Velvet Vampire, The (1971)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2011-08-24 08:51

Written by: Stephanie Rothman, Maurice Jules, and Charles S. Swartz
Directed by: Stephanie Rothman
Starring: Michael Blodgett, Sherry Miles, and Celeste Yarnall

Reviewed by: Brett G.

"Alright, I got laid last night!"

If semi-softcore (is there a �softer�-core?) vampire erotica with no intelligence appeals to you, then you�ll dig The Velvet Vampire. That�s the best thing I can say about it right off the bat--it has naked girls whose lack of clothing is only matched by their lack of IQ points. Don�t worry ladies--the guys are stupid and scantily-clothed too, as this movie obviously thinks lowly of humanity�s ability to think.

Lee Ritter (Michael Blodgett, looking kinda like Joe Dallesandro) and his wife Susan (Sherry Miles, often bikini-clad) attract the attention of a mysterious lady in red named Diane (Celeste Yarnall). She invites them to visit her secluded estate out in the middle of a desert, where they proceed to mill about and do nothing until strange stuff begins to happen. Their hostess exhibits odd, leering behavior, and seemingly invades their dreams in an attempt to jump their bones. Is she a succubus? A vampire?

Either way, bodies begin to pile up, and neither of our protagonists seem to be particularly alarmed. We often have to shrug off and excuse vapidity in horror movies, but this one will really test your tolerance. Not only are its characters completely witless, but so too is the film as a whole, as it�s sluggishly directed (its 80 minute run-time actually doesn�t manage to be a boon), dreadfully acted (you�ll be shocked to know that the principles had careers before and after this), and barely scripted (vaguely plotted would be more apt). To carry out the obvious metaphor, it�s like The Velvet Vampire has a stake lodged in its heart as it drowns in garlic-flavored holy water. I do suppose it�s nicely photographed and its rare instances of vampire action are pretty cool (the blood is gloriously vivid); but, for the most part, this movie�s lasting impression is that its dullness is only punctuated by its aggressive stupidity, which keeps it watchable.

These characters are alarmingly dense, particularly Susan, who eats up every single outrageous excuse Diane has to offer. Why is there an empty grave nearby? Grave robbers, of course--but wait--why would robbers steal the whole corpse? Admittedly, Lee does seem wary, but his suspicions soon fall victim to his libido, as Diane�s boobs basically render him even stupider. What�s really great is how transparent the whole thing is; from the get-go, Susan (in a rare moment of cognition) suspects that Lee only wants to get into Diane�s pants (and vice versa). When she stumbles in on the carnal confirmation of this fact, she just sort of stands there and watches in dazed amusement as they bump uglies. Anyway, she�s pissed at Lee for about 9 seconds before they make up and he throws her into a pool. Yep.

That�s an absurd highlight of an otherwise listless movie. As if these dullards aren�t bad enough, they never really do anything. Occasionally they ride on a dune buggy (who knew vampires enjoyed recreational vehicles?) and check out that nearby gravesite. Oh, and they have dreams; I believe roughly a fourth of the movie is dedicated to these weird, trippy, erotic sequences where our three principles frolic on a bed in the middle of a desert. I almost expected Jim Morrison to wander in and make it a foursome. At any rate, it feels like this was Corman�s attempt to cash in on the vampire eroticism offered by the likes of Jean Rollin, only instead of being artsy and alluring, it�s guffaw-inducing (the musical choices often don�t help--sometimes this thing sounds like it�s supposed to be a sitcom).

I suppose this is a vampire movie, albeit one that plays fast and loose with the rules. Consider that the vampire in question takes up residence in the middle of the desert, where the sun beats down constantly. And apparently sunlight only bothers her when the script wants it to, which of course is when it needs to wrap everything up. You�ll be thoroughly confused until a last second exposition dump explains everything--sort of. This thing is messier than an unkempt crypt and is perhaps proof that people named Stephanie are just destined to bungle vampires. However, the good news is that The Velvet Vampire has never looked or sounded better thanks to Shout Factory, who has released it on their �Vampires, Mummies, and Monsters� collection along with 3 other features. Velvet Vampire gets an anamorphic transfer that�s very solid and mostly noise-free; meanwhile, the stereo track is loud but carries some occasional hiss. The lone special feature is a commentary with Yarnall, but I think fans should be happy this movie is even getting a legitimate DVD release for the first time ever. That crowd and bad movie aficionados need only apply and be prepared for a few hearty (and unintentional) laughs. Rent it!

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