Color, 1988, 93m.
Directed by Augusto Caminito
Starring Klaus Kinski, Barbara De Rossi, Christopher Plummer, Donald Pleasence, Yorgo Voyagis, Anne Knecht
One 7 Movies (DVD) (US R0 NTSC), CineKult (Italy R2 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

Prince of the NightAn unofficial sequel to Werner Herzog's 1979 film, Nosferatu the Vampire, this enigmatic Italian Prince of the Nighthorror offering was originally entitled Nosferatu a Venezia, or Nosferatu in Venice. Now sporting a full head of hair, the notoriously temperamental Klaus Kinski (who would be dead within three years) returns as a bloodsucking menace haunting the canals of the titular city.

Brought in investigate rumors of the prowling undead is Professor Catalano (Plummer!), who might as well be named Van Helsing. His aid is sought by the pretty Helietta Canins (De Rossi), whose elderly matriarch (Knecht) insists their Transylvanian past is linked to a bloody secret, specifically a sinister coffin down in the family crypt. Also on hand is a priest, Don Alvise (Pleasence), who helps decipher the clues of cryptic Latin texts to the whereabouts of Nosferatu, who apparently now only likes to prey on nubile, unclad young women.

Also known as Vampire in Venice, this was a notoriously troubled production from the waning days of the Italian horror boom. Kinski's diva fits were legendary and led to a carousel of directors including Nightmare Castle's Mario Caiano, Prince of the NightStateline Motel's Maurizio Lucidi, and Contamination's Luigi Cozzi. The bulk of it wound up being helmed and credited to producer Augusto Caminito, who had virtually no directorial experience but had several screenplays under his belt. Of course, gothic period horror films were long out of vogue by this time, and the film wound up getting no English-language distribution in most territories. Substandard bootlegs Prince of the Nightsourced from the Japanese VHS release were the only means of seeing it at all for most curious viewers, and it's a bit surprising it took until 2014 for Americans to get any sort of commercial video release in any form.

Now bearing the title Prince of the Night, the film comes to DVD from One 7 Movies with a transfer that appears to be identical to the Italian-only version released earlier by CineKult. Fortunately the original English language track is here, and apart from a couple of dropouts during main titles, it sounds fine. The film was definitely shot in English, with Plummer's performance in particular only working in that version, so this is definitely the way to go. The Italian dubbed track is also included as a secondary option, but it doesn't have any English subtitles and sounds very tinny. All things considered the transfer itself looks very good throughout (it may be a pipe dream to hope for a Blu-ray someday) but appears to originate from the original PAL source without speed conversion, so it still clocks in at just over 93 minutes instead of the original film speed of 97. The sole extra is a two-minute gallery of international poster art and lobby cards.

Despite its rocky history and distribution woes, the film is still quite enjoyable today with its exceptionally rich Venice atmosphere helping tremendously. The carnival trappings, antiquated villas, and bombastic orchestral and synthesizer music make for a memorably strange experience that carries the film over its bumpier spots, and even though he was essentially phoning his performances in at this point, it's always fun to see Kinski skulking around with vampiric rat teeth. He's clearly in a similar mode as his sole directing/starring vehicle, Paganini, which was made at the same time; according to rumors, he also directing some portions of this film, presumably since he was in that frame of mind anyway. A real oddity, this is an often bizarre but entertaining little treat from the end of a major golden age in horror cinema.

Reviewed on August 26, 2014.