Thursday, April 10, 2014

Armando Creeper’s Valley of the Vampire – review

Director: A Neal

Release: 2006 (re copyright notice)

Contains spoilers

I found this film on YouTube and, to my knowledge, it has not had a DVD release nor is it on IMDb (at time of review). It does an awful amount wrong but there are moments within it. For instance it might be down to the low resolution on the YouTube upload or the film may just look washed out, but that – if deliberate – does give the film a feel of a 1970s movie. Something rediscovered (a claim made at the head of the film that suggests this is a “lost” movie). That said there is no excuse for the title banner that sits across the film like a bird of doom.

We are in the realm of the vampire western, though this is a western with biblical pretentions, quoting through its length passages from the book of revelations and, so, we are also in the subgenre that ties vampire and antichrist together.

Armando Creeper as Von Strom
It begins with a man, Harley (Gregg Griffin), at a campfire – on his way home from cattle market. His horse threw him at the campsite and he has stopped to warm himself, a cup of coffee is desired. However, instead, he finds a book filled with prophecy – it claims in companion to the book of revelations – a book that mentions his name. Out of the dark comes a creature, Eric Von Strom (Armando Creeper), a grey faced, drooling monstrosity with a buzzard on his arm. He attacks Harley and, as he feeds, he infects him with a fever.

Gregg Griffin as Harley
Harley awakens in daylight, naked bar a cross at his neck and a brand on his chest. He stumbles back to his home town where he collapses. He is placed under the care of his bride to be, Belle (Michelle Calhoun), meanwhile her best friend (and his secret admirer) Sally (Shellene Stindle) goes to see the sheriff (Hal Whamsley). She wants to see what he will do about the bandits that robbed Harley (his story as he believed no-one would believe the truth) but the Sheriff is lazy and corrupt and is only interested in being lecherous. His lechery leads to a fight between Sally and his wife Louisa (Sarah Duke). This shows one of the big problems with the film. They fight in the mud for four minutes, it is a boring and pointless sequence that adds nothing to the movie (not even offering titillation).

Harley and Belle get married but, on their wedding night, Harley dreams that Von Strom appears (and indeed he did). In the dream Von Strom feeds from Belle’s side as Harley lies immobilised. When he awakens to find her dead she has a mark at her neck (it didn’t make a lot of logical sense). Anyway, Von Strom resurrects her, as his helper, but of course she is now vampire. She also ends up being pregnant (this would be the antichrist but really the film just mentions it once and then again in the epilogue). For the return of his wife Harley agrees to help, kidnapping townsfolk for Von Strom and for his wife (though they are both capable of hunting their own food).

More like zombies
There is one part where Harley asks Belle to show strength – he has the fever but doesn’t feed. Nonsense as we have already had a scene where they feed together. It grinds inexorably on to the point where they decide to do away with Von Storm but it might be way too late, as most of the town are turned. In reality they do very little and the master vampire is brought down by a horde of vampires who shuffle more like zombies than anything else.

feeding together
The film is slow. I can forgive the film quality on the basis that it looks like a relic from the seventies but not the pacing of a film that feels at least an hour too long (it runs at 1 hour 45 minutes). The acting is am-dram, though the Von Strom makeup is surprisingly effective when the film is running (again, the poor resolution might have been the cause of this, working in the film’s favour). The sound is poor, with dialogue shifting from having hisses over it to being clean depending on the direction the camera (and thus the mike, I assume) is facing – or perhaps some was redone in a studio, who knows. The soundtrack was effective in places and missing in other places.

All in all this wasn’t brilliant but I could see something worthwhile in its core, a should-be-gleaming gem that you won’t want to watch it for as the slow pace strips it of any lustre. 1.5 out of 10.


Brother Andy said...

"Valley Of The Vampire" was never completed because the film negative was never transferred into any workable formats, no more than a lowest-grade work print onto VHS, from VHS to a computer and edited on a 1.0 system -- i.e. "lost" (it also lost over $40K). The bar across the bottom covers the time codes. There was no "release" -- no DVD or otherwise. What you see is a rough draft in case, at some point in the un-see-able future, someone wanted to invest in getting a real color-corrected print made and wanted to know what the film was generally about (probably after everyone connected to the film has died). The negative is in a garage in San Diego at present. Never, in my wildest imagination that I thought anyone would watch it, let alone "review" it. The film's painful creation and shelving was a tragic situation that haunts me to this day.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Brother Andy, thanks for the comment and I think you should take away my conclusion that said "I could see something worthwhile in its core, a should-be-gleaming gem" - perhaps, had the investment come through, you might have been able to policsh it up

Brother Andy said...

There are other films to consider on youtube: "Anno Domini Dracula", "I Am...Dead", "The Mummy's Desire", "The Trappist" (featuring scream queen Debbie Dutch), plus 300 music videos, documentaries, shorts, and experimental films. The films are designed to learn different aspects of production and to provide opportunities to talented people who might not otherwise have these challenges. As far as "Valley of the Vampire" is concerned, you were more than kind considering what it it. Had I known then...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I'm certainly aware of Anno Domini Dracula and want to look at it here at some point. That said, whilst I may look at the others you point out, I only cover vampire material on the blog :) - Again, thanks for the comment :)