Thursday, February 05, 2009

Razor Blade Smile – review

dvdDirector: Jake West

First released: 1998

Contains spoilers

I first heard about this flick when it was featured, many moons ago, on EuroTrash. I had to find it. Since then I have owned it on video and then upgraded to DVD. So it must be good then? Well, yes, ish, sort of. This is low budget filmmaking (using film and not cam, by the way) and it shows. Some of the effects are hinky, the script needs tightening and some of the actors are atrocious.

Yet it carries with it such a self knowing, audacious quality that it works and works well. I enjoy watching this movie – so what is it all about?

the duelThe film starts with a black and white sequence (circa 1850 if we believe the blurb on the box) and Lilith Silver (Eileen Daly) rushes to where Jack Ryder (Glenn Wrage) is to duel with Sethane Blake (Christopher Adamson). She is too late, Jack is killed. Now there is just something a little off about this, despite the period dress. Perhaps it was the way Lilith (played on horseback by Jasmin Lee-Barnes) rode, not side-saddle I can tell you. Perhaps it was the fact that some of the haircuts just seemed too modern.

dyingAnyway, that little complaint aside, Lilith takes a pistol and shoots Sethane, who does not fall but laughs. His second (Douglas Pye) shoot Lilith and Sethane bundles her up and takes her to a bed. Nicely there is a bleed of colour as the blood is shown red. Lilith, in voiceover, tells us that is the day she should have died – Sethane descends on her with fangs – then she tells us that she bets “you think you know all about vampires. Believe me, you know f*ck all.”

crap bat syndromeYou know I said that this was audacious, well next we get the credits and the entire thing feels (in look and music) like a Bond film. Then we are in London and Lilith is talking vampires in a club called Transilvania. Her main verbal jousting partner is Ariauna (Heidi James) and she believes all the film/book stereotypes. One thing this film does like to do is play with the genre conceptions. They are talking metamorphosis and, to Lilith, to turn into a creature is, for example, to gain the cunning of a wolf. We see a cheeky little black and white of her turning into a crap bat syndrome Chiroptera and then mist, representing Lilith’s amusement at the concepts. Ariauna wonders what job would suit a vampire – Lilith has to go, but they will continue the discussion later.

rubber upLilith is at home and she is pulling on the latex and rubber fetish gear for her own job. Yes, before the Matrix, before Underworld, Lilith Silver was all rubbered up. A coffin is in the room, but it isn’t for sleeping – she has a bed for that – no the coffin contains weapons. Lilith Silver is a hit-woman.

Leonard deadHer target is one Leonard Arnold (Georgio Serafini). He has two armed guards (Scott Bennett and Paul Marino) but they are playing tennis as his wife, Cindy (Jennifer Guy), is planning a little bit of bath time hanky panky with her husband. As she is off getting champagne, Lilith enters and bites the man. An alarm sounds as she tries to retrieve his ring (which has an eye motif) and she drops it and then puts several bullets in his neck. One of the things I did like about this was her grading the blood of each person she bit; Leonard was a C-.

Eileen Daly as LilithMaking her escape she ends up fighting the guards and this leads us to two aspects of the performances. The guards themselves are awful, they just cannot act (to be fair this was the only film either was in). Eileen Daly, on the other hand, might not be the best performer in the world but she camps it up to the max, the script offering some really corny lines that she rolls around her mouth and spits out with relish. She really is a joy to watch.

Ariauna and LilithBack at Transilvania she explains to her friends that she thinks a vampire would be a hit-woman, much to Ariauna’s disgust. We see the moment of Lilith's turning, and the fact that Sethane wore cufflinks with the same eye motif as Leonard’s ring and then we are at a meeting of the Illuminati and the leader is none other than Sethane. Leonard was one of several of their brethren who have been killed recently and Detective Inspector Price (Jonathon Coote) believes that it was a hit-man known as the Angel of Death. The Illuminati task him to catch the killer and Sethane tells him it is a vampire.

Kevin Howarth as PlatinumIn the meantime Lilith has met Platinum (Kevin Howarth), her contact and sometimes lover (though he says such intimacy is a mistake), and gets her next target – Price. Platinum is unsure as to how their client will react to the fact that Lilith failed to retrieve the ring this time.

Jonathon Coote as PriceAnd so it goes, with Price tracking down Lilith – and loosing all respect within the police force as a result, as he becomes more and more strung out. Actually Price is an excellent character, in the DVD extras Jonathon Coote describes him as a cross between Van Helsing and Inspector Clouseau – which he really is. Lilith and Platinum’s relationship is used against them and it all comes down to a showdown between her and Sethane.

shoot outLore wise, as I mentioned, things are a little off the beaten path but still very recognisable. Sunlight will not kill a vampire but their eyes are very sensitive. Blood must be exchanged to create a vampire. A stake through the heart won’t work (at least not initially). We discover two ways of killing a vampire. Beheading or bleeding. Let me explain, a vampire who looses blood must feed to replenish said blood – fail to do so and they will die. Lilith is put in a situation where, having been shot up she is stood above a dying Platinum. She can feed from him or turn him but giving him her blood, in a weakened state, will probably kill her. Lilith dislikes garlic, but we don’t know if that is a vampire or a Lilith thing. They have reflections and can be filmed.

The film might be cheap but, to a degree, there is a bit of a Hammer or perhaps Amicus feel to the film. We even get a cameo from David Warbreck (who was in Twins of Evil as well as Space Island) as a pathologist known as ‘Horror Movie Man’ – sadly this would be his last role.

Christopher Adamson as SethaneThe thing is, I can see why people would dislike this movie but, if it had been made twenty years before, I think folks would be more forgiving. Sure, a lot of the performances suck – Adamson is so terribly lovey it goes beyond camp – though there is a moment (on camera) where this is dropped for a wonderfully psychotic persona – but the whole film had its tongue so firmly wedged in its cheek its sins are easily forgivable.

I mentioned, earlier, the Bond like theme in the credits soundtrack. The original music, throughout, was good. Minus points for using ‘Bela Lugosi is Dead’ (a cliché too far) but points restored for having some Fields of the Nephilim on there.

the illuminate aspects were a little too muchI could have got annoyed at the Illuminati aspects, but they were just there to hang a hat on and they weren’t deeply explored as it was unimportant. I loved the end revelation – but I won’t spoil that. The film, as Adamson said in interview, is “codswallop, but it ain’t boring codswallop. Its fascinating codswallop. Its blood, t*ts, violence and occult codswallop.” I’ll add it is very watchable codswallop. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


CrabStiX said...

It has only just struck me as I looked at the stills....

Durham Red!

What do you think?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Crabstix, I can see what you mean look wise - content wise nowhere close!

DirgeOfGabriel said...

I saw this movie when it first came out and it was simple fun. The story was a little bit tacky and it seemed most of the budget went on buying rings and jewellery from Alchemy (nothing wrong with that).

A for Effort though, way better then Cradle of Fear though that isn't hard...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Gabriel, I think you've hit the nail on the head... it is fun.

Anonymous said...

I really liked this movie, I'm glad to see you review it here. I thought the ending was a nice twist. :)

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers anon.

fenris said...

Following on from the events of the movie, there was a Razor Blade Smile comic strip that appeared in Usher magazine, produced by independent British publisher Chimera Arts. Sadly, Usher ceased publication after five issues, but the complete run can apparently still be purchased from Chimera Arts' official website;

Taliesin_ttlg said...

thanks Fenris, I appreciate the heads up