Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Vampire (1979) – review

vhsDirected by: E W Swackhamer

Release date: 1979

Contains spoilers

There is something odd about this title and not that in a genre so filled with movies they went for the most singularly uninspired title. It is more in the fact that I have read thoughts that this is under-rated and an example of a fine TV movie (actually a pilot but we’ll get to that later).

Frankly, for a vampire movie it is lacking bite, quite literally. A distinct lack of blood and fang curtail the horror and we are left with a melodrama that fairly reeks of broken hearted angst.

scorched earthIt begins with a cross. A blooming big cross that marks the location of a church to be built on the site of a development. Architects John (Jason Miller) and Leslie Rawlins (Kathryn Harrold) are there as they have designed the whole development. As the dedication goes ahead we notice that the shadow of the cross is rather dark. When an old man, later revealed to be ex-cop Harry Kilcoyne (E G Marshall), approaches it he sees that it is not a shadow but scorched earth burnt where the shadow of the cross has fallen on it.

the vampire rebornIt is a neat idea except… later we discover that Harry knows somewhat more about what is going on as he investigated a rash of vampire like killings forty years before and yet he just leaves. Indeed, had he not had an idea as to its meaning he’d probably have asked. No one else noticed the blooming huge scorch mark either. Neat idea poorly executed. Anyway, that night the ground opens where it has been scorched as Prince Anton Voytek (Richard Lynch) awakens from his slumber.

Jason Miller as JohnA few weeks later and the Rawlins are throwing a party. We hear background chatter about murders, throats torn and bodies drained. One Good Samaritan points out that the victims are all either the disenfranchised or known criminals – so who cares! Leslie speaks to her attorney friend Nicole (Jessica Walter) who has a new man – Anton. He is introduced to the Rawlins and tells John he might have a project for him.

Richard Lynch as AntonHe offered to take them to the ballet but does not show up himself, instead Nicole tells them that his family had fled Europe during the war and much treasure had been taken to their estate. The estate had been demolished but the treasure was in an underground complex – under their development. The treasure is made up of artwork and Leslie discovers that much listed had been reported looted during the war.

E G Marshall as HarryThey find the art – along with a skeleton that turns out to be the remains of Harry’s old partner, who became a priest and then mysteriously vanished. There is millions of dollars worth of art and so John reports it and Anton is arrested for conspiracy to commit grand theft – until he can prove that it did belong to his family. Nicole bails him out but he has to run to escape the sun, he swears revenge on John.

leslie with AntonHis revenge takes the form of seducing Leslie with eye mojo and leaving her mutilated and drained for John to find. We see neither the attack nor the body when found; all we see are John’s histrionics when he discovers the body. John knows Anton did it but, from the police’s point of view, he has an alibi (Nicole). He breaks into Anton’s apartment and sees the coffin he sleeps in and gets a name for his nemesis – vampire. Of course he ends up sectioned in an asylum where Anton goes to kill him – until harry saves him. The two men team up to end the 700 year old fiend’s unlife.

Leslie is stakedI won’t go further – except to say that it was blooming clear, when they searched for his hiding spots, that the last one they arrived at (as the sun set) would be the one he was in. It was also clear that Leslie would be a vampire, even though they state she had been mutilated, and I was only surprised it took so long for that revelation to come out. I will also say that the ending was unsatisfying in its open-endedness as this was a pilot for a series that never emerged and there is no real conclusion. I was not struck by any of the performances, except maybe E G Marshall as the retired cop and the soundtrack was painfully melodramatic.

John and Harry plan their huntAll in all this was far from the greatest vampire film I have experienced but I have to repeat that it was the lack of anything visceral in the movie that really did for it. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


The Headless Werewolf said...

Thanks for all your reviews! I just sent you a Premio Dardos award:


Amateur Vampirologist said...

Ah, what a shame. The late, great Jason Miller in a vampire movie!

What a waste!

Taliesin_ttlg said...


if they had carried this into a series perhaps it would have gone somewhere... unfortunately all the cast are wasted imho

Chick Young said...

I was wondering when you were going to get to this. A favorite of mine, extremely well written (by Bochco), marvelously acted, tense, believable - I have always loved this TV movie. Have to disagree with you mate. I think the story is very well-researched and credible (especially employing the looting of artifacts and profiteering backdrop). It's a great thread to tie elements together (like the old cop who got buried with the Vampire). The scene where Jason Miller is in the asylum and Richard Lynch comes to get him is still scary as hell to me 30 years later. Yeah, I watched this when it originally aired YEARS ago (the night it premiered!). At any rate, I could go on and on - the ending is rushed and awkward (I believe that they left it open for a SERIES) - too bad it didn't develop. I really love this one. It's so great to disagree with you from time to time, give us something to bicker about! Finished I, Desire and as soon as I can - LOOK FOR A POST. Thanks so much Tali. Cheers mate.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Chick, if we always agreed it'd get boring...

I did appreciate the art crime (though it was hardly looked into) but I didn't appreciate things like the scorched earth and the more obvious plot areas.

As you say, the ending was rushed and though this was probablky for the oncoming series you can't level the same criticism at say the night stalker or the norliss tapes. As you'll know the night stalker got a series and the norliss tapes was a pilot for a series and so I think the comparison is valid.

Good to hear from you however and, as I say, rather healthy that we disagree!!

Count William Jannusch said...

I agree with Chick Young on this that this movie was really good!The strange this is, I just discovered it today! Being a horror completist and rarity collector, I still never heard of this made for TV vampire film lost gem. First of all, I think Jason Miller(Damien Karras from The Exorcist) put on an incredibly good acting performance as did vampire Richard Lynch who naturally creepy with hardly any make up. The acting is so good in this film that it actually carries the whole story without barely any blood or gore. True, it would hsve been much scarier with a little more gore and sharp teeth, which I was waiting for, but this creepy and chilling little rare TV vampire film Vampire was well worth watching to me, being a 70's horror fan. Probably the fact that they made this for TV in 1979 made it where they couldn't put much blood or gore, but it still was a really good film. I loved it. I am about to get the DVD!

Count William Jannusch said...

I agree with you Chick. I absolutely loved this movie. Jason Miller was incredible and so was Richard Lynch as the vampire. This movie was a lost gem I just discovered today on You Tube. I have buy the DVD now. I am a huge 70's horror fan and collector. I loved it..

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi William, as I said to Chick, it'd be boring if we all agreed and I am glad that the film gets love from people because - whether I enjoyed it or not - it is a rare little vampire film and has a rightful place in the genre.

thanks for stopping by and taking time to comment :)