Monday, July 02, 2007

American Vampire – review


Directed by: Luis Esteban

Release Date: 1997

Contains spoilers

With a cover that gives prominence to Carmen Electra, even though her role is so side line it wouldn’t warrant it, you just know that this is a film that would have difficulty standing on its own merits and that’s just what it is, unfortunately.

The film follows Frankie (Trevor Lissauer), who is left in charge of his parents’ home over summer. As the film starts he is dreaming in a scene that ends up with him being attacked by two vampire girls as a really fake accented voice intones over the top.

Trevor Lissauer as FrankieFrankie’s best mate is Bogie (Danny Hitt), a surfer wannabe, and the two guys head to the beach. As night falls and they are alone something attacks Bogie. What it was I couldn’t really tell, something between a bat and an imp it appeared at least. Anyway, this is a distraction and they don’t notice that the surfer dude approaching them has appeared out of shimmering air.

Johnny Venocur as MoondoggieThe surfer introduces himself as Moondoggie (Johnny Venocur) and says he has a party going at the next beach. Bogie is all for going but Frankie suggests that they have tickets for Kiss (a ruse as he doesn’t trust the stranger). Bogie, much to Frankie’s chagrin, gives Moondoggie his friend’s address for an after concert party.

Sydney Lassick as BrunoThat night Moondoggie and his women Katrina (Debra Xavier) and Sulka (Carmen Electra) turn up, with their Renfield type Bruno (Sydney Lassick) and essentially con their way in and take over the house. Neighbourhood pets begin to vanish – to feed Bruno – and Frankie feels that he has seen a vampiric attack, though he can’t be sure whether he dreamt it.

Disco Rick gets it - hurrahActually the victim, Disco Rick (Brent Jasmer), deserved to die, after all it was singularly one of the worst performances (and Sly Stallone impressions) that I have ever seen. If you ask me the vampires did us all a favour there, if only life truly mirrored… I was going to say art, but this isn’t.

Adam West as the Big KahunaEventually Frankie contacts the Big Kahuna (Adam West), who is actually related to Van Helsingmeister – seemingly Stoker dropped the meister as it didn’t scan. By then, of course, Dee Dee (Daisy Tormé) – Frankie’s girlfriend – plus Bogie and a Pets R Us guy (Billy ‘Sly’ Williams) have been turned.

glowy eyesThe vampiric elements are confused, they sleep in coffins through the day and have the windows covered and yet we see the newly turned vampires go out into the sun with, apparently, no ill effects. There is no fear of garlic or holy items, the same cannot be said of smelly armpits, but Moondoggie has an inverted cross in the bedroom and this indicated a satanic element that was not explored. Some glowy eyes and shimmering is apparent. The vampires seem to worry about a stake.

Big Kahuna gets the big stake outAdam West is the only reason to see this and he can’t be in the film for more than ten minutes. Not that the performance is marvellous or anything, after all it’s Adam West, but because the guy is such a kitsch cult icon that only the presence of Shatner could have topped it. As for the character, well he is a woman obsessed surfer dude who happens to vanish in a sprinkling of fairy lights when his job is done – go figure.

glowy spear - why?The film’s story is utterly holed and the use of a mystic spear, at the end, came out of nowhere, just like the Big Kahuna’s disappearing act. Worst still, the direction was so poor it couldn’t hold the meagre story elements together. This is meant to be a comedy, I’m sure, but it wasn’t funny – just a little disquieting, to which I refer to a dog in a microwave moment.

I can’t recommend this at all, except to see Adam West. 1.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Anthony Hogg said...

I have a copy of this piece o'crap movie on VCD, but it appears under a different name: An American Vampire Story.

I guess this keeps up the exploitative tradition of selling bad movies under different titles, so their gullible public don't catch on so easily.

Yes, including me.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Anthony, cheers for the comment. Names do seem to be changed very often don't they. To be honest, sometimes it isn't gullibility that causes folks to buy but a complete change of name that isn't trackable.

Worst is the idea of releasing a DVD and then, 6 months later, releasing an extended version... that really gets on my nerves as (most of the time) they don't warn you that another version will be coming out.

Anthony Hogg said...

Yeah, it's all about milking every possible cent they can out of a single movie.

Personally, I think that spreading such material rather thinly is ultimately detrimental to profits. I mean, who else but a total fanboy goes out to get all possible versions of a DVD?

The cost of producing individual editions can't be cheap, either.

But, yes, fair call on the retitling of films. It happens with books too: I once purchased a book by Montague Summers called The Vampire in Lore and Legend, thinking that I had stumbled upon a hitherto unknown book on vampires he had written.

It wasn't.

It was merely a Dover Publications 2001 retitling of The Vampire in Europe.

For the record folks (and so you don't fall into the same trap I did), Montague Summers only published two books on vampires: The Vampire: His Kith and Kin (1928) and The Vampire in Europe (1929). Any other book featuring his authorship and having "Vampire" in its title, will be a reprint of one of these two books.

One such other example - also by Dover Publications - is Vampires and Vampirism (a very ironic title considering Summers' criticism of Dudley Wright's book of the same name). It is a 2005 reprint of The Vampire: His Kith and Kin.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Yes, I have a dorset press Summers book simply entitled "The Vampire". I think it is kith and kin, but it is difficult to tell as there is no "first published" marker, just the date of that edition.

A look in the introduction by Summers gives the clue when Summers states that Kith and Kin will shortly be followed by the vampire in Europe.

Anthony Hogg said...

As it happens, I have a copy of this book, too. I'm gonna go out on a limb and presume yours is also The Vampire (New York: Dorset Press, 1991).

And yes, you're absolutely right. It's a reprint of The Vampire: His Kith and Kin (1928).

However, I did purchase this one knowing that in advance. I normally go for first editions (I have the 1928 first edition), but don't mind collecting the occasional reprint here and there.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I'd love to go for first editions, but the cost can be prohibitive... It is, indeed, the dorset edition that I have... actually I picked it up in a second hand book store, and so I hadn't really planned on getting it (or should I say that edition) until I found it (if that makes sense)