"Let's skip the rather special case of the homosexual vampire?"- Tony Seymour (Alex Davion)
Stars: Patrick Macnee, Alex Davion, Johnny Sekka, Peter Cushing
Other Stars: Madeleine Hinde, Edward Woodward, William Mervyn, Patrick Mower, Imogen Hassall
Director: Robert Hartford-Davis
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality, drug use, violence, gore)
Run Time: 01h:22m:52s
Release Date: 2005-09-13
DVD ReviewOne common thread in many films of the late 1960s and early 1970s was young people finding themselves. Frequently, as in Easy Rider and To Be Twenty, this developed the essentially conservative theme that such freedom-seeking could ultimately end only in disaster and death. Firmly in that tradition is this picture that combines the vampire legend with the drug culture, along with a psychosexual aspect that ultimately leaves it a rather confused mess.
Young Oxford don Richard Fountain (Patrick Mower) has gone to Greece to do research on mythology and ancient rites, but has gotten himself mixed up with a murderous cult led by the dark, voluptuous and blood-drinking beauty Chriseis (Imogen Hassall). The Foreign Office asks his friend, investigator Tony Seymour (Alex Davion) to locate Richard and bring him back before he starts an international incident. Richard's fiancée, Penelope (Madeleine Hinde), and student Bob Kirby (Johnny Sekka) tag along to help find their friend. With the aid of British military attaché Major Derek Longbow (Patrick Macnee), they succeed in finding Richard and bring him home. But the influence of Chriseis remains strong in more ways than one upon Richard.
The picture is rather crudely assembled, with little sense of dramatic timing. Each line appears to have been shot separately and then cut together with awkward pauses between bits of dialogue. The script doesn't help, with long dull chatting and speechifying sequences punctuated by occasional scenes of extremely brutal violence. There's also the obligatory overly long drug sequence culminating in a particularly vicious murder (seen on the rather appalling front cover of the DVD) that comes as a shock after all the dull blah blah blah about the establishment and mythic theory. Once the action shifts back to England, the tone alters with an odd psychosexual explanation for vampirism offered by Eric Holstrom (Edward Woodward, who would go on to star memorably as a fellow with psychosexual issues of his own in The Wicker Man), linking it to impotence and sadomasochism. The picture is never quite clear as to whether Chriseis actually is a vampire or whether drugs and hypnosis are more to blame. Director Robert Hartford-Davis, who had produced a memorable bit of sleaze the year before, The Fiend (also featuring Madeleine Hinde), doesn't fare nearly as well with this followup.
Patrick Macnee isn't far removed from his John Steed character, albeit dressed in more comfortable clothes. He does get some good action sequences and one of the most absurdly extended death scenes committed to celluloid, milked for everything possible. Peter Cushing only makes a brief appearance at the beginning but gets more substance late in the film as Penelope's father; his domineering and obsessive planning of Richard's future helps set in motion the finale, and he turns in his usual detailed performance. The younger leads aren't much to get excited about. Davion is stuck with a clumsy narration that is repeated in dialogue moments later, and his character is a virtual cipher. Johnny Sekka's Bob Kirby has one setting, way too intense, but he does at least get some weightier racial issues to work with. Hinde is colorless and mostly annoying; it's not hard to see why Richard finds Chriseis much more fascinating and sexually appealing.
Although this film was previously released by Something Weird Video on DVD in a double feature with the Filipino vampire film Blood Thirst, that rendition used the US R-rated version, running over two minutes shorter at 1h:20m:31s. This edition reinstates the nudity and violence that had been snipped from the drug sequence and the first murder to placate the MPAA. However, if the still gallery is any indication there was still a good deal more nudity shot that doesn't appear here. That's backed up by the 87-minute running time listed by IMDb, which is four minutes more than even this longer cut.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||no|
Image Transfer Review: The picture is presented in open matte full frame. It frames quite nicely to 16:9 ratio if zoomed on a widescreen set (even the reel-change markers are properly positioned for such matting), without crowding or other issues. Color tends towards greenish much of the time but looks fine at other times. The day-for-night sequences are much too dark and are hardly legible at all. Edge enhancement has been applied liberally, making pans on the Greek scenery a mess of artifacts, and ringing is apparent everywhere. The Something Weird version is a better transfer, lacking the edge enhancement, but unfortunately as noted above is substantially cut.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 English mono track is rather hissy. Much of the sound appears to have been recorded live, and thus tends to be on the noisy side. Foley effects have been added that are much too loud and obtrusive. This is probably a problem with the original sound mix, however. The music tends to be rather tinny-sounding and is frequently brassy and inappropriate altogether. Although Bobby Richards is credited as composer, it feels like an inadequate library score that has been slapped together with little regard for the subject matter.
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
- Poster and still gallery
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsA dull and clumsy picture that can't quite decide whether it's really a horror film or a rant against the Establishment. The transfer suffers from too much edge enhancement and muddy day-for-night sequences, but on the plus side it reinstates substantial footage cut from the US release.
Mark Zimmer 2005-09-14