Monday, March 16, 2015

Beverly Hills Vamp – review

Director: Fred Olen Ray

Release date: 1989

Contains spoilers

You’ve got to hand it to Fred Olen Ray, he kept pumping those films out (at the time of writing this review IMDb listed 136 directing credits) and this was probably the best known of his vampire films.

Unfortunately this one doesn’t have a DVD release (it is on instant video via Amazon US) but when Alex alerted me to its presence on YouTube then the time had come for it to receive the TMtV treatment.

the Big Book of Vampires
Where it starts ahead of some of Fred’s other efforts is that it is unashamedly a comedy and that actually excuses the worst excesses. I wouldn’t say it’s the greatest comedy but bits work well and the cameo I’ll reveal later was just superb. It starts, however, with an intro piece by Professor Somerset (Pat McCormick) who asks us, “Vampires! Fact or lurid dime novel fiction?” He tells us that vampires benefit from us not believing in them and that this story comes from the Big Book of Vampires. An intercard has Fred telling us that the story is essentially factual.

Jay Richardson as Aaron
The opening scene of the story has a couple of cops checking out – and sampling – a whore house in Beverley Hills, of course the prostitutes are vampires and the cops become dinner. The actual main film itself follows three guys, Kyle (Eddie Deezen, A Polish Vampire in Burbank), Brock (Tim Conway Jr.) and Russell (Tom Shell). Have come to LA to break into movies. Kyle is the scriptwriter, Brock the director and Russell the cameraman and their one advantage is that Brock’s uncle, Aaron Pendleton (Jay Richardson, Tomb of the Werewolf & Haunting Desires), is a producer. He seems more interested in getting them to do crewing work on his next project, Motor Cycle Sluts in Heat (Fred Olen Ray is dying to direct it!)

the Vamps
Kyle has a girl back home, Molly (Brigitte Burdine), and gives her a ring. He is therefore reticent when the guys decide to buy some entertainment for the night (Brock has his Dad’s charge card with him). However he does go along and, after a daft condom buying gag, they get to the house in Beverly Hills. The butler Balthazar (Ralph Lucas) lets them in and soon they meet the three ladies of the house Jessica (Debra Lamb), Claudia (Jillian Kesner) and Kristina (Michelle Bauer, also Tomb of the Werewolf, Morgana, Evil Toons , Red Lips & Vampire Vixens from Venus). Kyle is taken along but changes his mind. The mistress of the house, Madame Cassandra (Britt Ekland, the Monster Club) tries to prevent him from leaving but he gets away despite her efforts.

bitten Brock
The next day, when the lads haven't returned, Kyle goes to the cops (who aren’t really interested), phones Molly for advice and then goes and sees Aaron. As they talk Brock comes in sporting a rather nasty looking hickey and a very pale complexion. His mind is a blank regarding the events of the night before but Kyle quickly realises that he is a vampire (with no reflection) and Kyle and Aaron go to get advice from a priest who was an advisor on an exorcism movie. The question of how Brock got to Aaron’s office during the day is glossed over with a suggestion that it might be because he is newly bitten.

cross on forehead
Now for the cameo I mentioned – Father Ferraro is played by none other than Robert Quarry (Count Yorga, Vampire, the Return of Count Yorga, Deathmaster & Madhouse). Quarry even gets to yell out, theatrically, “Begone Count Yorga”. Ferraro offers us our lore (and it’s all fairly standard) including the idea that killing the head vampire will free those newly bitten. Stakes (or other sharp objects, an umbrella is used later), holy water and crucifixes are good to kill vampires – Ferraro suggests slipping a cross into a female vampire’s cleavage will work a treat. So it’s off to save Kyle’s friends, meanwhile Molly is heading to LA…

holy water burns
This wasn’t bad, all things considered. As I said at the head of the review, the fact that it is a comedy rather than a straight film works in its favour. The in jokes (especially at Fred Olen Ray’s own expense) are knowing and the Robert Quarry cameo wonderful – he is phoned later to go over his advice and it sounds like he is conducting an orgy! It is not the greatest comedy, sure, but it is still amusing. The girls all look great, which is a bonus, and special credit to Ralph Lucas for his wonderfully campy performance as Balthazar.

The effects leave a lot to be desired, each dying vampire expelling shades of light before glowing and vanishing into nothing (and taking the offending stake or cross with them). An injured vampire bleeds green, by the way. The story is almost painfully simple but that also works in the film’s favour as it then relies on the larger than life characters to carry it, which they do. Overall this deserves a strong 5 out of 10 – it is well deserving of being the best known of Fred Olen Ray’s vampire flicks, as it actually is probably his best.

The imdb page is here.

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