Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Vampirama Part 1: Count Yorga, Vampire; The Vampire Lovers, The Rape of the Vampire

Alright, everybody! Today I'm trying something a little different. I'll be reviewing multiple movies, as I've done recently, but today they all have a theme: Vampire movies. There are a lot of them on Netflix so I intend to do at least one more Vampirama entry in the near future.

Count Yorga, Vampire by Bob Kelljan, 1970

I don't know, I kind of liked this one, a little. It's a bit campy, and Count Yorga actually wears actually wears a black cape with red lining, which is a dead giveaway that he's a vampire. That and he's a Bulgarian count that hangs out in L.A. or something. He took one of the characters' mom as a bride and then goes after her for his next one. There are a few other brides too. Then her friends have to go to Count Yorga's mansion and try to rescue her. It was watchable, and held my attention, but probably would have been more fun to watch with friends, because it was pretty silly.

The Vampire Lovers by Roy Ward Baker, 1970

This is one made by those British horror mavens, Hammer Films. It was directed by Roy Ward Baker, who made the classic A Night to Remember, considered by many to be the best Titanic movie. Later in his career, he seemed to get stuck in the horror ghetto with other talents such as Freddie Francis, directing movies for Hammer and Amicus, such as this and Vault of Horror. Nowadays, good horror directors are respected for their skill, but back then, unfortunately, it was considered kind of a slum.

Before watching The Vampire Lovers, the only other Hammer film I'd seen was the original The Wicker Man, which is also my favorite horror movie. The Vampire Lovers is quite different, less interested in that sense of dread that The Wicker Man builds so elegantly, and more interested in being fun, bloody, and sexy. Heck, it's downright dirty at times. It stars Ingrid Pitt as the vampire in question, who alternately goes by Carmilla, Mircalla, and Marcilla. It costars her boobs, which alternately go by Milcarla, Lircalma, Malcirla, Millarca, Rillcama, and Camlirla. It also features the great Peter Cushing, but not his boobs, so who cares?

I thought The Vampire Lovers was a really entertaining exploitation flick, definitely the best of the three that I'm reviewing today. It's an adaptation of the classic piece of vampire literature, Carmilla, which predates even Dracula, and was also adapted ten years prior by Barbarella director Roger Vadim and released as Blood and Roses. They're both good movies in their own way, but of the two, I prefer Vadim's. It's looser, stranger, more artfully shot and directed, and less exploitative. Still, I liked The Vampire Lovers, too.

The Rape of the Vampire, aka Le Viol du Vampire by Jean Rollin, 1968

Don't worry, it's not as porn-y as the title makes it sound. It's more artsy than anything. The story is told in two parts, because it started out as a short and was expanded to a feature. Part one is about four women who believe themselves to be vampire sisters. A trio of young people, one a psychoanalyst, visit, determined to prove to the sisters that they are human after all, and that vampires don't exist. The second half features the return of the Vampire Queen, who controls a weird medical clinic where a doctor under her employ secretly searches for a cure for vampirism.

It's a weird and interesting movie, but not great. What fascinated me about The Rape of the Vampire is that the director, Jean Rollin, spent pretty much his entire career just making vampire movies in France. And as far as I can tell, he did it because he wanted to, not because it was the only work he could find. I thought that was really cool and interesting for that period in time, since in England and America, that kind of thing was rare until the late 70's or early 80's, after The Exorcist and Jaws de-ghettoized horror a bit and all of Roger Corman's young proteges started seeping into the industry and such. I plan on watching some more of Jean Rollin's artsy vampire movies in the near future. I'll let you know what I think.


So there you have it, three vampire movies. Stay tuned for more in the next couple weeks!

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