Zinda Laash (1967)


You’re at Friday night work drinks, listening to someone passionately advocating the merits of Jeetendra (but we all know he has none), and a colleague casually says they thought this Pakistani Vampire film was so awesome they named their band after it. What would you do? Luckily the film is on YouTube in a terrible print, but with subtitles. And as a tribute to the subtitle team on the copy I watched, I will also use a capital V whereVer that letter appears.

Khwaja Sarfraz’s film is also known as Dracula in Pakistan but rather than a supernatural road moVie, it is a fairly faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Just set in Pakistan. With lots of Very familiar music in the soundtrack. And some excellent and quite dramatic 60s eye liner. It’s not a film for nuanced acting, so I’ll stick to the plot points and things I found interesting.

Professor Tabani (Rehan) was a scientist trying to find the elixir of immortality. He tested the brew on himself and there is a cautionary tale in there about proper test protocols.  The next day his assistant spotted his “dead” body. He had thoughtfully written some notes before drinking his elixir of life. She popped him in the coffin in the basement as instructed (how handy!), and seemed to think no more of it. She awakes to see him in her room, seemingly hypnotised as he moVes in with fangs at the ready. Then the titles launch oVer a montage of women screaming so I guess he was well on the way to being able to feed himself. Eternal life of one sort.

A car driVes down a long country road to the tune of La Cucaracha. A man enters the old mansion and starts exploring, unnerVed by the spooky art, gloomy lighting, and general air of unease. A man in a cape appears – yes, Professor Tabani. They greet each other cordially enough although seem to be strangers, and Aqil Harker (Asad Bukhari) is shown to a guest room to stay. Tabani spouts some classic Dracula lines as he listens to the children of the night, then tells his guest to make himself at home. Aqil is there on a mission, as he keeps writing notes about his host in a diary. Later he relaxes by the fireplace, but hears tinkly laughter in the distance. When he looks for the source of the laugh he finds a “seductiVe” woman (Nasreen) ready to launch into a low cardio dance of loVe to Peace Pipe by The Shadows.

To be fair, I’d struggle to rise elegantly from reclining on that coffee table too. She is thwarted by Tabani who has arriVed home in time for dinner. He throws what looks like the body of a small child at his lady friend, and she runs away. Tabani is tempted by the unconscious man but dawn sends him running for safety too. Aqil wakes up and decides to try and kill the eVil Vampire before fleeing. He finds their coffins in a spooky cellar and stabs the lady Vampire repeatedly. But Tabani gets the better of him.

Another jump, now to a club number about youth and liVing life and not feeling obliged to dress up eVen if you are the designated item girl (Cham Cham). A man (Habibur Rehman) arriVes at the inn, asking for his brother, the missing Dr Aqil. The manager tells him about the scary house. He also sets out for the mansion, this time to a jaunty piano based arrangement of The Wooden Soldier and the China Doll. He finds Aqil’s belongings, including his diary. He also finds the lady Vampire and sadly, Aqil. Not so jaunty now.

Then another abrupt cut to a young lady, Shabnam (Deeba Begum), at her family home. Aqil’s brother, who doesn’t seem to haVe a name, is Visiting but says they shouldn’t tell her of Aqil’s death as it would be too upsetting for a delicate young woman to cope with. Her brother and sister in law refuse to belieVe what happened to Aqil. So he proposes to take them there to proVe his story is true. But when they arriVe, all the coffins are empty. Now I think a basement full of coffins is weird enough, whether they are full or empty, but Mr ParVez (Ala Ud Din) insists this proVes it’s all just a fantastical story.

Back at home, Shabnam goes on a picnic with her friends and they frolic in the sunshine. The melody here is El Rancho Grande which is Very not what I expected. [Sidenote: One of my friends and I consistently sing this with the wrong lyrics. Our Version goes “Oh it’s the song about cattle…something something something CAAAAAAATtle” and that is what I was singing as Shabnam was doing her thing]. Shabnam disappears mid-chasey. She is found unconscious, with no memory of what happened to make her faint. Her family are sensible enough to call a doctor but he has no explanation for her symptoms. Her niece senses a change in Shabnam and is a little afraid of her. Shabnam is in thrall to Tabani, waiting impatiently like a loVer and an addict for his return nocturnal Visit. She dies and nobody wants to belieVe she might be a Vampire. But when a child is found dead, drained of blood, and Shabnam’s graVe is open and empty, Mr ParVez agrees to go look for himself with the doctor. EVentually Shabnam turns up, intent on taking her niece. Her brother is stunned, and is nearly a snack himself. But Aqil’s brother stabs Shabnam in the heart, and releases her soul.

The men decide they haVe to saVe their respectiVe families by killing the king Vampire Tabani. They start by going back to the Golden Crown and haVing a further conVersation with the inn keeper, this time as a number called Shish-Kebab is playing in the club. He tells all and just in time as Tabani has now targeted ParVez’s wife Shirin (Yasmeen Shaukat). Will they saVe Shirin? Will there be any more strangely upbeat songs?

Zinda Laash is not bad as a straight up remake, with a strong Gothic flaVour in the lighting and composition of scenes. The acting is Variable, with the word wooden appearing quite a lot in my notes. Also the note “great eyeliner”. But the oVerall combination of serious psychological horror, Vampire mythology, and cheesy soundtrack is somehow much more than the sum of its parts without really being Very good at all. Mystifying. But Very entertaining. 3 stars!

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