A prizewinner at the 1953 Cannes Film Festival, released here in 1957 and thereafter forgotten, White Reindeer is the most exotic item in “Fright Nights,” BAM’s weekly international horror series—and perhaps the world’s only example of Sami gothic cinema. Shot for next to nothing on location in Finnish Lapland and filled with local non-actors, this first feature by cinematographer and battlefield cameraman Erik Blomberg is a quasi-ethnographic exercise in magic neorealism. White Reindeer is also a vehicle for Blomberg’s wife, Mirjami Kuosmanen, who plays a star-crossed Sami woman with a hereditary power to transform herself into a reindeer fatale. The movie’s terse delivery and stark premise—as much pagan as psychological—might have impressed ’50s audiences with the generic similarity to Val Lewton’s Cat People. Seen today, White Reindeer‘s singing introduction, reindeer race meet-cute, pervasive post-dubbing, and folkloric digressions (a whole village simultaneously forging its sacred spears), not to mention its hearty Nordic atmosphere, uncannily evoke Guy Maddin
avant la lettre.