Monday, May 31, 2010

Tales from the Crapper – review

Director: Various

Released: 2004

Contains spoilers

I have not been too complementary about Troma films – after all they are crap (though they have been known to pick up some gems from other production companies on occasion). However there is a certain something about some of them, in the right company, with the correct amount of foaming or distilled beverage imbibed. They will never be good films (generally) but they can be amusing.

This is neither a great movie, nor amusing. This is an anthology film with all the merit of a dead racoon, splattered on the highway and allowed to rot and then bake in the sun. Yes, it is that bad.

not bad gore
The first story – the Case of the Melon Heavy Alien Man Eater was so bad I jumped through it. This is followed by the vampire tale, Tuition of the Terror Twat. It actually starts off with a sliver of possibility, as we see a man handcuffed and a dancer who then takes his face off. It is gory, but the gore is reasonably done.

vampire bite
Just in case we are not sure what we are dealing with the camera then pans across his eviscerated corpse until it rests on a section of gore and arrows appear pointing to tell us “important: Vampire bite!” So there you go, the film is part of the vampire genre and so I have to watch the damn thing!

Essentially the story is that Timmy loses his college tuition and orders a stripper, Amanda (Julie Strain, Morgana and Blood Thirsty). He is so drunk he has misread the amount and can’t pay her but his friends take her home then have the idea of having a stripper party to raise money for Tim’s tuition.

vampire stripper
The party goes ahead but, of course, Amanda and her two friends are vampires and a wholesale slaughter of all the guests is the order of the day. There really isn’t that much else to say, a whole lot of gore and nudity and nothing even floating near the area of plot. Lloyd Kaufman states (in a voice over) that plot is unnecessary where one has lesbians. That may well be true, to a degree, but this completely misses that degree.

another Ron Jeremy cameo
The only other thing to mention is the cameo by none other than Ron Jeremy and Ron Jeremy spotting seems to have evolved into a new sport on the blog. There really isn’t anything else I can summon up to say about this filmic car crash.

0 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Honourable Mentions: Northanger Alibi

It does seem that, as well as vampires, Jane Austen adaptations remain all the rage at the moment. Sometimes the two subjects are merged as they were in Mr Darcy, Vampyre. When I reviewed that I admitted that I am not an Austin fan. Let me elaborate.

I am aware that the film Clueless is based, loosely at least, on Austen’s Emma. I enjoyed Clueless, the Emma adaptation my wife had me watch left me cold. Why? In modernising the work it became more accessible to me. I have not read Northanger Abbey but I understand it is unusual within the Austin books and is itself a parody of Gothic fiction – so perhaps I owe it to myself to give that one a chance at some point.

In the meantime this book by Jenni James is a modern retelling of Northanger Abbey, set mainly in modern Washington State. As a modern retelling I could understand where it was coming from and Jenni James uses the book to parody Twilight and the ongoing vampire fad. More than that, she specifically, though affectionately, lampoons the Twi-hards and their over-enthusiastic reactions to the franchise.

Claire is a sixteen year old girl who, along with sister Cassidy, is taken to Seattle for summer vacation by friends of the family. The husband of the friends is there for a training seminar and they have friends in the city who have teenage kids. Claire is wary of the twins, as they must be rather sad if they need friends to be imported into the city, but is excited about the trip generally. You see, Claire is a Twilight fan and wants to visit Washington State – she even brings the four books of the series with her.

She actually gets on with Tony and Nora but something about Tony seems odd. He seems stronger, perhaps, than he should, he seems to be able to read her thoughts and he doesn’t seem to want to eat food. She realises that Tony must be a vampire and he seems interested in her. She also meets, through a stolen kiss, a young man called Jaden. He, it transpires, is Native American – indeed a Quileute – he has a rash nature and the surname Black… Could he be a werewolf?

Claire is going to discover that matters of the heart are much more complicated than any book and some secrets are there for the best of reasons. She will also discover that the supernatural is perhaps more mundane than she allowed for.

I found myself enjoying this quite a lot. Okay, at heart it is a teen romance novel but it is also a parody, and the sharpness of the writing is definitely one of the pluses to the book. It takes the Twilight fad and gently pokes fun at it, but in such a way that it couldn’t be seen to be offensive in its parody and thus will be accessible to the Twilight fans more so than the more caustic parodies (not that there is anything, conceptually, wrong with those). James opens the sticky question of teenage romance and first love, as well as confusion of the heart, and lays it bare with a scalpel of witty prose.

Perhaps one of the more unusual books that will feature on the blog, due to its intrinsic nature and the target audience, but with its Twilight based premise it deserves an honourable Mention.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Classic Literature: The Vampire Countess

The Vampire Countess was the first of the vampire themed works by Paul Féval, previously we examined his book Vampire City. The first publication of the book – in a single volume – dates to 1856, Brian Stableford postulates that it might have been, originally, serialised and internal evidence suggests this may have occurred in 1855.

Now, the book contains an unusual take on vampirism and vacillates between being supernatural and being criminal in source. As such one is reminded a little of Les Vampire. Indeed Addhema, our vampire, is as much the seductive, gold digging vamp as the vampire and, as such, could almost be the spiritual granddame of Irma Vep. However, before we get too deep into the substantive story and lore I want to pause at details that Féval looks at in his first chapter, when he suggests a source for his knowledge of vampirism.

He mentions having read a three part book – which Stableford postulates was most likely an invented volume. Within the book the story is described of the characters Faust and Marguerite. Whilst Goethe's version of Faust contains the female character of Gretchen, the opera based upon it contained libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré in which the female character is called Marguerite. Féval suggests “What is Goethe’s masterpiece, after all, if not a splendid exposition of the eternal fact of vampirism – which, since the beginning of the world, has emptied and dried up the heart of so many families?” Faust, in Féval’s imagined work, is the vampire.

I beg indulgence as I go off theme for a moment, because this connection between Faust and vampirism is exciting to me – especially in a work of French literature – as the French director Georges Melies produced the film “Le Manoir du Diable”.

Sometimes referred to as the first vampire movie, there is a question mark over the vampire nature of the film, though there certainly is imagery that we, post Stoker, recognise – remembering that the film was released one year before Dracula, in 1896. The argument against this being a vampire film resides in the (convincing) argument that the supposed vampire is dressed much like a devil and is called Mephistopheles (as he is in Goethe's work). But wait, he comes into the room in the form of a bat (whilst Stoker is credited as introducing the bat into vampire lore, Féval does touch on them in Vampire City, released in 1875) and is vanquished by the cross. Now we have the name Mephistopheles, the devil in Faust, and the story of Faust being tied into vampirism. Was Melies aware of Féval’s work? It is entirely possible and, whilst not even close to a convincing argument it does take “Le Manoir du Diable” a half step closer to vampirism – even if it is only by dint of my own fervent wish.

Back to the lore and things get even more interesting as Féval describes eye mojo, “Marguerite was obviously subject to the fateful magnetism that was spouting forth in invisible rays from Faust’s eyes.” Féval then goes on to explain that “It is night. The dead come to life in the Magyar lands as they do in Germany, but they come in chariots, not on horseback.” Of course the Magyars are associated with the Hungarian peoples and Féval suggests the chariot we see is a strange design, half-Wallachian and half-Tartar. Stoker appropriated the name Dracula from Vlad Tepes, but set the book in Transylvania rather than Wallachia. Féval’s setting for this fictional story within the story is further west, in Petrovaradin.

There, in a cemetery, he describes Marguerite led on a “bed which resembled a coffin” and the woman is in her bridal dress and a row of coffins that contained statues of brides, all in white “save for a spot of red beneath the left breast: the wound by which the Vampire Faust had drunk the blood from their hearts.” Faust, at this point, had become cadaverous in image.

Féval then suggests that, to kill a vampire, an iron bar, heated red hot, should be thrust into the heart (or in Faust’s case through the stomach). Once Faust has been killed, Marguerite, his victim, is then restored back to life – this is roughly akin to 'kill the vampire, cure the victim' and is surely a very early use of this as a concept. All this is within chapter 1 and we have not yet got to our lore or story proper.

The base story is set in 1804 and surrounds the Countess Marcian Gregoryi – who we are led to believe is really the dread vampire Countess Addhema. She also poses as Lila and the marked difference between the two guises is the colour of the hair – Lila being brunette and Marcian being blonde. We will get to hair in a second but first I need to explain that the plot contains a convoluted conspiracy against Napoleon and into this are drawn René, a young man ensnared by Addhema’s wiles due to the fact that he is the nephew of Cadoudal – a historical figure who was a royalist and rebel against the French Republic. Also drawn in is Jean-Pierre Sévérin, the morgue keeper, whose daughter Angela is due to marry René. In truth the conspiracy appears to be as much about a cover for Addhema’s gold-digging ways and we hear of her marrying and disposing of three wealthy German gentleman during the course of the book.

All this is where the book might be a little off putting. Designed to be published piecemeal it suffers from a lack of focus and Féval does obfuscate around the supernatural element – trying to walk a real vampire/fake vampire tightrope. As such most of the vampiric moments could be misinterpretations or, indeed, deliberate hoaxes.

However, when it comes to the lore within the book, we discover that Addhema’s hair changes due to the unusual way she stays young. Addhema must scalp a young girl and wear her hair. This transforms her from a corpse like creature into the beautiful girl whose hair is the colour of her last victim. That hair will give her youth for as many days as the girl had years left remaining in her life. I particularly enjoyed the following description: “the bald corpse, resting in the tomb for centuries, then waking up young, ardent and lascivious as soon as a living head of hair, still moist with warm blood, covered the horrible nudity of its skull.” Is this real or is it just part of a tale, a mystique drawn around the con-woman Marcian/Lila – does her hair change due to the wig she wears? Féval isn’t saying. Stoker, however, would go on to suggest that Lucy's hair colour changes from blonde, whilst alive her hair is described as being "sunny ripples", to being dark-haired as a vampire - not for the same reason (Lucy, to our knowledge, does not scalp anyone) but the simile is interesting.

Addhema (the vampire) must tell her story to one whom she will love and, whilst we see no blood drinking, the story does hint that blood makes up the vampire’s repast. "I see that terrible thing called vampirism - a kind of life that is dependent on the blood of others." Yet, because of the reality/supernatural tightrope of Féval's story we discover that blood was the base ingredient used by the alchemists to create gold, Sévérin suggests that "it's not blood for which the vampire thirsts" rather "it's gold she's after" and Szandor - whom we shall meet shortly - says it more succinctly "Blood is necessary to the acquisition of gold, and gold that one spends lavishly causes bloodshed in its turn. There is a mystical bond between blood and gold."

The way to kill a vampire remains the red hot iron through the heart described in the first chapter. However, when Addhema is shot (point blank in the head) she falls, but the “bullet made a round, dry and lipless hole, from which not a drop of blood flowed. It was as if it had pierced a page of parchment.” Her statue like body is taken to the medical student Germain Patou for dissection but the body vanishes – stolen or risen again we do not know but we are reminded through the scene of her family motto, “In vita mors, in morte vita!” – In life, death; in death, life!

Addhema is romantically involved with ‘Count’ Szandor and together they share the ruined citadel Bangkeli on the Sava River. It is suggested that “the last Count was a famous and powerful voïvode in the time of Matthias Corvinus, the son of John Hunyadi. He was killed by his wife Addhema, who betrayed him for the rebel Szandor.” Synchronicities are marvellous things for, looking ahead to Dracula – and the source of his name, both Hunyadi and Corvinus played major roles in the life of Vlad Tepes who is contemporary to the time relayed in the quote.

It is, however, only a synchronicity but, nevertheless, it is another interesting aspect to a book that was a truly fascinating read about a vampire (or the rumour thereof) with the most unusual habit of stealing life through scalped hair.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Night Shade – review

Director: Fred Olen Ray

Release Date: 1996

Contains spoilers

Fred Olen Ray is at it again, mixing softcore sex scenes into a vampire story. This one doesn’t shy away either – indeed it showed a heck of a lot of nudity and flirted along the periphery of hardcore – not straying into that arena, but only just.

It begins… with sex. A couple, Scott (Tim Abell) and Jennifer Travers (Teresa Politi), making love. They finish and lie on the bed and then she vanishes… just like that. He wakes up, having fallen asleep in front of his laptop. There is a message on the screen and we see the word nightshade. He visits Jennifer’s grave and it becomes apparent that she has only recently passed away. He has been off work for a month and is going back the next day.

Jennifer Burton as Alison
Work actually weren’t expecting him for another week. I got the impression that he was an architect – certainly he is a partner in the firm. He is approached by another partner, Alison (Jennifer Burton, Dead of Night), who is clearly coming on strong – he narrowly dodges her advances. When he gets home he phones his friend Jack (Don Scribner), a PI. Jack asks about the messages from the mysterious Electra – including the one that says nightshade – and warns him that curiosity killed the cat.

Gabriella Hall as Stacey
There is another message and he decides to go to the address it mentions. It turns out to be a strip club and nightshade is the password in. He watches one of the dancers, Stacey (Gabriella Hall), and we notice that the doorman (Peter Spellos) and a blonde woman, Charmagne (Tane McClure, Revamped), are exchanging looks that sees a free drink brought over to him. We also notice that Charmagne wears an ankh pendant – but inverted.

masked dancer
He watches the next act involving a woman (Misty Rain) in a spider’s web and a masked dancer, after which he decides to leave but the masked dancer comes over and introduces herself as Electra. She wants to explain why she contacted him but not there, she asks him to go to the private area with her. At about the same time Stacey takes another patron (Robert Baldwin) to a private area.

Stacey's fangs
Electra reveals that she is Jennifer to the incredulous Scott. The reunion with his dead wife is interlaced with Stacey having sex with her client that culminates in… fangs. Of course Jennifer doesn’t explain (at this point) that she is a vampire. She cries, he’s angry as she can’t or won’t explain how she came to be alive after he watched her wither away from a mysterious virus and die. She needed to see him once more but they cannot meet again. He wakes up in his car.

Tim Abell
He tries to explain things to Jack – who was at the funeral and doesn’t believe that she is alive. So Scott determines to prove she is still alive. He does that by going back to the club, talking to her, buying her a drink and stealing the glass. He gives said glass to Jack to check the prints – Jennifer was a bank teller so her prints are on record. That act brings him to the attention of Charmagne and his life is in mortal danger.

Alison has been dealt with
The film then sees Scott under suspicion for the murder of Jack – who goes to the club himself – and Alison, whom Jennifer kills after Alison threatens Scott with a sexual harassment lawsuit (because he rebuffs her advances again). The killing of Alison was odd for a couple of reasons. Much play is made of a necklace Scott gave Jennifer (rather than an engagement ring). It is found at the scene of the murder but nothing else is done with it. Also the attack seemed to be there to underline that Jennifer is a monster – but her act of approaching him, just to say ‘hello, now bugger off’ seemed much more monstrous.

hungry like the wolf
Vampire lore wise we discover that the vampires are very fast and strong. Charmagne starts one of her acts in the form of a husky (I suppose it was meant to be a wolf) and then transforms on stage into human form. Jennifer seems to float into shot at one point, casts a reflection and she also demonstrates a low level telekinetic ability. We do not discover how she became a vampire, other than the vague comment about a mysterious virus. A stake/crossbow bolt through the heart can kill a vampire as can sunlight – though the result is an unimpressive fade into nothing rather than bursting into flames.

Of course the strip club is quite a clichéd location for setting a vampire film. The film seems to recognise this and when Jennifer is asked why she now lives and works in a strip club, she responds that it comes with the territory. None of the performances stand out but, given that many of the cast were more used to starring in adult films, none of the performances are too offensive either.

Tane McClure as Charmange
What let this down was the lack of story. We don’t know why she is a vampire, we don’t know why she has let her man in on the secret and we don’t know how she came to be with Charmagne. We get plenty of flashbacks to their relationship as man and wife, but mostly these are used as an excuse for a sex scene. And that is the bottom line – the film exists only to have sex scenes and show naked ladies and, in that, it succeeds.

Actually I didn’t mind this one. 3 out of 10 – it would have been higher if they had bothered to put in any single bit of back story that explained the whys and wherefores and thus gave the film a point beyond nudity. The imdb page is here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sherrilyn Kenyon's 'Infinity'

I received a mail to let me know that Infinity the first book in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s young adult series 'Chronicles of Nick' has been launched. Dark Hunter fans should be aware that the Chronicles of Nick does represent Nick’s real and true past.

A short blurb tells us that:

"At fourteen, Nick Gautier thinks he knows everything about the world around him. Streetwise, tough and savvy, his quick sarcasm is the stuff of legends. . .until the night when his best friends try to kill him."

You can down load the official song from the trailer here and a chapter excerpt can be found here.

As for the trailer, well ‘tis below:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dance on Fire – review

Author: James Garcia Jr

First Published: 2010

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Two Kingsburg police officers have been butchered in an attack as ferocious as it is mystifying. Now two detectives and their families are being drawn into a battle that threatens to destroy them and those around them. In a marriage of horror and Christian themes of good conquering evil and redemption, Dance on Fire is the fictional account of characters drawn into the fire by supernatural forces.

The review: Dance on Fire is another book from the Vamplit range. Vamplit release books in e-format and I have been impressed with the solid catalogue of material, all varied despite the core vampire theme, which they have produced. I have been less impressed with the fact that they are e-format… that is not, however, a criticism of the press but a personal foible. Let me explain.

I love books but reading off a screen is unpleasant in my opinion. I could, of course, had read them on my iPhone but… the iPhone screen is way too small to read a full page and the scrolling around necessary after resizing is annoying. Anyway, for my birthday I received (from my lovely wife) a kindle. Finally a way of reading e-books that is pleasant. I still prefer the texture and aroma of paper books but now have a way of reading e-books that is enjoyable. The first book I read in this format was Dance on Fire… and so, on to the review.

I have read a comment, by Nicole Hadaway, which suggests that Dance on Fire is the vampire equivalent of Jaws and I very much concur in that it is set in small town America, a town that has an annual holiday season (in this case a Swedish festival) and that holiday (as well as the populace) is threatened when a predator starts picking off town folks. In this case the predator is a vampire.

Said vampire is called Vincent and he is there to reclaim that which he believes is his; another vampire called Nathaniel. Nathaniel was taken as a child, in Cimpulung, Romania, after Vincent destroyed his family. He was forced to be companion to the vampire and was, eventually, turned. Nathaniel ran away but Vincent has found him.

Vincent sows confusion and fear amongst the townsfolk by killing indiscriminately, firstly two policemen and then anyone who takes his fancy – Nathaniel, on the other hand, feeds only from animals. Victor also purposefully leaves a survivor who believes him to be someone called Nathaniel. It is all, allegedly, designed to get Nathaniel to return to him but one gets the feeling that Vincent simply enjoys slaughter and sadism.

Drawn into this violent drama are the police detective Michael Lopez and his wife Barbara. Michael, of course, is investigating the crimes but Barbara, or rather her twin babies, are rescued from Vincent by Nathaniel and subsequently the two (Nathaniel and Barbara) are drawn together.

Why were they drawn together (Barbara was dreaming of Nathaniel, by name, before they met)? The answer seems to be because God drew them together and there is a strong Christian ethic drawn through the book. Barbara reads the bible daily, prays to God and her words and actions seem juxtaposed against the violence occurring around them by the author. To a degree this didn’t quite gel at first, she seemed not quite real until, during the reading of the book, I actually met someone whose conversation was actually like hers and I realised that it was my own cynicism that was at play. However I must admit that I found the Christian centric aspects of the book to be a little off putting, but that is just me – and should in no way be taken as a criticism, but more my own commentary. An exploration of faith is a very personal journey and thus the author who puts it on page, baring his soul, is brave but not every reader will be able to share in that journey.

The vampires themselves are incredibly strong and fast – humans do not stand a chance – and this was great, it added a lovely brutality to the vampires (at least through the character of Vincent). Holy objects were not a factor in respect of the vampires – the religious aspect was more a theme James Garcia Jr added into the book in order that he might explore it, rather than a tool within the lore/story. Bright light blinds a vampire momentarily, sunlight burns and a pierced heart steals the vampire’s strength. There is mention of a wider society of vampires (and rules that govern them) but this is not explored in depth and one assumes it will form part of any further story. As it stands it just adds a frisson of depth to the vampires’ world.

There is an effect, caused by contact and mind control, on the twin babies that seems to accelerate their development (in regards emotional development and things such as standing) this just is and, like the main characters, we are not entirely sure why.

The book itself, writing wise, reminded me of horror novels from the 70s/80s. The language used had that undercurrent and I am struggling to explain to you exactly what that means beyond that description, but it was welcome as a departure from the dark urban fantasy that is currently vogue and also fit the cop story aspects well. Garcia would then spin the book towards a more cobweb festooned horror fantasy when describing the events in Romania. There were occasions Garcia would throw in a phrase that was so wondrously descriptive that the word poetic springs to mind. Occasionally I felt that characters took things a little too much in their stride and an even deeper exploration of the emotions of some of the characters might have balanced that aspect but generally Garcia created three dimensional and filled out characters.

A good first novel deserving of a solid 6.5 out of 10 and leaving me expecting bigger and better things from James Garcia Jr. The book can be purchased via Smashwords.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Coming Soon: Vampire Empire

I was contacted by Clay & Susan Griffith re their forthcoming book (Due in November 2010) entitled The Greyfriar – book 1 of their Vampire Empire series.

I have to say that I’m loving the cover and the idea of a steampunk vampire novel really appeals. Here is the blurb:

In the year 1870, a horrible plague of vampires swept over the northern regions of the world. Millions of humans were killed outright. Millions more died of disease and famine due to the havoc that followed. Within two years, once great cities were shrouded by the grey empire of the vampire clans. Human refugees fled south to the tropics because vampires could not tolerate the constant heat there. They brought technology and a feverish drive to reestablish their shattered societies of steam and iron amid the mosques of Alexandria, the torrid quietude of Panama, or the green temples of Malaya.

It is now 2020 and a bloody reckoning is coming.

Princess Adele is heir to the Empire of Equatoria, a remnant of the old tropical British Empire. She is quick with her wit as well as with a sword or gun. She is eager for an adventure before she settles into a life of duty and political marriage to man she does not know. But her quest turns black when she becomes the target of a merciless vampire clan. Her only protector is The Greyfriar, a mysterious hero who fights the vampires from deep within their territory. Their dangerous relationship plays out against an approaching war to the death between humankind and the vampire clans.

Vampire Empire: The Greyfriar is the first book in a trilogy of high adventure and alternate history. Combining rousing pulp action with steampunk style, Vampire Empire brings epic political themes to life within a story of heartbreaking romance, sacrifice, and heroism.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Honourable Mentions: Vampire of Quezon City

There are times, and this is one of them, when I just do not know where to begin. Sometimes I feel that the beginning is not an adequate starting place. A 2006 Philippines film, by Khavn de la Cruz, Vampire of Quezon City is kind of an aswang merged with serial killer type of film; it is also more akin to torture porn than anything else.

Shot in grainy black and white over a total of three days I sat and wondered at it – my head spinning and my stomach churning. Was it an avant-garde art film or was it just a cheaply shot, incredibly sick film in black and white? Is Khavn an auteur or just someone muddling together a twisted collection of broken images?

the cop
The film begins with a policeman talking about the vampire, a serial killer who is ripping out intestines, glands and hearts of the victims. The victims are all female and beyond that we have no discernable pattern. One could be a nun, the next a prostitute. Later we hear that the policeman doesn’t believe it is really an aswang and yet at other times he seems to believe it is.

As for the killer, and the torture scenes (which make up the majority of the film) well, the Hostel series might have had the budget to create its images in blazing technicolour but it had comparatively little of the raw nastiness that this film seemed to ooze.

a victim
As the attacks are on women, the film has a miasma of misogynistic cruelty that surrounds and saturates it. From force feeding faeces and sperm, to violent rape with a crucifix, to actual rape and forced fellatio… the film becomes a parade of brutality that leaves the viewer rather uncomfortable. Bizarrely there is no nudity in respect of the victims, but we see often the vampire masturbating or parading with his erection on show (reminiscent of some of the scenes in the novel American Psycho) – one assumes (even hopes) it was a prosthetic!

aswang feeds
As for the vampire aspects… well he does eat of the intestines of the victims and this is done in raw (and in visceral, if black and white) detail. There are some more western genre aspects called into view. The cop, on the phone, tells the person he is speaking to that they should buy garlic. The torture room as awash with religious icons that have no discernable effect upon the vampire – indeed he wields them as weapons against his victims.

abused as a child
Their presence is important as it seems to tie into the only barely explored whys and wherefores of the vampire's actions. We see a scene of him as a child, with bibles on his legs, head and hands, as well as a burning candle, forced to balance them as his mother whips him. He is from the ethno-linguistic group the Visayans, one of many groups within the Philippines, and states that Visayans are discriminated against. He suggests that his mother came from Quezon City and that his mission is to kill all women.

Is he an aswang? Probably not, but the film remains silent. Is it a good film…? I am loath to say yes as it is a horrible film (designed as such, it seems) and yet Khavn builds something that is difficult to dismiss.

I can’t actually recommend it, there is little to no narrative, it is possibly not even a vampire – hence the honourable mention as it is most likely a serial killer displaying vampiric traits. However, if what I have written piques your interest, it is on region 1 DVD, though there is no imdb page at the time of writing.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Gone Fishing

I’m off to the bright lights of Brighton (for work related reasons) for the best part of the forthcoming week and so the blog will be on hiatus until at least the 22nd May.

I won’t be checking comments, so any left will only be published on my return, but I will be checking email sent to the taliesinloki account listed in the ‘contact me' section to the right.

Wishing you all the best, and hoping you have some toothsome fun, until I return.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Honourable Mentions: Bathory

region 3 DVD
This is a 2008 film directed by Juraj Jakubisko and starring Anna Friel as Erzsébet Báthory. It is a long, long film clocking in around two and a quarter hours and is split into three main movements as we look at the countess’ life.

As you have probably guessed there is a significant lack of vampiric element if it is getting an honourable mention and I will explain, of course, how that has happened. The film follows Erzsébet, being betrothed as a child to Ferenc Nadasy (Vincent Regan) who then goes to war for Hungary, against the Turks.

Hungary at war
The early part of Erzsébet’s life is marked by the fact that she lost a male child at birth and had two girls. That a marital rape caused her to miscarry a further child, when Ferenc returns briefly from war, and how he sent her a captured Italian painter, Merisi (Hans Matheson), as a gift. We see Erzsébet and Merisi grow closer and, indeed, fall in love (Erzsébet does seem to love Ferenc but is a neglected wife). We also see that she is a skilled healer and keeps a book of those she has healed (rather than butchered).

puncture marks
It is in this section that we get our main mention of vampirism. A maid, Erika (Michaela Drotárová), is raped by Ferenc’s second in command Thurzo (Karel Roden) and so Erzsébet gives the girl a two pronged dagger to defend herself with. When a body of a steward turns up with punctures in the neck the local priest, Ponicky (Antony Byrne), suggests vampires but Erzsébet recognises the wound – the steward has tried to rape Erika.

a hint of fangs is imagined
Erzsébet has Merisi dissect and draw the corpse – so as to help him paint human subjects and Erika witnesses this. In her imagination she sees the Countess develop fangs and becomes convinced that she is a vampire. In truth it was a wild imagination but her actions, including a theft, cause Erzsébet to react to the girl in anger – who tries to run and falls from a window. During this we hear that Erzsébet has a blood complaint and, it appears, mental health issues.

herb bath
When Ferenc returns home he becomes suspicious of Merisi and tries to poison him but Erzsébet drinks the draft. Fearing for his wife’s life he calls a healer, Darvulia (Deana Jakubisková-Horváthová) who does save the Countess. She prophesises events to come, including the Countess’ fall in ten years, but also a son, Pál (Derek Pavelcík). Darvulia also uses herbs to cure her blood condition (we see supernatural events like a cut miraculously closing) and keep her looking young. There is a potion and a bath of red herbs (rather than blood).

psychotic break
When Ferenc dies, Thurzo turns his attention to Erzsébet’s wealth, using his wife’s knowledge of herbs to attack the Countess and cause her to have momentary psychotic breaks through alkaline mushrooms secreted in her potion. Erzsébet may, at these times, have killed a maid – which she is allowed to do as a noble – but any hint of her crimes, for which she is famously known, are not shown as the film weaves a story of superstition manipulated to steal the wealth from the woman who is a loving mother and (relatively) benign when it comes to her subjects. Legend, the film suggests, is created by the victors and rumour is more interesting than fact. The presence of the witch Darvulia has created a rumour base that her enemies can use.

Anna Friel as Erzsébet Báthory
The film itself is absolutely sumptuous, with wonderful vistas painted across the screen, lovely costuming and gorgeous cinematography. The pace is slowed with symbolic moments that add a surreal edge to the film and Anna Friel’s performance is simply magnificent and yet the film also has moments so odd that one questions both the scriptwriting and direction. Most of this surrounds a monk, Peter (Bolek Polívka), and his neophyte Cyril (Jirí Mádl), sent by the Catholic church to spy on the Countess. Peter is almost the polar opposite of the rumour mill. Convinced of her guilt, his spying leads him to believe in her honesty and goodness. However he is set up like a medieval James Bond with clockwork skis/roller skates, parachutes and even a primitive camera. It was ridiculous and his necessary role was undermined with devices that had no place there and comedy elements that were noticeably out of place as though tagged on from another film.

the csatle crumbled
That aside this is worth a watch, but gird yourself for a lengthy experience. However, from a vampire genre point of view the couple of vampiric imaginings would hardly touch the sides and this mention comes more for the fact that this features Báthory and her story and (as much as it has been aimed towards her innocence) that automatically makes it of genre interest.

The imdb page is here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Doctor Who: Vampires of Venice – review

Directed by: Jonny Campbell

First aired: 2010

Contains spoilers

Let me let you into a little secret (okay its not much of a secret, but…) I really have got bored of new Doctor Who. It was all getting a little too repetitive… oh; we must involve the daleks/the cybermen/the master again. Oh, we should be derivative, too light hearted at times and certainly a little dumbed down. If you disagree with my thoughts on this then I apologise, but it was how I felt.

As such I haven’t watched any of this series until this episode, but reports of the Doctor (Matt Smith) hitting daleks over the dome (as it were) with a giant spanner certainly did not make me feel any better about the idea. But, of course, I had to watch the vampire episode. The fact that it was written by Toby Whithouse, the creative force behind Being Human, made me feel better about the prospect.

Helen McCory as Rosanna
The opening scene is in the House Calvieri, in Venice, and the shipwright Guido (Lucian Msamati) takes his daughter to see the matriarch of the house, Rosanna (Helen McCrory), to ask if he might place his daughter Isabella (Alisha Bailey) in her school. He tells Rosanna that she is his world and she suggests that she will take his world (no, that wasn’t ominous!) He has to go and leave her there and, after Guido is bundled out, Rosana asks her son, Francesco (Alex Price, Being Human), if he likes her. He says very much and Isabella screams as he reveals fangs.

Matt Smith as the Doctor
So, the Doctor and his companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) have, from what I can gather, had a near miss sexually and so the Doctor decides to give her a cold shower by appearing at her fiancé’s stag night, emerging from a stripper’s cake, and telling Rory (Arthur Darvill) that she kissed him. Luckily he must (off camera) have calmed things down for he gets Rory in the Tardis and offers to take the two anywhere for a date. He chooses Venice for them and they arrive in 1580.

the Calvieri Girls
They are going into the city when they are asked for papers. The inspector (Michael Percival) suggests that they are keeping plague out, as the Mistress Calvieri has told them of it being widespread, and the Doctor seems perplexed as the plague should be gone…. Historical sense check a moment. Whilst the plague was gone in Venice at that time (which is true) there was a pandemic outbreak across Europe from 1573-1588 and so this shouldn’t have rung any alarm bells. Not to worry, the Doctor sees Guido trying to talk to his daughter, who is with veiled Calveiri women, and is rebuffed. One of the women bares fangs… The game is afoot and… well I don’t want to spoil the story but I do want to talk vampires…

blood on the fangs
Some have said… but they are not vampires, they are aliens… this is true (and not a great spoiler) as far as it goes but the fact that they are alien and use technology doesn’t stop them being vampires. Let us look at the evidence. They gain their form by bending minds with technology (the fangs appear in view due to the victim’s survival drives) thus they are shapeshifting (albeit technologically) and taking on a pleasing form. The same technology causes them to not appear in mirrors.

Amy bitten
They create others of their own kind through draining the blood out of humans and replacing it with their own that slowly mutates the human into their race. Check another one off for standard vampire operating. The blood is drained by the good old fashioned bite and suck method, and whilst the replacement blood is given in a more clinical way than perhaps the genre standard it is still fairly much vampire.

to Cushing a cross, first take two candlesticks...
Sunlight burns them, due to their alien physiology and we actually see one blow up and dust in a reflected beam of light. Actually that seemed a little silly but never the less it is rather genre standard. Indeed the entire idea that they are alien and yet also seem to correspond to genre standard is okay in my book. I was amused when there was a failed attempt to Cushing a cross together that failed utterly.

Git yer fangs oot for the lads
However that marked one of two problems with the episode. The humour… it had too much humour in it and it wasn’t that funny. Witty comments about ofsted when facing certain doom didn’t seem appropriate to the character and certainly wasn’t that funny anyway. A sword fighting scene with a buffoon wielding a broom was more a moment for cringing than laughing, especially as they had tried to give the same character a more serious edge earlier, rather than making him the standard Who buffoon. There was absolutely no attempt to add a horror element in, despite the fact the Whithouse can create such TV scripts.

Karen Gillan as Amy Pond
The other problem was that it was crammed into an episode and seemed awfully rushed. The pathos of the questions the Doctor is asked had no time to sink in and actually didn’t seem to penetrate the outer character shell, pinging off to be submerged below the Venetian canals. There might have been a good story here (be they undead vampires or aliens posing) if they had taken time to stretch it to size. On a plus, I did appreciate that the Doctor’s library card had a picture of William Hartnell on it.

All in all, I found it average. 5 out of 10.

The episode's imdb page is here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vampire Forensics - review

Author: Mark Collins Jenkins

First published 2010

Contains spoilers

The blurb: Your brain tells you it doesn’t really exist. You know its just a myth. Yet it bends over you… the shiver down your spine still lingers after you wake with a start.

Why do vampires fascinate us so? From the earliest whispers of eternal evil in ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome, vampire tales have flourished through the centuries and around the globe, fuelled by superstition, erotic mystery, fear of disease and death, and the nagging anxiety that demons lurk everywhere. What has archaeology discovered about vampire beginnings? Where has anthropology tracked their folklore? And has modern forensics ripped the lid of their coffins? The recent discovery of the “Vampire of Venice” – a 16th-century plague victim buried with a brick in her mouth – has sparked new debate.

This is a journey that will bring you face-to-face with the oldest of humanity’s deep-seated terrors: the fear of the (un)dead. So grab some garlic and a stake and read Vampire Forensics, the spine chilling tale of how this most enduring of legends took shape.

The Review: When you read the title and then the blurb. When you see the focus upon the Venetian find, you would be forgiven for thinking that this book was going to be a scientific forensics journey into the Venice events. This is actually more forensics as defined as a debate or argumentation and the Venice skull is more a starting point for the journey, a landmark en-route, rather than the entire landscape we are exploring. Indeed this is a serious traipse through folklore that could have led to the birth of the traditional vampire myths.

Friend of the blog, Anthony Hogg, has mentioned this book at his blog and, whilst his opinion of it improved, at first he lamented the fact that the book seems to stroll through the same old areas of investigation. However, the difference between myself and Anthony is that my study of the genre has been more media orientated, whilst he has a strong background in examining the folklore/traditional aspects of the genre. As such I found the opening of the book to be a well written refresher on things I had read before and certainly a useful source for those starting their exploration of the myths behind the media.

Two pieces of errata, if I may, however. The so called ‘Cape Man’ was Salvador Agron and not Salvatore (page 28) and more importantly, in a blooper sense, Stoker wrote about the Bloofer Lady and not the Blooper Lady (page 48) – a couple of minor typos aside I found Jenkins style eminently readable, the book flowed well and was informative and it has an extensive notes, bibliography and index area – an aspect too often missed. I do take Anthony’s point about footnotes being useful in an scholarly sense, however.

The book does look at funereal rites in depth – but it is more a primer for Barber’s “Vampires, Burial and Death,” a book that Jenkins acknowledges as a classic. Where, however, this came into its own for me, was in its study of comparative folklore as it tried to track the source of the mythology. One massively interesting area was the look into the thunder god myths. I think a trick may have been missed, whilst it was likely to be coincidental (or at the most synchronicitous), was around the fact – as mentioned earlier in the book – that Stoker used the idea of the Scholomance and the idea that this is “where the devil claims the tenth scholar as his due” as the price for teaching the ten students the black arts. Emily Gerard (Stoker’s source) suggested that this scholar would be “mounted upon an Ismeju (dragon) he becomes henceforward the devil's aide-de-camp, and assists him in 'making the weather,' that is, in preparing thunderbolts.”

Between Stoker and Gerard we had links between the modern Dracula based vampire, the idea of the thunder gods, dragons (which also receive scrutiny in this book as a source area) and the devil who, of course, is a Christian debasing of horned Gods such as Cernunnos (also a subject of the investigation). As such my mind flicked to this connection and perhaps Jenkins will consider exploring this connection in a future volume.

Talking of missing a trick... If Jenkins were to produce a future volume an area that lays unexplored by him, so far, that I might be so bold as suggest as a source area, would also be the Trickster mythology. Indeed Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes the World, investigates how the Trickster form begins with appetite (and greed), sojourns in the Land of the dead, becomes the God of crossroads. There is a whole investigation that could be entered into there.

Now, you may think that it is strange for me to tangent off into areas the book didn’t touch upon but the truth is that the book made my mind spin in these directions and, as such, the book most certainly did one of the primary functions of a volume like this – it made me think.

I enjoyed Vampire Forensics, and as long as you know what you are getting – the comparative folklore will take you through a twisted path of areas that may be related to, but are not necessarily directly vampire mythology – then I recommend this book. 7.5 out of 10.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mystery and Imagination: Dracula – review

dvd set
Director: Patrick Dromgoole

First aired: 1968

Contains spoilers

Mystery and Imagination was a series of horror based plays that ran from 1966. Whilst this episode, an adaptation of Dracula that formed part of the fourth season, has survived the ravages of time it is sad to note that currently (and probably forever) lost is the adaptation the series created of Carmilla.

The series replaced “armchair theatre” and we must note that the idea was to produce a three act play. Consequently there is a stagy feel and the majority of the episode was filmed at Teddington Studios. Thus we get some set wobble occasionally, a recoiled Dracula makes a wall wobble, a gravestone does shift ever so slightly etc. I mention that now and say that I can live with this, it was occasional, noticeable but forgivable. To add to the normal “contains spoilers” note, I will say that my expectation is that you, dear reader, will know Dracula as a story and my aim will be to show how this differed from the book and what it did well, so it will be fairly blow by blow.

ready for escape
As always with a film, stage or television adaptation of the novel, this was free and easy with the characters, many of the main characters are merged. Bar a flashback sequence the entire Transylvanian sections of the novel are missing, all the play taking place in England and all of the English scenes have been transposed to Whitby. The adaptation starts in the asylum where two guards are asked to provide water by inmate 34 (Corrin Redgrave). They agree, remove his restraints and he makes a break for it.

Seward's guests are shocked
Dr. John Seward (James Maxwell) is holding a dinner party. At this point he and his guests have retired to the drawing room. With him are his fiancée Lucy Weston (Susan George) and her mother, Mrs Weston (Joan Hickson). Someone unseen plays piano. The fact that Lucy’s familial name has been contracted from Westenra is obvious. Seward is now engaged to her and the other two suitors, Arthur and Quincey, are no longer part of the story. The genial atmosphere is smashed as 34 comes bowling through the French Windows.

groovy shades
He drops to his knees and refers to the piano player as Master. Indeed Dracula (Denholm Elliott) is the piano player. He commands 34 back to his cell, and the lunatic complies, but when Seward asks if the Count knows him, both Dracula and Renfield deny knowledge of each other. Seward mentions that 34 was found on a beached Russian ship, the Demeter, and it is observed that Dracula was on that ship. He says that he saw no other passengers for his habits are nocturnal, as they know, due to the fact that the sun greatly pains him.

I am Dracula
Let us look at Elliott as Dracula. The look is fantastic, with the actor sporting a goatee beard he really looks quite sinister. When we first see him he is wearing dark glasses – which he removes to play eye mojo with 34. These are clearly an affectation (and the design seems out of the Victorian period, to say the least) to give credence to his cover story of an inability to withstand bright light for medical reasons but it is interesting that such a groovy pair of shades should have been used as a prop almost quarter of a century before the Coppola version. Not so groovy is the accent, which does slip occasionally. For the main this is a very English production, and the mainly plumy accents reflect that, but Elliott and Bernard Archard as Dr Van Helsing do affect other accents and neither is really that wonderful – not enough to spoil the show but enough to mention. During these scenes Elliott manages to get in the “I do not drink… wine” line. We also get a shot, unseen by the characters, that evidences to us that Dracula casts no reflection.

vampire brides
The next day Van Helsing arrives to take a look at 34. It is noted that he is zoophagous and he seems to become more aggressive as the sun sets. Van Helsing hypnotises him and he describes his encounter with the brides (Nina Baden-Semper, Marie Legrand and Valerie Muller) in the castle. This is the only scene we get from Transylvania and the look of the brides had my opinion split. Generally they are fantastic, more animalistic or primal than in other productions but with a raw sexuality that clearly affected 34. Then we get to the teeth, however, and I was not sure what was going on there. In some shots they look blackened, as though they are rotten, in other more distant shots they look like they are rows of sharp teeth. I think the effect was meant to be the latter but they didn't work that well as an effect - we shall discuss teeth/fangs again, very soon.

Lucy and Mina
Dracula is speaking to Lucy and his monologue is the “We Szekelys have a right to be proud,” speech from the novel, which is curtailed and yet accurate enough to be still recognisable, except, of course, the one he speaks to is Lucy and not Jonathan. They are interrupted by Seward, with news of Mrs Weston – though the seriousness of her illness seems to have little impact on Lucy. Mina (Suzanne Neve) then arrives. On meeting Dracula she recognises the name for it is to his castle her missing husband went to on business. Dracula claims that they parted ways and that he received a letter from Jonathan written in Prague – Mina received a letter from Prague as well, but has heard nothing since.

bit of a poor husband
When Mina and Seward are walking later, and he confesses his jealousy of the Count and the fascination that Lucy seems to have for him, 34 sees them from his window and calls out Mina’s name. They rush to the cell and Mina recognises her husband. He hugs her but then denies knowledge of her as soon as the sun sets. Yes, 34 is Jonathan Harker, the character of Renfield and Jonathan being merged into one. This actually works rather well as a concept and is only a stone's throw from other adaptations except, of course, this has the lunatic's wife on hand.

Lucy visits Dracula's house
In this adaptation Dracula has not bought Carfax but rather Glebe House and, despite the impropriety, Lucy goes there for a visit. However the house is abandoned, it seems, and certainly no one is around. Suddenly scared she runs back to the carriage, her mad pace causing her to fall. Back in the carriage she snarls and then realises, with shock, what she has done. I did like the way that the production turned the nature of the women who came under Dracula’s influence, making them quick to anger in a way that was out with their personalities.

rising from Cannon's grave
Seward has made the obvious connection between Harker and Dracula (and Dracula’s denial of knowing the man) but Van Helsing dismisses the notion as jealousy of the Count on Seward’s part. Meanwhile Lucy and Mina go to the graveyard. Now, this is a fantastic Gothic looking Graveyard that looks nothing at all like the graveyard at St Mary’s, Whitby (not that it overly matters but I thought I’d mention). They are approached by the almost mercurial Mr Swales (Hedley Goodall) and it was great to see that character appearing as he is oft missed out. He tells them the tale of the grave of George Cannon, a suicide. When they leave Dracula rises from the Cannon grave, his home due to the fact that it is un-consecrated.

Lucy has an orgiastic response
A really crap bat is in Lucy’s room that transforms into Dracula, in a scene that demands scrutiny. His presence disturbs her sleep and she starts to twist and moan in an orgiastic way. He bites her and she cries for a moment with pain before moaning with pleasure. The sexual simile here is absolutely obvious but incredibly well done. If Stoker hinted at a sexual aspect to vampirism then this production screamed it and, going back to the bride scene, the animalistic sexuality displayed is almost primitive and Dracula’s words of “He is mine” and Jonathan’s look of longing clearly offers a bisexuality aspect into the mix.

front fangs
Now let us speak of fangs for I loved the juxtaposition of the sinister and yet still suave look of Dracula, that almost cracks when he concentrates to use his psychic ability, against the Nosferatu style teeth. With Dracula they worked… however… I have mentioned them in terms of the brides (who seemed not to sport front fangs) and when Lucy turns (for she will, that is still in this version) we see a few fang shots and one of them is too close and you can see they are a moulded set. The other Lucy/fang shots do work, to be fair.

protected by the cross
Seward and Van Helsing examine the insensate Lucy the following day and Van Helsing spots the fang mark on her neck. He will not tell Seward what he thinks but states that he needs to do a transfusion, noting that Seward is sceptical of such procedures due to the safety aspects (a nice add in, given that surely it was Van Helsing who killed Lucy in the novel by repeated un-typed transfusions from a variety of donors!). When done he looks to place a rosary over Lucy, she reacts to it in her sleep so he puts it next to her. The weakened Seward protests – his mention of idolatry coming from Jonathan’s reaction to such religious paraphernalia in the novel. When Dracula returns he recoils from the cross (and the set wall wobbles under the force of his recoil). He uses his eye mojo to make Lucy shift the cross and then he is on her again.

Van Helsing and Mrs Weston
Seward and Van Helsing have to perform another transfusion (again from Seward) but first Van Helsing festoons the room with Garlic vines. He tells Seward that he suspects Lucy is being predated upon by a vampire – though it is clear that the younger Doctor does not entirely buy what Van Helsing is selling. Interestingly Van Helsing says that he garlic vines must be in unbroken chains to keep the vampire at bay. They refuse Mrs Weston entry to the room.

checking old books
The woman, however, has another key and – spurred on by Dracula’s telepathic suggestion – she looks in on her daughter, breaking the chain on the door. Dracula is quickly back and having his toothsome way with her. Meanwhile Van Helsing shows Seward written evidence of vampires and one mentions an outbreak in Transylvania. The image looks like Dracula and suddenly the penny drops. Soon Van Helsing is hypnotising Jonathan again, to discover more about his Master’s whereabouts, when Dracula takes over the unfortunate lunatic and, speaking in his own voice, mocks them and brags that he has already won.

unfortunate fangs
They race back to Lucy, who is led on the floor – Van Helsing says they are too late. Seward carries her to the bed and suddenly she speaks, asking him to kiss her. Van Helsing pulls him away just in time and we get a rather effective rabid moment before she drops dead to the bed. It is here, with fangs on show, that we get the unfortunate fang shot that I mentioned earlier.

a Sapphic moment
Mina goes to the graveyard and she suddenly sees Lucy, who approaches her and tells Mina that she has returned. She explains that she “has not found rest but joy, joy beyond understanding.” She tempts Mina and when the bite comes we see Mina succumb to an orgiastic feeling, giving a Sapphic element and changing the bloofer-lady thread from the novel as it is Mina whom Lucy predates on. Suddenly Lucy is gone and Mina falls to the floor, Dracula appears to continue the seduction. Mina has already started acting, in moments, in a more primitive manner – angrily bemoaning her lot and spitting. She also throws herself at the Count and peppers him with kisses before realising what she has done.

Lucy is a vampire
Van Helsing has brought Seward to the Weston tomb and shown him the empty coffin. Lucy comes back and Seward goes to her, saved at the last minute by Van Helsing and a cross. They find her in her coffin, blood on her chin and Seward stakes her. They then try to discover Dracula’s whereabouts through Jonathan, they ask Mina to question him.

marked by the cross
She does so but Jonathan realises that it is now Mina that Dracula has cast him off for and thus reveals Mina’s secret. Van Helsing places a cross to her forehead and it burns. He has her taken to a room and suggests sedation. Once back in his cell, a bat comes to Jonathan and the cell door opens, he has to lead Mina to Dracula. Wily old Van Helsing guessed this might happen and he and Seward are hidden and follow them to the graveyard, discovering Dracula’s resting place.

Van Helsing's display of faith
Van Helsing throws holy water over it, presumably denying Dracula re-entry to the grave. Dracula (who was with Mina and Jonathan at this point) turns to his tormentors. They hold up a cross and a bible and he tries to use eye mojo to make them lower the icons. Seward does but Van Helsing finds a hidden reserve of faith and defeats the mojo, whilst reciting the Latin sign of the cross.

the death of Dracula
The sun is rising and Dracula tries to tempt the men with knowledge and power. In a somewhat confused ending he runs at the men and Van Helsing pushes the cross into his chest. This causes a psychic flash, making Mina and Jonathan fall to the ground and Dracula staggers back. He starts to melt – a wonderfully done effect with acid melting a prop face – but what killed him, the cross and Van Helsing’s faith or the sun? We don’t actually know but he turns to dust.

Hammer Time
There is a coda twist that, having spoilt everything else, I won’t spoil here but let it be said it was a great little moment. The acting was stagy, as I mentioned, but rather well done. Barring accent I really enjoyed Elliott as Dracula and thought that Corrin Redgrave was excellent as Jonathan – pirouetting between psychotic and morose, he displayed a manic nature that worked really well for the character. The fact that this was filmed in studio actually isn't a detriment, despite the wobbly moments, and they were able to inject some real moments of atmosphere.

atmospheric moment
The changes, also, were fine. We are used to Dracula being noodled with and this had some very interesting moments along with parts kept in the production that are usually lost. Given the budget and stage restrictions the changes were necessary.

All in all this version has been too long out of the public eye, despite a few minor flaws it is a fine version of Dracula (though not the best) and was, for its time, quite a bloody and sexually charged production. 7.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.