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.


  1. I remember this movie!!! Julian Sands was such a good actor back in the day -- wish he'd get more premiere roles now, instead of being relegated to B (and C) movies and such.

    1. Hello Nicole :)

      Yes it certainly was a good movie, and Julian Sands did play monsters well, especially in the first Warlock film. He's been doing mostly tv roles now, he was on Stargate and Smallville from memory.

      Good to hear from you. Hope this finds you well and happy :)


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