Monday, June 25, 2012

Grave of the Vampire

GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (1974)


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.


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