Monday, June 25, 2012

Grave of the Vampire


Directed by John Hayes
Starring: Michael Pataki, William Smith, Diane Holden and Lyn Peters.

Grave of the Vampire follows in the path of the recently released Yorga movies with the Draculaesque many fanged vampire of the early 70s. They are actually quite refreshing, especially because they harken back to the days when not all vampires were underwear models with perfect hair who have an anti-hero complex.

This film sees the amorous Leslie and Paul leave a party to go and do the nasty in the local cemetery, a place where apparently they first consummated their relationship. Leslie remarks in a foreboding fashion that she believes cemeteries will never frighten her. Paul uses this opportunity to propose to Leslie, giving her his grandmother's engagement ring, and they return to the car for some backseat action while an ominous fog begins to fill the cemetery. The crypt of Caleb Croft creaks open, and vampire once known as Charles Croydon awakens from a decades slumber, his stiff bones and cobwebbed suit lurching out of the coffin to attack the unweary couple.

Caleb Croft rises
Tearing the car door off with ease, he assaults the helpless Paul for a little bit, knocking him six ways to Sunday across the cemetery before picking him and breaking him in two over a gravestone. After feasting on his neck, Caleb drags the screaming Leslie to a freshly dug grave and rapes her.

A homeless bum who sleeps in the cemetery witnesses all of this, having been awoken by the commotion, and passes this scene onto the investigating detective. After showing several photos of the usual suspects to Leslie who is recovering in hospital from the rape, and is unexpectedly pregnant from the assault, he comes to the belief that Caleb Croft was not only the suspect, but is also a vampire.

Who's next?
Caleb Croft, having cleaned himself up after his resurrection, has been watching Leslie and the police officer from afar. He lured the police officer to the scene of the crime and kills the police officer at his own tomb for meddling in his unholy affairs. Nine months later, (believing the baby is Paul's and not having an abortion at the doctor's behest because the baby will be stillborn) brings the baby to term. Leslie gives birth to a somewhat healthy but unusually grey baby boy she names James.

Fed on bottled blood from her own body, the boy who hides and plays in the shade grows to become a handsome dhampir, and after burying his mother swears vengeance on Caleb Croft and vows to destroy him.

The Yorga-like fangs of the 70s
James enrols in a college where he has tracked Caleb Croft down that offers night classes. The vampire is posing as a Professor named Adrian Lockwood. He suspects Croydon, Croft and Lockwood are one and the same, especially after reading the published work "Mysteries of New England" that chronicles the crimes of Charles Croydon and his vampire bride Sarah, who was killed years past.
James befriends several of the students, who are also students of the occult, including Anita who also discerns Lockwood' true identity, and after demanding to be made a vampire, meets a nasty death with a kitchen knife at her apartment.

Anne becomes the unwilling vessel for Sarah
It seems Prof. Lockwood has an agenda of his own. James' new girlfriend Anne, also a fellow student of Lockwood's bears an uncanny resemblance to Croydon's dead vampire bride. After discerning the small group of his students that are suspectible to suggestion, he invites them at the end of the film to a seance at his house, where with their linked minds, and his satanic power he intends to invoke Sarah's spirit into Anne, vampirize her and be with his beloved once more.

James Eastman: Like Father, like Son
The film comes to a climax when James reveals to have occult powers of his own and uses them to summon the spirit of the recently murdered Anita who declares Lockwood murdered her, and is indeed the vampire Croydon. Anne faints and while James takes her upstairs to rest, Lockwood admits to the crimes and his identity and slays the rest of the group.

James returns to declare his true identity, which Croydon seems demonically pleased about. After a brief struggle the dhampir gains the upper hand, stakes Croydon ridding the world of his evil. With his last undead breath, Croydon curses his son and like him becomes a full vampire, with all the cravings and powers of the forces of darkness, rising from his father's corpse to make Anne his first victim.

I have a few problems with this film, besides the fact it seems to be compared with the Yorga films. To me it seems like it's missing scenes, perhaps a great deal of them and/or suffers from a bad edit. The film seems to leap from when Anne and James discovers Anita's bloodless body in the shower, to the seance scene at the vampire's house. There is just no logical jump between the two scenes.

Another problem I have is that it seems that Croydon is not overly suspicious of James, and doesn't do some investigating on his own. James gave himself away in the first meeting, establishing the link between Croydon and Croft, and the fact they were both vampires, and seemed to taunt Croft with this knowledge, albeit challenging him. If I was Croydon this would have certainly raised a few red flags for me, especially after stealing the book from the reference library that James referred to in that initial meeting, which would have confirmed suspicions. For a centuries' old vampire, he seemed to be rather dense. Lastly it seemed he had misplaced morality. He was willing to kill anyone that got in his path or discovered his identity (besides James), but wanted to lend a book from a library that detailed his past crimes instead of just stealing it.

Despite these niggling faults, it's still a rather enjoyable and dark vampire film, one of the few gems of the 1970's. Pity they don't make vampire films like this or Yorga anymore. So let's bring on more vampire underwear models instead.

My score is 6/10.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Daughters of Darkness


Directed by Harry Kumel
Starring: Delphine Seyrig, John Carlan, Danielle Ouimet and Andrea Rau

This is a fantastic vampire film. I daresay one of the best ever made, and yet it only has a small cast and minimal set locations. Additionally you see no fangs, and they do not sleep in coffins.

Delphine Seyrig is one of the most beautiful vampires, albeit lesbian vampires to ever grace the screen, and she channels a seductive yet undead Marlene Dietrich to perfection that blows all other renditions of Countess Bathory, dare I say all other  lesbian vampires before or after out of the water.

On posting this review, I had seen this film numerous times, due to owning it on dvd, but this was the first time I watched it with the audio commentary on, presented by actor John Carlan, who played the sexual sadist Stefan (and also played Willie Loomis in Dark Shadows), and journalist David Del Valle.  

The "happy" newlywed couple
The film begins on a train (which in the commentary Carlan says is the Orient Express) with newlywed couple Stefan and Valerie. We soon find out that the courtship was not very long, and it seems that Stefan has some dark secrets of his own, and seems to become growlingly hesitant to introduce his new bride to his "mother".

The train journey ends and the couple arrive at a beautiful hotel in Ostend, Belgium that is practically deserted because it is off season. They get the Royal Suite and virtually have the run of the place, that is until the sun sets and Countess Elizabeth Bathory arrives with her consort Illona in her vintage Bristol.

Countess Bathory
Illona has grown bored with Elizabeth's company along with eternal life and threatens to leave (once more) until they both spy the newlyweds eating alone in the restaurant. Bathory discovers that they are occupying her favourite room, the Royal Suite. 

The ageing concierge, who swears he remembers Bathory from when he was a bellhop decades past (which he realises is true when she says his name without him giving it first) promises the Countess that they are leaving on the morrow and the room will be hers. Bathory states that the adjoining suite to theirs will be good enough.

The seductive Illona.
Bathory's "secretary".
Well the couple don't leave, and Bathory's vampiric intrusion in their lives brings out a sadistic sadism in Stefan, along with his fascination of death that leads the couple into a downward spiral of doom. 

Bathory, on becoming enamoured with Valerie, tasks Illona to seduce Stefan after he beats Valerie senseless with the belt of his trousers and she attempts to flee on the train.

But it's not Stefan who stops her, but Bathory. After a successful seduction from Illona, Stefan showers in his bathroom, his thoughts no longer on his runaway bride (journalist Del Ville had a theory that Stefan would have killed Valerie soon enough) he drags Illona into the shower, not realising that running water is a weakness to vampires (nor is she a vampire), which along with Bathory, Illona is also. She struggles with Stefan, and falling over in the bathroom impales herself on his shaving razor, effectively staking herself in the heart.

Stefan's sadism starts to emerge
 Valerie arrives first and is not too impressed with this scene of events. Bathory seems more composed (and perhaps relieved) and helps them dispose of the body. 

I should mention that a detective has been shadowing both Bathory and Stefan this whole time (mostly Bathory), whom over time I believe he has tracked and realised is the source of the killing in the area over the last few decades. 

Bathory sinking her fangs into Valerie
He first makes himself known to Stefan, who is captivated by a murder in Bruuge, and much to Valerie's shock seems sexually aroused by the murder victim's body as she is wheeled out to the ambulance. 

As this happens the detective gives a rather graphic tale to Stefan of her murder, which is another catalyst to his sexual sadism within this film. 

I can safely say that all of the characters in this film are immoral to some degree, whether sadists or masachists, and the Countess with her centuries of experience in cruelty and manipulation is able to control every single one of them.

An iconic shot of the film
After the beachside burial of Illona's corpse, Bathory wastes no time sinking her fangs into Valerie all the way (and disposing of the detective by running him over with her car), by having her sleep in her room for the night, which isn't hard due to Stefan's adultery and role in Illona's murder. That night Bathory has sex and vamprizes Valerie, making her a consort to replace the wearied and lamented Illona.

Initially Bathory hopes that her hold over Valerie will transfer to Stefan, so he tags along as part of the entourage, but he has had enough, which seals his doom. After a failed suffocation with a glass fruit bowl, it snaps in two during the struggle to sever his veins at the wrists where the two vampires immediately begin to feast. They wrap his body up and dump it over the balcony near the Bristol, and miles down the road casually dump the corpse in a swamp.

Death of the Blood Countess
The sunrise is nigh, and Bathory pleads for Valerie to step on the gas. She talks of all the wonders and bloodthirsty delights they will experience together when the sun strikes them both causing Valerie to lose control of the wheel and hit a tree. 

Not wearing a seatbelt, Bathory flies through the windscreen and is summarily staked through the heart Vlad The Impaler style. She subsequently is immolated when the car catches fire. The centuries old reign of the Blood Countess is at a abrupt and tragic end.

Months later we see Valerie at another European hotel, having adopted Bathory's hypnotic honey voice and bat-like cloak. She seduces a newly wed couple in a similar fashion to what was done to her, and she walks hand in hand into the distance, with the sadistic intention of gorging on their blood.

What I would have done:

I believe that Bathory did everything perfect up until the very end. Stefan did her a favour with disposing of Illona, who had become tiresome and a liability, save for her seductive powers to occupy Stefan while she seduced a new consort. 

There was no need for them to flee the hotel after the murder of Stefan until sundown as she had disposed of the detective, and had Pierre the concierge in her thrall. If anyone for some reason asked for the whereabouts of Stefan, Valerie only needed to say he returned to Brugge to continue his sightseeing. When the sun set they could have dumped his body just the same and disappeared into the encroaching darkness. 

My score is 9.5/10.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Daylight Fades


Directed by Brad Ellis
Written by Allen Gardner
Starring: Matthew Stiller, Rachel Miles, Rachel Kimsey and Allen Gardner.

Who says a vampire film has to be a horror to be fantastic and memorable? Daylight Fades certainly isn't a horror film, but it is a vampire film and more of a tragic romance albeit drama than any genre film.

I didn't know till I looked up the credits that the actor who played Seth, also wrote the screenplay and I'd say he did a fantastic job. In saying this film reminded me of past vampire films in a similar vein I have enjoyed like Graveyard Shift aka Central Park Drifter, and the previously reviewed Dance of the Damned.

Raven and Seth
The film starts with Seth (Allen Gardner) watching a football game with the look of disappointment on his face, and the sub-sequential crossing out an amount in a notepad, we see that he has lost a substantial amount of money on a bet he made on the game. He walks into the room of a sleeping woman, and touching her stomach we see that she is pregnant, but how so as we'll return to that at a later point. He leaves the house and wanders into a bar looking lost and confused. A redhead beauty named Raven (Rachel Kimsey) eyes Seth, and approaches him surprised, while mentioning that she never thought he'd come back. Seth mentions he can't live like this anymore, and she take him back to her house to comfort him.

Elizabeth and Johnny: The happy couple
Johnny (Matthew Stiller) is at a bar with his friend Jake and his girlfriend. He seems distant and deep in thought about something when he catches the eye of Elizabeth (Rachel Miles) giving him bedroom eyes from across the bar. Jake notices the exchange and tells Johnny to man up and make a move. It's not explained why Johnny isn't interested, whether he just came out a bad relationship or he suffers from low self-esteem. He makes a quick exit to head outside but is confronted by Elizabeth shortly after asking him for a smoke to clear the ice. After a stumble of a start Johnny warms to Elizabeth and they begin to see each other and date.

Elizabeth is out at dinner with her mother, step-father Tim and friend of the family Patrick, who we see seems more a godfather to Elizabeth. They confront her about quitting school and her job, and Tim hints at the fact that he is loath to support her any further. Elizabeth clearly has no love for Tim and storms out of the restaurant into the adjacent bar.

Johnny discovers that Elizabeth has a history of cold feet (and on their first encounters a sarcastic sense of humour), especially after bumping into her ex Kyle and Kyle's fist at a nightclub. During lovemaking, in the heat of the moment Johnny tells her that he loves her, which doesn't impress her greatly. At breakfast he confronts her about it, and she takes off saying she can't return his love. Elizabeth has already explained that she has relationship and trust issues, and as a result they never last long.

Trouble in Paradise
Later that week Johnny is downing his sorrows with Jake in a bar when Elizabeth comes out of nowhere, been told previously by Jake they were meeting up. Elizabeth explains that she is sorry about the other night when Johnny confessed his love, but Elizabeth warns him if they are to go any further that she slept with someone after the fact because she was in pain with the situation, and obviously feels like she doesn't deserve to be loved.

Johnny, who is deeply unimpressed with this turn of events storms out of the bar and gets Jake to drop him home since he doesn't own a car. Waiting to turn at the lights they are hit head on by a car at speed on Jake's side of the car, the driver having reached down to get something on the floor. They are both rushed to the emergency room, but where Jack got off lightly with bruises and scrapes, Johnny hit his head and is dying from internal bleeding. Elizabeth's mother, Tim and Patrick are there, and they are both not impressed when Tim states he has to leave for work, not having any compassion for the situation.

Seth turning Johnny to save his life
Stepping outside for some fresh air. Patrick is surprised to receive a phone call from Seth who is privy somehow to what's going on. Soon it becomes evident that not only is Seth Elizabeth's father, but he is a also a vampire, and in someway thinking he can redeem abandoning her at a young age kidnaps Johnny from the hospital and turns him into a vampire to save his life.

Johnny writhes in pain in his hospital gown on the basement of Patrick's house. He wakes up and instinctively feeds from Seth's wrist, first taking a chunk of it with his teeth. The turning process is complete. Patrick returns home having figured out the motive behind Johnny's disappearance and confronts him, with Seth saying he had to do it for the sake of Elizabeth because she has suffered loss enough in her life, and that he owes her for leaving her as a child.

Blood is Good
The rest of the movie deals with Johnny coming to grips with his vampirism. At first Seth tries to explain that killing animals will keep the bloodlust at bay, but that was a just a ruse to coddle him as later on he realises he DOES have to kill humans, perhaps a couple a month to really survive, his nature demands it. On his second hunt for animals with Seth, he comes across Raven who is also hunting (but for humans) and she leaves an impression on him with her savage nature.

Eizabeth's parents
Seth reveals his true nature and identity to Elizabeth first, perhaps in a way to gently reintegrate her back into Johnny's life. The couple patch things up, and Elizabeth seems to accept him for what he is, and even asks Seth if Johnny and her can still have sex. Seth explains they can but they cannot procreate, which means that Elizabeth was conceived before Seth was turned, and the woman at the start was not carrying Seth's child, a point I mentioned earlier.

Johnny's first kill
At a party of Jake's, which Elizabeth manages to convince Johnny to go to, they run across Elizabeth's ex again, who has two friends in tow, one who decided to make trouble my assaulting Jake's girlfriend. This time Johnny steps in and easily overpowers Kyle this time with his vampiric strength, but leaves immediately as he sees blood oozing from Kyle's mouth. Elizabeth joins him outside and they both decide to leave when Kyle attacks him from behind in revenge. With his speed and strength he overpowers Kyle and takes a chunk of his neck and feeds, dumping him on the sidewalk like trash. Panicking, Johnny asks for the keys and he stuffs Kyle's body in the trunk taking him to a dumping ground where we see Seth previously dump a victim. Elizabeth finally coming to grips with Johnny's true nature panics and asks to leave, and Seth gives her the keys. Seth then explains to Johnny that they need to remove Kyle's head and hands, to prevent him turning and to also prevent identification, and then burn the appendages in a fire.

Raven introduces herself
Johnny is beyond pissed about his first kill, and decides to leave Elizabeth due to his true nature, and also because she has abandoned him twice now when he needed her most, but mostly because Seth lied about having to kill humans to survive. He takes off to a bar where he crosses paths with Raven once more, and she accepts him as her pupil and lover (like Seth was in the past), teaching him more traditional ways of vampirism such as hunting at bars, choosing victims and seducing them for the kill.

Raven teaching Johnny the ropes
At first Johnny is hesitant, then embraces it for a short period before Raven tells hims she is a sick of coddling him, that he needs tough love which will include killing Elizabeth. Several moments later, while she is with her victim in her house, Johnny storms into the room and separates her head from her neck with an axe killing her, and telling her victim to flee. He then goes to Jake's house because he has nowhere to go.

Johnny accepts his nature, for a time.
Meanwhile Elizabeth's mother has left Tim because she is sick of the beatings and his cold-heartedness. Since returning Seth has been watching his old family outside their house from the car and is happy to see Elizabeth and her mother seek comfort and form a stronger bond, and a little later is angered when Tim returns to make amends but then when he is rejected starts beating on her. Seth storms from the car and drags Tim screaming from the house almost killing him with his fangs, but lets him live as long as he never returns. It should be noted that this scene is interposed with the scene of Raven's death.

Raven pushes Johnny to his limits
At the end of the film Elizabeth pleads with Seth to turn her because it's the only way for her and Johnny to be together. He refuses to do so, so she heads down to the kitchen and slits her wrists with a kitchen knife hoping this will force Seth to turn her, but he calls the ambulance instead, having bound her wounds with bandages. Seth contacts Jake and tells Johnny about what happened, and they meet up at the hospital. Patrick is furious about this turn of events and demands after Johnny sees Elizabeth that they both leave forever and let her live her life.

Let's be an undead family
In the room Elizabeth won't relent and says that Johnny, Seth and herself should leave and travel elsewhere to start over as an undead family. While Johnny returns home to pack her things, he finds a missing person's poster for Kyle folded up. He writes a letter to Kyle's parents' confessing to the crime, where his body is and promises he will pay for his crimes, dropping it at  their doorstep. He is shocked as when he attempts to go back to his car he comes face to face with Kyle's grieving mother.

The Beginning of the End
On the road they newly formed family stop to fill up on gas, and while Elizabeth goes to the store Johnny tells Seth he can't live like this anymore, and Seth argues that Elizabeth is prepared to do what it takes to make it work. Further down the road Johnny stops the car, and tells Elizabeth he has had enough, and that what he is shouldn't exist, that he should have died after the car accident. While he feels blessed to have had further time with her, they are not meant to be and he plans to walk into the sunlight. When she pleads, and turns to Seth for help he agrees with Johnny, and having enough of the killing and loneliness decides to join him in the sun.

They both say their goodbyes and profess their eternal love for Elizabeth, and both the vampires await in a field with a look of relief appears on their faces as they are greeted with the rising sun.
Awaiting the sun
There will be no "What I would have done" with this film, I don't think I would want to change a thing, though it would have been nice to see more Raven, and also to have Elizabeth join the undead family and they drive off happily into the sunset.

My Score is 8.5/10

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Scars of Dracula


Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Written by Bram Stoker and Anthony Hinds
Starring: Christopher Lee, Patrick Troughton, Dennis Waterman, Jenny Hanley and Michael Ripper.

This is my favourite of the Lee's Dracula films. It's the only one in my collection of Hammer Horror films that gets replayed the most, even though Lee is hardly in it, says hardly much, and isn't really linked to Bram Stoker's tale in any way. Van Helsing doesn't even make an appearance.

Lee hasn't kept it a secret how much he despised playing Dracula in his later years. He explains that in the end he was blackmailed as the producers told him if he didn't replay the role, then he would be putting entire films crews out of work. That's certainly a horrible thing to put over someone. Perhaps this is the reason why he either doesn't speak much or appear with much screen time in the later productions, but when he does he certainly commands the same presence he always did, moreso I believe than any other character he has played from Duc de Richleau in "The Devil Rides Out" to Saruman in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy or Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels. 

The films starts in Dracula's castle with the eponymous crap bat resurrecting Dracula's corpse from red ash by dripping blood from its mouth as it hovers over his stone crypt. A reverse lap dissolve later and Dracula is back in action killing the locals. Fed up with this killing, the locals storm the castle (leaving their wives and children in the town chapel), bypassing his feral looking servant Klove, and set it alight, while Klove mocks them that the fire will never reach the resting place of his Master. 

In revenge Dracula sends his vampire crap bats to kill and mutilate the women and children in the chapel, leaving them as a horrid sight to behold to the returning vigilantes, and a ghastly reminder to learn their place in his dark domain.

The film then takes a full human shift with Paul Carlson getting a bit frisky with the burgomaster's daughter (and getting caught red-handed) he is chased by guards with the belief that his daughter was the victim of a rape. Paul manages to escape to a nearby birthday party of his friend and unrequited love Sarah, and his brother Simon, who also desires Sarah's heart. Found once more by the guards he escapes Kleinenberg into the woods, is turned away at an inn, and finally falls asleep in an unattended carriage, which is owned by Count Dracula.

He wakes up a while later at the castle, and curiously stumbles around, crossing paths with the exquisite Vampire Bride Tania, who offers him a hot meal and a bed for the night. Dracula arrives in the room, offers Paul some wine, and insists Paul stays, somehow knowing more about Paul than he would like, putting him at unease. 

That night Tania comes to Paul's room and seduces him, they make love and at the end when Tania decides to feast, Dracula storms into the room and kills her with an ancient dagger, knocking Paul unconscious in the process. I'm not sure whether Dracula killed her because she revealed their true nature, she knew Paul was intended for Dracula but still decided to feed anyway, or she broke the rule of hospitality that the Count adheres to.

Later Paul tries to escape by tying the bed sheets together, descending into a dark room below he discovers a coffin with Dracula asleep inside. 

While dismembering Tania's corpse, Klove comes across a small picture frame with Sarah's face in it left behind by Paul. He immediately becomes smitten with her visage, and hides it so Dracula cannot take it away from him. Worried about their friend Paul, Sarah and Simon retrace his footsteps, first arriving at the inn when they are thrown out when the maid tells them where Paul was headed and eventually arrive at the castle.

Dracula welcomes them "warmly", denies that Paul set foot in the castle, and using eye mojo causes Sarah to faint and carries her off to the guest chambers, while a confused Simon is given the couch prepared by Klove.

That night when Dracula comes to feast on Sarah he is warded off by the cross around her neck. Summoning Klove in a fury he demands he remove the cross, but he refuses to do so when he recognises the girl's face from the portrait. Soon enough Klove allows them to escape happy with the knowledge that Sarah will live, but pays the price with a violent torture from a red hot sword tip. 

Returning to the inn, Simon attempts to muster up the courage of the villagers to storm Dracula's castle once more, but only manages to enlist the help of the priest. The three return and this time Simon is betrayed by Klove and led to the same dark room where Dracula slumbers, and the priest is killed by a crap bat. Simon tries to kill Dracula but is repelled by eye mojo, and he faints. Dracula scales the outside wall like a spider to the room above, while Simon awakes to find the impaled dead body of his brother in the room. 

Dracula discovers Sarah and summons a crap bat to remove her crucifix. Klove frees Simon in bid to save Sarah, and there is a showdown in the courtyard with a storm looming overhead. Klove dies first and is tossed aside like a dirty rag over the battlements, and Simon tries to impale Dracula with a tossed iron spike. Pulling the iron spike out of his body, Dracula is about to return the favour when lightning strikes the spike, immediately setting alit to Dracula, with his burning body cascading over the end of the castle.

What I would have done:

I don't know what Dracula's problem was in this film. Perhaps he has hit his head hard on his coffin lid. I think he let his sadism get the better of him in this one. Firstly he killed all the woman of the village, but no-one else. Sure he drained the will of the men, but for how long? The people will always rise up eventually.

In regards to Paul, he should have killed him straight away and the same with Sarah and Simon. I never understood the problem with crucifixes on sleeping victims either. There is more to one side of a person. If they are sleeping on their backs when you come for your nightly visit, just roll them over onto their stomach and feed from there, or break the chain from behind and roll the victim back on top of it problem solved.

I would have to say though that Dracula's use of crap bat familiars though was sublime. First in killing the townsfolk, and eventually figuring out a way to take off the dreaded crucifix. He certainly had them trained well to locate victims that ventured to close to the castle. 

Lastly I found that his sadism was misdirected. He should have killed Paul with the dagger in the bed, and not Tania, and together they could have gorged on his blood, and descended further in the dark depths of vampiric depravity. With Tania still alive and in his thrall, she would have aided him in despatching Simon and Sarah, or broken their will to become vampire servants replacing an outdated and treacherous Klove. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter

Captain Kronos (1974)

Recently I told my good friend Taliesin over at his delightful vampire review blog Taliesin Meets The Vampires when he recently reviewed the novel adaptation of the film that this film was the best Non-Dracula Hammer film. His review inspired me to watch this film again and review it for my own blog, but admit now that I must have been remembering this film through rose-tinted glasses as it was total rubbish.

After watching it once more, I can now say what a silly little film this was, and I actually found myself to be laughing out loud a few times. The script was corny, the acting hammy and the fight scenes were hilarious at best.

Kronos, Slayer and Lad.
The film is set in a central European village that has been recently plagued by vampire attacks. But these attacks are not of the usual vampire kind. No bodies were found drained of blood with puncture marks on the neck, but a single bite on the lips, from a kiss that drained all the youth out of the victim. Most victims seemed to defenseless pre-adult girls who were in the bloom of life, thus granting the vampire the most life energy from said feeding.

Dr Marcus (John Carson), the resident doctor of the village discovers the first victim, and sends a letter an ex-army friend and womanising lad Captain Kronos (Horst Janson) to come immediately, though the letter is somewhat vague.

Carla and her rabbit-like 'sexiness'
Kronos arrives with his good friend Prof. Grost (John Cater), who is a hunchback and an unrivalled expert on the Cult of Vampirism. Along the way Kronos picks up unattractive Carla (Caroline Munro), a woman in stocks for the crime of dancing on a Sunday, for a bit of fun on the side, and if he ever needs bait in the future to lure the villainous vampire out of hiding.

Meanwhile, whilst young women of the village are dropping like flies, Grost explains to a skeptical Marcus that the killings are committed by a different strain of vampire that feeds off youth, not life-blood.
In the course of the story, we meet the Durwards, the local nobility of the area. Paul Durwood is in the cemetery when Marcus comes across him, standing at the foot of his father's grave, mourning his recent loss. Their father, Lord Durward was a renown sword-fighter who passed away undefeated, and his grieving wife, Lady Durward places all blame on Dr Marcus for his passing although his affliction was serious and there was no cure.

Kronos kicks some villager butt in the cemetery 
Grost places dead cane toads in boxes around the area of the killings, for Kronos to return later to discover that one of them had come back from the dead.

Vampire folklore states that if a vampire were to cross over the corpse of a dead toad, its life-force would pass into the toad giving it new life, and such a toad did resurrect leading them to the tracks of a coach or wagon that they follow for a short while until the tracks come to a strange end.

Kronos inquires Marcus as to the end of a path he points to, which is a village, while Marcus stalls and goes the other way knowing it leads to the Durward Estate.

Marcus ready to add his vampiric death to the cause
Marcus' intrusion and suspicions lead to him getting initiated against his will to the Cult of Vampirism, and upon discovering his new state, in a hilarious scene Kronos and Grost use him as a Guinea pig to discover how this particular breed of a vampire can be slain. As it so happens a blessed cross of steel is the answer. After fending off stupid villagers that believe Kronos killed Marcus in cold blood, and previously taking out some paid assassins at the local inn, Kronos removes a large steel cross from the cemetery and has Grost use his blacksmith skills to forge a blade from it.

Using Carla as bait, she is taken to the Durward Estate under the assumption she is lost and is given refuge for the night. Here the Durward children who are not the vampires ,discover their "withering" mother is actually a Karnstein by birth and was using her family's history of the Dark Arts to attain vampirism and resurrect their father, with Carla as his first victim.

Lady Durward aka Lady Karnstein.
Lady Durward uses mesmerism to make her children be still like statues as she summons her husband from the shadows to feed. Kronos attacks, and almost dies at the hands of the Undead Lord before regaining his blessed blade and slaying both Lord and Lady Vampire.

The children scream and look on in horror as their parents crumble to dust. In the epilogue, having enough of Carla, Kronos strands her in the village with no means to support herself, and takes off with Grost to engage in more vampire slaying adventures, and I daresay to bed another village girl while there....

What I would have done:

I never really understood why the vampire of these Hammer films weren't overtly powerful. They weren't fast, strong or particularly cunning. Their use of Black Arts in battle was pitiful at best, and they reveal themselves and take on vampire slayers with no real plan to succeed.

The vampire knew a hunter was in town, yet hired three useless thugs to try and take out a guy who killed the undead for a living. Kronos did not know how to kill this particular breed of vampire until Marcus gave himself up as a test subject to discover the means. After making Marcus a vampire, I would have kidnapped those closest to him and instructed him to attack and kill Kronos. Sure Kronos was a better fighter, but he could not kill Marcus due to lack of knowledge.

Secondly Marcus or the vampires could have locked Kronos in the barn that he slept in and burnt it down around him. As a precaution they could have snuck into the kitchen of Marcus's house, drugged the food and turned the servants so they did so. While he slept under the influence of the drug, slit his throat and burn the barn down around him. Problem solved.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tale of a Vampire

Tale Of A Vampire (1992)

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

So begins the story of Alex the Vampire, read by the story's villain Edgar based on the famous poem Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe, whose works have become as immortal and tragic as our dear Alex in this sad and sombre tale of love lost and the curse of immortality.

Anne (Suzanna Hamilton) has just lost her lover in a freak car accident where he was burned alive, and after confirming his body at the morgue she comes home to receive a letter from The Foster Library in London to apply for an interview the next day.

The Vampire awakens
The Foster Library is a small, quaint yet resourceful library filled with interesting characters such as Magazine Man, and Alex (Julian Sands) our vampire protagonist who is researching the history of a woman named Virginia from the 19th Century. He is quiet and polite, and seems obsessed with his research. Anne arrives at the library to the surprise of the manager who believes that Head Office must have jumped the gun and sent out the interview request. Pleased with Anne she hires her for the job, and it is here that Alex and Anne's tragic lives begin to intertwine.

Alex seems rather fascinated by Anne, and we come to discover that he reminds her of someone he knew a century and a half ago, and when she was dying of what I believe was consumption he gave her the choice of dying a mortal death or living on forever as an immortal beast, in his words. A shadowy figure (Kenneth Cranham) that we first see at the scene of Anne's boyfriend's accident starts to make his presence known to Anne, appearing at the library but somehow avoiding Alex. While Anne and Alex begin to circle each other closer, going on coffee dates, and finally going to Anne's house where she hopes to seduce him, the stranger reveals to Anne that he is an author of some repute, and while he is vague as to his previous work, tells her he is currently studying the subject of vampirism, and hints that most the answers he is seeking can be found right here in London.

Alex and Anne go to coffee
Alex and Anne tell each other of their loneliness and loss, with Anne reading Alex's palm on a coffee date, telling him he'll live at least past 80 years of age, and that he has lost something, and it is something he will never find again so he might as well give up. This puts Alex on edge, and we start to see flashbacks of the mid 1800s where Alex first meets a the woman who reminds him so much of Anne, a girl called Virginia.

He is feeding on a village girl when Virginia as a young child first stumbles across him, but seems to show no fear. Alex admires and respects this, and they become fast friends, with Alex becoming her companion through to her adult life where she marries a man that she is sure Alex will approve of.

The stranger begins his game
Soon enough, and with evidence from the stranger, some letters written by Alex to Virginia in handwriting that matches, along with an antiquated photograph of Alex and Virginia (who Anne sees resembles her perfectly) she begins to see that this stranger, who now admits he knows Alex and wished to re-ignite the friendship they once had, may be onto something with this vampire thing. Especially since she received a bloody love bite from Alex the day before.

Alex starts to become suspicious and paranoid in return, first receiving a box owned by Virginia with her decayed hand in it, complete with wedding ring. Anne comes to his house and attempt to stake him through the heart but loses courage. Anne demands to know "why me, because I look like her?!" to which Alex is too embarrassed or stunned to answer that she knows the truth. She begs to be made a vampire, that she'll be Virginia for him, but he declines her request, stating that he already made that mistake once, and never again.

Alex turns Virginia into a vampire
Later on Alex finds a box on his step with the gift he gave Anne earlier in the film. He rushes to Anne's Work, their cafe and finally to her home to find her missing, unbeknownst to Alex that this stranger with cruel intentions has kidnapped Anne. He returns to his abode to find Anne quite dead on his bed and wrapped in red ribbon with card addressed to him signed "For your Undying Love". Here the villain of the piece presents himself, delighted to finally see the look of horror and loss on Alex's face, and pins him to the brick wall with a sword. He reveals himself to be Virginia's husband Edgar, who discovered Virginia's relationship with Alex, and their true natures. Alex deduces that Edgar forced Virginia into making him a vampire, and then kills a villager to pin on Alex.

Edgar gets his revenge on Alex
In flight when they separated, Edgar dismembers Virginia's hand and entombs her in a lead coffin to be cast into the North Sea for all eternity, to suffer for betraying his high ideals. He returns to Alex's bed to continuing gloating, saying how marvellously both Alex and Anne played their roles in his little sadistic play. He turns to look at Alex who has used his vampire strength to snap the sword clean in two from the brick wall, and used a jagged lead pipe to slam into Edgar's heart, sending him careening through the warehouse window into the sea below to possibly suffer a similar fate to Virginia. 

Alex cuts himself and begs Anne to drink, but she does not awaken, leaving Alex alone to be comforted by a corpse....

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Tale of a Vampire is a fantastic vampire film, quite slow in pacing and filled with sorrow and pain. The director Shimako Sato really taps into the endless journey of immortality and it is not a fun ride. Their life may be everlasting but so is their pain, loss and hunger, to which Alex is a prime example of. Like Edgar says to Anne: the greatest pleasure a vampire knows is to kill, and they cannot stop devouring in an attempt to assuage their hunger.

Julian Sands, best known as his turn as "The Warlock" plays a rather sympathetic figure here. It's interesting to see that since he lost Virginia he withdrew from the world and seemed to seek redemption by only killing animals. But as Anne begins to twist closer to his undead heart it awakens a passion similar to the one Virginia inspired in him again, and he goes back to killing humans. Julian's performance was like a quiet storm that still has an effect on the surrounding landscape. He is really no hero or villain, more like a lost memory that flits through the sands of time, much like a vampire is want to do. He takes no joy in his immortality like other literary or celluloid vampires would, and seems to have resigned to the knowledge that he can just never perish.

Suzanna Hamilton as Anne
Suzanna Hamilton played a brilliant turn in the dual roles of Anne and Virginia. They looked the same but were very much different. While Virginia was full of life, even when sickness came to claim her, Anne was filled with sorrow, doubt and cynicism, yet Alex was still attracted to her. Was he attracted to her looks, or was part of Virginia's soul in there even though her undead body lay screaming trapped beneath the North Sea?

I have been a fan of Kenneth Cranham since his turn as the Doctor/Cenobite in Hellraiser: Hellbound. He does sadistic, cruel and maniacal very well, and was cast quite effectively in the role of Edgar. I'm not sure whether it took him a century and a half to find where Alex fled too, or he was using his immortality for other purposes but it must have filled him with an equal measures of joy and rage to discover a doppleganger of Virginia in Anne, and allow him to play his twisted game of revenge..... this film is a must see for vampire fans.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dance of The Damned

Dance of the Damned (1989)

I've been wanting to see this vampire film for years and finally got my undead hands on it. It falls into the 'reluctant' vampire who feeds on the suicidal genre, alongside such other similar films such as Pale Blood, Graveyard Shift and Interview with the Vampire.

There is something about magic of 80s vampire films that has been lost to the ravages of time. Even the Lost Boys and Fright Night, along with movies that have vampire characters such as The Monster Squad had that certain charm and appeal that is lacking today with the genres "style over substance" approach.

The film starts off with our reluctant vampire (Cyril O'Reilly) who is wondering the night time streets of a desolate neighbourhood when he comes across a sign that advertises "Live Girls". The Vampire has to feed soon or he will perish, so he searches out for a female lost soul that is suicidal and perchance will not be missed by the living when she dies.

Upon entering the club the Vampire is enamoured by Jodi (Starr Andreeff who played Iris in Vampire Journals), finishing up her striptease act and notices in her the quality that he seeks.

The Vampire
The Vampire takes a seat in the back corner of the room, eye mojos the waitress into not ordered drinks even though he can certainly afford it, (he's loaded) and uses his senses to eavesdrop on a phone conversation of Jodi pleading with her ex-husband to speak to her son Daniel on his birthday.

Vampire using eye mojo
Distraught, Jodi goes to the dressing room of Cafe Paradise and contemplates committing suicide by an overdose of medication. She is caught by a fellow stripper who knocks some sense into her, calling her bluff to use the gun in the duffel bag to get it over and done with.

The Vampire stays behind and offers Jodi $1,000 to spend the night with him conversing because like she, he is also lonely. They catch a bus to his neighbourhood, en-route he discourages two punk types from accosting Jodi. Along the way Jodi gets the hint that something just is not right with this man, and attempts to hand his money back to him several times.

Reluctantly she enters his house where soon enough she discovers he is a vampire and his purpose for bringing her there. She unloads a gun clip into him to no avail, and for the rest of the night they share each other's lives, pains, and lifestyles and how they are both outcasts of society.

The Vampire explains that he is a separate species, therefore cannot turn Jodi to become his life mate. Many years ago, on the verge of starvation, the vampire and his family attacked and drained a family with a nearby broken down carriage, and since the sun was about to rise they left the bodies unhidden and fled to a nearby barn. Their crime was witnessed, and in revenge the barn was burnt down around them. His mother died saving him, burying him in the earth, but he sustained enough fire damage that he slumbered under the earth for 100 years, to wake up in an empty field, his family all dead.

His own kind revere beauty, so he was outcast due to his burns as he reminded them of the pains of immortality. Eventually after feeding on vermin, the vampire was strong enough to feed on a human, and gained the strength to heal his wounds, but since then he has been a loner. For those who have read The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice, this was a very similar situation when Claudia attempted to kill Lestat in New Orleans.

As the night progresses, Jodi becomes more uncertain that she wants to die, and is faced with her flaws and mistakes. She also realises that humanity is a gift, a spark, and that the threat of eventual death is also a gift that gives humans the ability to fix their mistakes and see tomorrow as another day. Jodi begins to become sexually attracted to the Vampire, and it's obvious he hasn't been in that kind of situation before. We are unsure as to what his other victims were like, but it seems that he has had more of a connection with Jodi than his other victims.

As the night nears dawn, with 6am signalling the death knell for Jodi, the vampire takes her to see her son on his birthday, and Jodi repays that kindness by taking him to a beach and using the lamps on the boardwalk recreates daylight for him, helping him visualise a human sunbathing in the middle of the day.

Vampire vision
They stop by Cafe Paradise for one last dance, and no longer able to deny his lust he succumbs to Jodi's advances and they make love. Back at his house, he feeds her his blood. He says he cannot turn her like in the stories, but the blood will give her the temporary ability to see the world through his eyes. Jodi goes outside to see the world as dawn approaches, almost kills a boy with her temporary bloodlust, and retreats back into the house.

As the 'drug' wears off, she makes a desperate attempt to escape, realising in the last moment that she truly wants to live and repent. Locking herself in the bathroom she uses the last of her vampire strength to tear open a covering over the window allowing sunlight to pour into the room.

The Vampire sees the light from under the door, and against Jodi begging him not to come in, he tears the door off its hinges, and steps into the light reaching out to touch Jodi's hand proclaiming that the sun really is beautiful.

I am a fan of Starr Andreeff. I thought she stole the show in Vampire Journals as Iris, daytime servant to the Vampire Ash, and was glad to see some early work of hers in this film. She played a vulnerable character really well, but she excels at playing beautiful, evil and ruthless in VJ, and I wish she had a bigger career that I could have followed. She was very beautiful in her prime.

O'Reilly as The Vampire certainly played his part well. He resembled some model on the front cover of a romance novel that I believed was intentional, but I think the real reason he wanted to die was because he was stricken with that god-awful mullet.

The vampire powers in these films were typical classical vampire troupes. Eye Mojo, fangs, strength, speed, wall crawling and accelerating healing. Not having shape-shifting made sense since the vampires here were their own race, and not supernatural evil with the powers of Dark Gods.

What I would have done:

This film was great for its time, though nowadays the reluctant vampire is quite cliche. But living for millennia can be tiresome and it seems deep down that the Vampire of the piece seems to want to die as much as Jodi thought she wanted to. Mortal feelings and human sentimentality is certainly a weakness not to be indulged by our kind, and after playing with his food the Vampire should have killed her like the others.

His wounds were healed now, which would allow him to return to his own kind. If he met resistance, well he only needed to make an example out of the one of the leaders of the coven, and chose a mate for himself to continue his bloodline. Falling for this human did none of those things, and it seems that he took her own death sentence onto himself.

Still all-in-all I was happy with what I saw. But I'm dreading the impending remake.
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