Friday, October 17, 2014

Venomous Vixens: Aurora de Alba

At present, little is known about the European actress and dancer Aurora de Alba. Her film career is varied, although consisting mostly of rare, hard-to-find movies, with a handful of Spanish horror films being the most well-known and accessible. What little I could find out is that her name was Aurora Galisteo before being known as Aurora de Alba, and she is the cousin of famed Spanish dancer/actress Carmen Sevilla, who was born Maria del Carmen Garcia Galisteo. This would also make Aurora cousins with Spanish cinematographer Jose Garcia Galisteo. Aurora danced at the Venice Film Festival in 1953, from which a number of historical photos were made. She married Chico Scimone on June 23, 1954, in Taormina, Sicily, and later had a son, Gianfranco Scimone on March 11, 1955. She died February 24th, 2005.

Throughout the ‘50s, Aurora starred in a number of Spanish/Italian comedies and dramas, most of which seem to either have been forgotten or fallen into obscurity. As the Euro film industry shifted its output to different genres in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Aurora managed to land roles in Euro-westerns: Un hombre vino a matar (1967) and Su le mani, cadavere! Sei in arresto (1971) (under the direction of Leon Klimovsky); Euro-spies, Agente X 1-7 operazione Oceano (1965) and Top Secret (1967); and Euro-horrors La Marca del Hombre-lobo (1968), La rebelión de las muertas (1973), and La orgía de los muertos (1973). The three aforementioned horror films also starred Paul Naschy and seem to have been the most accessible. In addition, she was frequently directed by José Luis Merino. After starring in a line of comedies and dramas in the latter half of the ‘70s, her movie career seemed to have taken an abrupt halt at the end of the decade. What she was up to after that is probably anyone’s guess.

Some sources list her as an Italian actress, while others show her as a Spanish actress. Aurora is actually of Spanish origin, however she did get married in Italy and most likely lived there for a time. Another source lists her birth date as February 2nd, 1948; this cannot be true, however, because, as was mentioned before, she was married in 1954, and the following image of her below is from the 1953 Venice Film Festival, and looking to be somewhere in her early twenties at that time, it is probably not a far cry to assume she was born sometime in the ‘20s or ‘30s.




While horror made up a very small portion of her filmography, many Euro-horror fans today fondly remember Aurora as the seductive lady vampire in Naschy’s first Spanish werewolf movie, the werewolf vampire mash up La marca de hombre lobo (1968) – AKA Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror. Aurora plays the venomous vixen Wandessa Mikhelov alongside Julian Ugarte, who plays the Dracula-like Dr. Janos Mikhelov. Dr. Mikhelov is called upon to help Paul Naschy’s iconic cursed lycanthrope Waldemar Daninsky with his werewolf malediction, but when the doctor arrives with his wife, they turn out to be vampires who have other plans for the two werewolves in the film, in what seems to be the start of a tradition of vampires and werewolves not getting along; Aurora’s Wandessa Mikhelov is one of three lady vamps that made Waldemar Daninsky’s cursed life more difficult than it already was, with Patty Shepard playing Countess Wandesa Darvula de Nadasdy in The Werewolf versus the Vampire Woman (1971) and Julia Saly playing Countess Elisabeth Bathory in Night of the Werewolf (1981).




Not only is Aurora stunningly beautiful in this role, but what also stands out is her maturity; she does look a little older, but it’s a sexy maturity, and I think it is part of what makes her vampire character work here, in an ageless beauty sort of way. I’d guesstimate Aurora was about forty, at the time.




What primarily makes Aurora’s performance in La marca de hombre lobo as memorable as it is is her seduction scene with Manuel Manzaneque. The scene itself, where the two of them are on the bed and the vampiress is dominating and preying on her victim, is sexually stimulating to watch, considering the way she holds his arm down and goes for his neck. There’s a really nice stylish touch where a shroud floats in from the left to cover the couple, leaving a terrific gothic visual to close the scene with.







A nice little visual that emphasizes Wandessa's seductive power over Rudolph (Manzaneque), after she had been nibbling at his neck a little

Also with Paul Naschy, Aurora appeared in a moody, supernatural gothic drama with zombies, La orgía de los muertos (1973) AKA The Hanging Woman, directed by José Luis Merino, where she worked with her cousin, Jose Garcia Galisteo, who worked as camera operator. Aurora plays the character mentioned in the film’s English title, and, as such, she spends most of the film as an inanimate corpse but is still significant to the storyline. The movie is rather steadily paced but a treat for vintage gothic horror fans. Despite being very low budget, the nineteenth century era setting feels authentic and the corpses and zombies look impressively gruesome.


 



Aurora has a bit part as a roommate, trying to get some sleep, who has to witness an unpleasant beating from mobsters on Erika Blanc’s character, in the somewhat violent, Ernesto Gastaldi penned, mystery crime movie L'uomo più velenoso del cobra (1971) AKA Human Cobras (1971), starring Giorgio Ardisson in a real good tough guy role.




  

Aurora appears in another small but memorable role in Paul Naschy’s voodoo-themed La rebelión de las muertas / Vengeance of the Zombies (1973) as a mind-controlled zombie (more White Zombie than Night of the Living Dead), and Aurora also has a titillating nude scene. There’s a lot going on in the film, and it is quite fearsome, macabre, and entertaining, combining elements of giallo, zombie, gore, crime, and the cinemafantastique. It was written by Naschy and directed by Leon Klimovsky, and it is known for its sassy, giddy, and deadly zombies in see thru negligees, which is where a lot of the fun comes from. I do believe that Aurora’s smile outshines here.






As said before, Aurora danced at the Venice Film Festival: The oldest and most prestigious international film festival in the world. It is now on its seventy-first year; Aurora de Alba appears briefly in a documentary/publicity video dedicated to the fourteenth annual festival in 1953, where she can be seen (at the 5:45 mark) boarding a plane before giving the pilot a kiss.





Aurora de Alba at the Venice Film Festival in 1953: 


ALLPosters.co.uk

ALLPosters.co.uk

ALLPosters.co.uk

Nowadays, with the internet, it seems bold to throw the word obscure around, but in this case, as far as Aurora’s life and most of her films are concerned, obscure definitely applies. The mini-biography I made is unfortunately incomplete, but I hope we someday can learn more about this wonderful but elusive entertainer. A place and date of birth would be a good start. Anyone is welcome to help out if they happen to know more about her.

(There’s an enthusiastic thread featuring Aurora de Alba on The Latarnia Forums with fans sharing their admiration and photos, including some humorous photoshopped work.) 

© At the Mansion of Madness


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Aurora de Alba with her husband Chico Scimone during a magical evening at the La Giara Restaurant. This photo is used with the kind permission of Mirko Malambri of Archivio Fotografico Malambri V.


This article is part of Movies at Dog Farm's Pre’ween 2014. 

(Click the image below to check it out)


2 comments:

  1. What a great investigative piece. Being low profile on the internet is definitely the modern definition of obscure. Now that everyone obsesses over something - and anyone can have an audience via the internet - it's rare to find any person, place, or thing that hasn't garnered coverage somewhere. Good work pulling together all that you could find into one piece!

    Also, thanks so much for being part of Pre'Ween this year! I believe you now hold the distinction of having produced the most legitimately journalistic of the Pre'Ween posts thus far. I can always count on you (and Barry at Cinematic Catharsis, as well) to teach me a little something with your posts.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Brandon! I got my information in bits and pieces in many different places online, and it took some time, but I’m proud to have it consolidated here, and I hope it will make a good basis to help out other scholars who would like to develop Aurora’s biography further. Every time I go on a hunt, I usually find a little piece of info, and so this work could still be a continuing work in progress, but then I’ll have to reword the intro and conclusion eventually as the facts become less and less obscure. It’s not always the Google search bar that gives the best results, since my main breakthrough came after publishing this article and sharing it on twitter with an Aurora de Alba hashtag, which I checked out and found a nice image, the one with her husband at the nightclub, and I contacted that user, who told me about his site, where I learned the specifics about her marriage, and that opened up new avenues of research, since apparently there’s a lot more online about her husband, Chico Scimone, (an interesting fellow).

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