APRIL 2, 2012
Well I’m not about to track down a print to show it at the New Beverly, but Grave Of The Vampire is the closest thing I’ve seen to an enjoyable movie on my Pure Terror set in quite a while. Interestingly enough, it’s on the same disc as Vampire’s Night Orgy, which is one of the best films on the set, but I know that from watching it on my previous Mill Creek 50 pack (the Tales Of Terror set). I wonder how many movies I own 2-3 times over, albeit completely unintentionally.
Anyway, this movie has such a laid back approach I kind of fell in love with it, as it seems director John Hayes was intent on keeping things as mellow as possible. The movie is ostensibly about a man seeking revenge on his birth father, a vampire who raped his mother, but the guy doesn’t bother doing much about it until the film’s very end. He even takes the vampire’s community college class and presumably does his assignments! And, yeah, the bad vampire is a professor, instead of the usual rich guy that sleeps all day and plays ladies’ man by night. He’s probably home grading papers and what not instead.
It’s also low on violence, though this might be a cut print. IMDb claims of a couple different run times, but as with all of these movies you run into a lot of misinformation over there, so if the differences are minor (5 or less minutes) I figure it’s OK. Also, the kills are seemingly cut, but the soundtrack doesn’t cut along with it, so it’s possible that these kills were cut for ratings purposes back in the day (which is acceptable to me) as opposed to just hacked out at random by some distributor at some point after the film’s completion (unacceptable). But even so, they’re pretty infrequent, and the movie’s success or failure doesn’t rest with the kill scenes, like say Friday the 13th VII, a film that lost what little appeal it had after the MPAA was through gutting it.
The bad vampire is played by Michael Pataki, which is awesome because he’s using the same angry, gnarled voice he uses in every role, which is why he usually played angry cops or whatever. It’s a pure delight to see this handsome, typical looking vampire start yelling at people in the same tone of voice you’d expect to hear from a guy yelling at kids to get off his lawn, or maybe yelling at a waitress for getting an order wrong. The son is played by William Smith, a long ways from appearing in EVERY SINGLE POLICE SHOW EVER MADE. Seriously, look at his IMDb – every cop/mystery show you’ve ever heard of from 1970-1985 or show can boast at least one Smith appearance. I was kind of disappointed that they didn’t interact more in the film, but since the first half hour and change is about how he was created, we’re into the 2nd act by the time he even shows up.
Speaking of this first half hour, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was an influence on Grace, as the baby likes to drink blood, which the mother is OK with – same as that film’s “A mother will do anything to take care of her child” theme. And then Smith is similar to Blade in that he’s got the abilities of a vampire but not their weaknesses, and was more or less doomed from birth. But the rest of the movie doesn’t really feel like either, since we cut 30 years later and thus get rid of the mother angle, and unlike Blade he doesn’t really kick any ass.
Making up for the lack of action is a lot of goofy dialogue, such as when a girl eats some cake and sighs “Cake is so delicious; I can’t believe dead people haven’t figured out a way to eat it.” She’s right, it seems to be that this would be the top priority for a corpse. There’s also a lady that gets annoyed with a doctor and gets the final word by saying “My husband DIED from pills!”, as if to explain why she wasn’t listening to this poor sap who had nothing to do with her husband or his overdose. Also, being a 1970s horror movie, we are treated to out of nowhere dance party scenes, as well as a séance sequence. I should note that the latter is led by Pataki (instead of a heroic character), which is not only unusual since he’s the villain, but it also allows for more of his angry dialogue delivery.
And now for the kicker. The screenwriter of this film is none other than David Chase (adapted from his own novel), who you probably know as the creator of The Sopranos. In fact that’s probably how he’d prefer to be known, but I would be delighted if there were some folks out there who loved this movie (or his novel) and that was the reason that they decided to check out Sopranos, sort of like how I was partially inspired to check out Community because it had “the girl from Born” in it. And if you were one of the many millions who was disappointed with how Sopranos concluded, take comfort knowing that was sort of his “thing”, as this movie ends on a sort of cliffhanger with a “The End… OR IS IT?” title card. Well, it’s been nearly 40 years; Pataki and Hayes are dead and Smith has seemingly retired, so yeah, I’m going to have to go ahead and assume it was indeed the end. Oh well. Maybe Chase will consider a remake? This was shot on the cheap and quickly, and obviously has more or less faded into obscurity – it’s from the creator of one of the most beloved TV shows of all time and yet here it is on disc 7 on a lesser budget pack. Shameful!
What say you?
P.S. Satan’s Slave (another movie I own multiple times now) is also on this DVD, so Point of Terror – the fourth film on this disc – better live up to its disc-mate’s “Surprisingly pretty good” status!