Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sledge Hammer! – The Last of the Red Hot Vampires – review (TV Episode)

dvd set

Director: Bill Bixby

First aired: 1987

Contains spoilers

It is sometimes easy to forget that Bill Bixby – Dr David Bruce Banner in the Incredible Hulk TV series – was also an accomplished director and actually directed eight episodes of the comedy cop show ‘Sledge Hammer!’ including this, the virtually obligatory vampire episode.

Sledge and Doreau on the caseThe show itself based its comedy around Sledge Hammer (David Rasche) a violent, obtuse, misogynistic cop with the subtlety of an elephant overdosed on steroids. It was like taking the Dirty Harry stereotype and stretching it as far as it could go until it became a rather oblique and very funny concept. He was partnered with Dori Doreau (Anne-Marie Martin) – who luckily was competent – and supervised by the long suffering Captain Trunk (Harrison Page).

filming Touch of the VampireThis, of course, being a vampire episode means that we begin with a shot of the moon and the howl of a wolf. All, however, is not as it seems. A maiden sleeps in the bed, a bat flickers at the French window, the vampire appears and… his fangs drop out. We are on a film set where the movie ‘Touch of the Vampire’ is being filmed.

a lonely walk off setThe actor playing the vampire is Vincent Lagarski – obviously the surname is reminiscent of Lugosi and the forename reminds us of Vincent Price – indeed the whole look is similar to that of Bela Lugosi in Dracula and later we see footage from an old film in which Lagarski uttered the ‘children of the night’ line. The director, Stephen Schmielman (Robert Fieldsteel), is less than impressed – though Lagarski states that in the old days he went without fangs – and fires the aging star.

Schmielman drainedIn a bar Doreau hears a TV news report stating that Lagarski passed away quietly in his sleep. However things become odd when Schmeilman is found dead, drained of blood. We get to see the attack and though we did not see the assailant we notice that the director knew him and we heard wings flapping. Things get weirder when witnesses start saying that they have seen Lagarski prowling the city streets at night.

Alimony, alimony payin' your billsOf course Sledge is not scared of vampires, he just doesn’t scare… well except for the times when his ex-wife contacts him regarding her alimony cheques. An attack on the actress Jessica Novak (Greta Blackburn) has the cops digging up Lagarski’s coffin… but he must be in there, mustn’t he?

newspaper furoryThis was great fun (though I'll warn you that the solution is surreal). The vampire aspects were vamp-lite, to be honest, but took a gentle poke at the great horror stars of yesteryear. We even get some righteous crap bat syndrome. Definitely worth a look, 6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

No comments: