushed in the accident, which causes Keiko to point out that when she saw Yuko her hand was bloody. Rather than express disbelief that Keiko claimed to have seen Yuko, Dr. Yamaguchi simply says that he believes her, as science and medicine cannot explain occult phenomena. He says that he is studying the occult because he himself saw a ghost when he was fighting in the jungle during World War II. One of his fellow soldiers was mortally wounded, and insisted that he would not die until he saw the ocean which would bring him home. The soldier eventually died, but when Yamaguchi and the other soldiers finally reached the ocean, they all saw the dead soldier standing behind them, who then proceeded to walk into the ocean and disappear. Yamaguchi says that he doesn't believe the dead man they saw was so much a ghost as it was the dead man himself. His body had died, but his obsession to return home survived. Yamaguchi ends by saying a man of science shouldn't believe in such things.
After leaving the doctor's office, Keiko insists on returning to the Nonomura house to find out what happened to her brother, but Hiroshi suggests they remain in town and wait. Arguing that this would only waste time, Keiko gets into the car and expresses her intention to go back to the house whether or not Hiroshi comes with her. Hiroshi lets her leave, but yells after her as she drives away. The patient that was in Dr. Yamaguchi's office earlier then approaches Hiroshi, having eavesdropped on their conversation. He reveals that Yuko's body was never cremated, as her mother couldn't bear the thought of burning her body, and that he had buried her. He offers to dig up the grave for Hiroshi for a price. Keiko arrives at the Nonomura house and goes upstairs to confront Mrs. Nonomura. She finds her in a room praying before her memorial to Yuko. Mrs. Nonomura assumes that Keiko must have forgotten something and left to retrieve it, but while apologizing for entering without permission, Keiko insists that she saw Yuko last night. Mrs. Nonomura calmly asks Keiko if she wants to see Yuko, to which she responds that she does. Mrs. Nonomura leads Keiko to a bedroom, then locks her inside. Keiko runs to the window, and sees Genzo glowering at her from outside. The doorknob begins to turn from the outside, after which the door opens and Dr. Yamaguchi enters. He says that Mrs. Nonomura called him because she said Keiko was hysterical and she didn't know what to do. Genzo soon appears in the doorway, and Keiko begs Dr. Yamaguchi to help her. The doctor responds that he is helping her by giving her a sedative to calm her down. Genzo restrains her on the bed, and Dr. Yamaguchi injects her with a sedative which after a few moments causes Keiko to fall unconscious. As night falls, Hiroshi and the gravedigger begin to exhume Yuko's coffin. The gravedigger says that even though Hiroshi already paid him, it's not worth digging up the grave because Yuko is definitely dead. The gravedigger finally unearths the coffin, which Hiroshi asks him to open. The gravedigger is confused by the request, but tells Hiroshi not to blame him for what he sees. The gravedigger pops open the coffin lid, and the body is flung out of the coffin directly onto the gravdigger, who runs away in terror. Hiroshi investigates the body, which he realizes is just a mannequin doll. As the gravedigger runs through the woods, he comes face-to-face with Yuko, who attacks him. Hiroshi hears the man scream and runs toward the source, only to find the gravedigger lying dead on the ground with his throat torn open. He then sees Yuko running off in the distance and gives chase, but is attacked by Genzo wielding a hatchet. Hiroshi dodges Genzo's strikes, with the hatchet becoming lodged into a tree. Hiroshi attacks Genzo, and the two men continue to fight until they approach a cliff. Genzo grabs Hiroshi by the throat and tries to push him over the edge, but Hiroshi uses all of his strength to throw Genzo over the cliff instead. Hiroshi looks over the edge and sees Genzo's broken corpse laying among the rocks.
Hiroshi goes into the house and confronts Mrs. Nonomura, demanding to know what is going on. He explains that he saw Yuko, and that he killed Genzo after he attacked him. Mrs. Nonomura is shocked when she hears about Genzo's death, and finally decides to tell Hiroshi the truth. Yuko is dead, she says, but her angry and restless soul is still here. For years Yuko grew up alone with her mother and Genzo, with a deep rage inside her toward those who accused her of being a killer's daughter. As Yuko lay dying in her bed, she explains, she and Genzo stayed beside her. Yuko continued to cry out for her fiancé, Kazuhiko, the one man who had brought her happiness after years of suffering. Yuko did not want to die until she saw her lover again, and her mother had promised to her that she would not die. Yuko was her entire world, she continues, and she would give anything to keep her alive and see her happy. So, she explains, she had Yuko hypnotized in order to keep her alive. But now, Yuko is undead, a vampire who seeks blood at night. During the day Yuko retains some of her humanity, weeping and begging for death. Mrs. Nonomura explains that Yuko cannot die unless the hypnosis is broken, and when Hiroshi asks her why she hasn't freed her from it, she responds that she was not the one who hypnotized her. Hiroshi asks who did, only to be answered by Dr. Yamaguchi, who admits that he hypnotized her. He tells Hiroshi the rest of the story. After World War II, Yamaguchi lost everything. He learned that his fiancé, Mrs. Nonomura, had married another man and started a family without him. That is why he murdered her family, he says coldly. He killed them as revenge for what he had lost. But he could not bring himself to kill the woman he loved, and when she bore his child he stayed in the town and watched over them. He is Yuko's father, and he had her hypnotized and transformed into a vampire because he could not let the only family he had left die. As Yamaguchi tells his story and looks Hiroshi directly in his eyes, Hiroshi becomes entranced himself and unable to move. Keiko however regains consciousness and is able to escape from her room, and bypasses the locked door in front of the staircase which leads to another door at the bottom. Keiko opens the door and finds Yuko lying asleep on her bed, with a figure seated in a chair next to her. Keiko turns the chair toward her only to be horrified by the revelation that the figure sitting in it is her brother's decayed corpse. She screams, which awakens the vampire Yuko. Hearing Keiko's scream, Hiroshi snaps out of his trance and tries to run to her. He fights off Yamaguchi and runs downstairs to Keiko. Before they can escape through the front door, Yamaguchi fires his pistol next to them. Yamaguchi descends the stairs, saying that he hasn't used his pistol since the war but that it still has some shots left. As he approaches Hiroshi and Keiko, he tells them not to bother resisting since he cannot miss at this range. Yuko enters the room with a knife in her hand, prompting Yamaguchi to turn toward her. He begins to tell her that he is her father, only for Yuko to lunge at him and slice his throat with her knife. Blood sprays from Yamaguchi's neck as he drops to the ground, choking on his own blood as he bleeds out. Yuko turns to Keiko and Hiroshi before falling to the ground. Her hypnosis broken, Yuko finally dies, her gruesome vampiric visage returning at last to her normal beautiful face. Mrs. Nonomura kneels before her daughter's corpse and sobs bitterly as Hiroshi and Keiko look on.
- Main article: The Vampire Doll/Credits.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by Michio Yamamoto
- Written by Hiroshi Nagano, Ei Ogawa
- Produced by Fumio Tanaka, Tomoyuki Tanaka
- Music by Riichiro Manabe
- Cinematography by Kazumi Hara
- Edited by Koichi Iwashita
- Production design by Yoshifumi Honda
- Assistant Director Kunihiko Watanabe
- Sound Recordist Minoru Tomita
- Director of Special Effects Teruyoshi Nakano (uncredited)
- Lighting Technician Kojiro Sato
- Main article: The Vampire Doll/Credits.
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Yukiko Kobayashi as Yuko Nonomura, the Vampire Doll
- Yoko Minakaze as Shidu Nonomura, Yuko's mother
- Atsuo Nakamura as Kazuhiko Sagawa, Yuko's fiancé
- Kayo Matsuo as Keiko Sagawa, Kazuhiko's brother
- Akira Nakao as Hiroshi Takagi, Keiko's fiancé
- Junya Usami as Dr. Yamaguchi
- Kaku Takashina as Genzo, Nonomura family servant
- Jun Hamamura as Town official
- Sachio Sakai as Taxi driver
- Tadao Futami as Gravedigger
- Ginzo Sekiguchi as Gas station worker
According to producer Fumio Tanaka, as Toho began suffering the effects of the Japanese film industry's decline at the onset of the 1970's, he proposed a horror film as its next movie, a genre for which he had a great fondness. The project was envisioned as a "Dracula for Japan," referencing British studio Hammer Films' successful Dracula films starring Christopher Lee which were popular at the time. The film's chosen director, Michio Yamamoto, preferred to direct a thriller instead, and so the film's story was written to combine elements of both the horror film Tanaka wanted and the thriller that Yamamoto wanted.
Tanaka was a big fan of horror manga author Kazuo Umezu, and drew inspiration from some of his work, along with Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar." Specifically, he was heavily influenced by the latter work's idea of bringing back the dead through hypnosis.
Before beginning production on the film, Tanaka watched the 1968 Shochiku horror film Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell for reference. Many staff members were puzzled by production of such a dark and frightening film compared to Toho's typical fun and light-hearted fare. Yukiko Kobayashi, an established Toho star, was chosen for the role of the film's titular Vampire Doll, Yuko Nonomura. Kobayashi had read the film's script and was enthusiastic about playing her character. Many of the film's other actors had previously worked for the Nikkatsu Corporation and were recently released from their contracts.
Per Yamamoto's idea, the Vampire Doll makeup which Kobayashi wore included color contact lenses which made her eyes appear golden. According to Kobayashi, she could not see through these lenses at all and frequently bumped into objects during each take when she was wearing them. Despite this, the lenses achieved a satisfactory effect in not only making Kobayashi's face look monstrous, but caused her movements to appear unnatural and inhuman due to her aforementioned inability to see when wearing them.
The Vampire Doll was screened on a double bill with the mystery-suspense film Terror in the Streets (悪魔が呼んでいる, Akuma ga Yondeiru, lit. The Devil is Calling) also directed by Yamamoto and based on the novel The Devil of Twilight (黄昏の悪魔 by Kikuo Tsunoda. Because Yamamoto was not interested in directing a horror movie at first, he received permission from Toho to direct another movie simultaneously with The Vampire Doll. Toho aimed to reduce costs by having both films produced simultaneously using the same staff. Tasogare no Akuma)
- Main article: The Vampire Doll/Gallery.
- Fear of the Haunted House: Bloodsucking Doll (literal Japanese title)
- The Night of the Vampire (United States)
- Legacy of Dracula (alternate English title)
- Legacy of Dracula: The Vampire Doll (U.K. DVD title)
The Vampire Doll was given a limited theatrical release in the United States by Toho International beginning on August 6, 1971. The film was subtitled into English and given the title The Night of the Vampire, and only played in theaters in New York City and Los Angeles. The film did not receive a home video release in the United States until May 2018, when Arrow Video released the entire Bloodthirsty Trilogy in the United States and United Kingdom in a Blu-ray set, complete with newly-translated English subtitles. This release also included the alternate title Legacy of Dracula, which was previously used for the film's 2003 Region 2 DVD release.
The Vampire Doll was enough of a success in Japan to inspire Toho to bring back Yamamoto to direct two follow-ups: Lake of Dracula and Evil of Dracula, with all three films collectively known as the Bloodthirsty Trilogy. Writing for The New York Times, critic Howard Thompson gave the film a positive review following its United States release, saying "while the director, Michio Yamamoto, also has the master's economy, he tells his grisly story with a cool, taciturn detachment all his own. Don't be fooled by what seems a conventional staging. There is plenty lurking around the bend, some of it hair-raising." Thompson called the film "exceptionally well-written" and complimented the acting along with its other aspects.
Artsmagic DVD (2003)
- Region: 2
- Discs: 1
- Audio: Japanese
- Subtitles: English
- Special Features: portrait gallery; stills gallery; original promotional materials gallery
- Notes: Also released in The Bloodthirsty Trilogy Limited Edition Collector's Box with Lake of Dracula and Evil of Dracula. Out of print.
Toho DVD (2005)
- Region: 2
- Discs: 1
- Audio: Japanese
- Special Features: Audio commentary by Yukiko Kobayashi
- Notes: Re-released on February 7, 2014 and on August 19, 2015 as part of the Toho DVD Masterpiece Selection. Also released in 2005 as part of the Bloodthirsty Box with Lake of Dracula and Evil of Dracula.
Arrow Video Blu-ray (2018) [The Bloodthirsty Trilogy]
- Region: A and B
- Discs: 3
- Audio: Japanese (1.0 Mono)
- Subtitles: English (newly translated)
- Special Features: Kim Newman on The Bloodthirsty Trilogy, a new video appraisal by the critic and writer; stills gallery; original trailers; reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin; collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Japanese film expert Jasper Sharp (first pressing only)
- Notes: Packaged with Lake of Dracula and Evil of Dracula.
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