Saturday, November 26, 2016

Frightmare – review

Director: Norman Thaddeus Vane

Release date: 1983

Contains spoilers

There was a question mark in my mind as to how I’d treat the film on TMtV. Whilst main character Conrad Radzoff (Ferdy Mayne, the Fearless Vampire Killers & the Vampire Lovers) is an actor famous for playing a vampire (and so we have a fleeting visitation at the beginning of him acting as a vampire), there is a question mark on what he is when he comes back – I’ll discuss that in review.

In fact Mayne – who has starred as a vampire himself – played a character who was modelled quite strongly on Christopher Lee – to the point that old film footage of Conrad used early Christopher Lee footage rather than actual Ferdy Mayne footage.

about to bite
So, we have established he is an actor and in the first scene we see him creeping around in formal dress prior to putting the bite on a woman (Twyla Littleton) sat at a dressing table. The director (Peter Kastner) yells cut – Conrad has missed his mark, again… and its take 18 of the commercial. The director calls for a break and is sat looking at the script on the wall of a balcony. Using his walking stick, Conrad nonchalantly pushes the director to his death and then saunters off to his Rolls Royce.

addressing the college
Cut forward and a local college – and specifically the students who are in a film society – have invited Conrad to give an address. He seems charmed by the proposition but early into his speech it is clear that something is wrong and he suffers a heart attack. He is revived by one of the students, Meg (Jennifer Starrett), giving (almost perfunctory) CPR. Not long after this he awaits death and yet manages to kill the director (Leon Askin, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew) he was discovered by, from his death bed, and get himself, resplendent in his cape and formal wear, to his own coffin.

getting into his own coffin
The funeral features a pre-recorded eulogy from himself and his mausoleum had to be fought for but is massive and replete with flashing neon star. The film class attend the funeral and then, whilst driving around, return to the cemetery. The boys leave the girls as they climb the wall and then break into the mausoleum – by one of the gang, Stu (Jeffrey Combs, Necronomicon: Book of the Dead & Dark House), smashing a skylight. Inside the mausoleum is lit, with messages being given by Conrad on video. They decide to steal Conrad’s corpse and take it for a last night out, at the house where many of his films were made (and where he murdered the director).

the sceance
This is where we wonder just what Conrad is (and what the students were thinking, to be honest)? His corpse sits quietly, as one would expect, but his wife (Barbara Pilavin, Buffy the Vampire Slayer ) soon discovers the corpse is missing and calls in a medium. It is the contact she makes with his spirit that allows Conrad to escape (what we assume to be) Hell and possess his own body and he then goes on a murder spree, avenging himself on those who desecrated his tomb.

dark, but you can see fangs
Undoubtedly he is undead and, at least in one shot, he has obvious fangs (though they could have been his fake movie ones). He displays powers of pyrokinesis, telekinesis and telepathy (with a hypnotic element). He seems to be able to manifest a mist or fog. All that said he does not display any overtly vampiric traits. He is certainly undead and most certainly looks the part of the Lugosi-esque vampire but we have no evidence that he is actually a vampire. However, with the fact that he acted like one as a human and that he looked like one when undead I pitched in at review level for the film.

Jeffrey Combs as Stu
As for what the kids were thinking, that is one of the flaws with the film. The fact that a bunch of film students desecrate a tomb and steal the corpse of their hero made little sense, except in terms of setting the film up. Despite it all, however, I actually rather enjoyed myself as I watched it. Ferdy Mayne was a primary reason, he looked like he was enjoying himself and was chewing the scenery like the pro he was. It was also great fun to see a young Jeffery Combs in one of his earliest films. A film that held no sense of reality but revelled in that, it wasn’t great cinema but was good fun. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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