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At first, this looks to be another of the "erotic vampire" movies that
were so popular in the 1970's, especially in Europe. But this American
movie is actually quite different from Hammer's "Carnstein trilogy",
the Rollins and Franco vampire films, and other European cult classics
like "Vampyres" and "Daughters of Darkness". It doesn't really have the
lesbian vampire angle that was often the bane of many of the European
films. It's more of a love triangle with a free-spirited hippie couple
(Michael Blodgett and Sherry Miles) finding their swinging lifestyle
tested by a mysterious and very seductive woman (Celeste Yanell). There
is one incredible polymorphously perverse scene where Yanell sucks
snake venom out of the Miles's leg, and there are several heterosexual
scenes between Blodgett and each of the women (usually while the other
is secretly watching), but the plot is never completely overwhelmed
with softcore groping,lesbian or otherwise.
The movie also has a very unusual (and very American)setting. It takes place in the Mojave desert near an abandoned mine and an old graveyard (where there are hints of cannibalism and necrophilia). It is atrociously acted (with Miles being the worst offender), but surprisingly well photographed, really making the most of its non-traditional horror setting. The vampire herself is also quite non-traditional. She has a reflection, is not overly adverse to sunlight, and may not really even be a vampire but instead someone suffering from insanity or a rare blood disease a la "Martin" or "Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary".
This movie may not quite compare some of the European vampire classics of its time, but it's better than some (Franco's "Female Vampire", for instance),and it's miles ahead of recent, derivative crap like "An Erotic Vampire in Paris". I'd rank it among the more interesting American vampire films of the period such as "Count Yorga" and "Lemora, Lady Dracula".
With the Womens Lib movement in full dudgeon in the early 1970s, a few horror movies reflected this revolutionary turn-of-events with varying degrees of success. By far the best was the ravishing Dutch thriller "Daughters of Darkness," with Delphine Seyrig's hypnotic portrayal of a bisexual, blood-thirsty modern-day vampire. But the little-known American trailblazer, Stephanie Rothman's "The Velvet Vampire," should not be overlooked. "B" actress Celeste Yarnall acquits herself beautifully as an enigmatic young temptress who lures a pair of blond, beautiful newlyweds (Michael Blodgett, from the unforgettable "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls"; and Sherry Miles, an embarrassing actress but a certifiable voluptuary) to her isolated abode in the Mojave desert, where she plans to have her way with them. Or does she? "The Velvet Vampire" runs hot and cold--at once a camp hoot, then suddenly a disturbingly erotic example of a perhaps dubious genre. But it casts a unique spell of its own, thanks to Ms. Rothman's artfully detached direction, and the audacious performances of the three leads. Truely "a guilty pleasure" for fans of it's (perhaps) dubious genre, and a haunting oddity worth checking out.
THE VELVET VAMPIRE is really one of the most underrated vampire movies, and well worth searching for a copy. Not available on DVD, the film's long out of print VHS tapes have sold for high amounts on eBay. Directed by 70s cult director Stephanie Rothman, THE VELVET VAMPIRE is a very low budget, yet very well done movie. I saw it screened in a theater once, in 1981, on a double bill with DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS. It was a perfect double feature, yet THE VELVET VAMPIRE does not have anywhere near the strong cult following DAUGHTERS OF DAKRNESS has achieved. A young couple meet a beautiful, mysterious woman in an art gallery in downtown Los Angeles. She invites them to spend the weekend at her desert home. They both have dreams of being seduced by her, and the dreams, in one way or another, become a reality. Celeste Yarnall is outstanding as Diane, The Velvet Vampire, and it always puzzled me that she did not achieve greater success as an actress.
Nicely done vampire tale, an early effort for Roger Corman's New World Pictures, breaks from convention in some ways and gives it a refreshingly different environment in which to play out: the California desert. Super sexy Celeste Yarnall is the enigmatic Diane, a desert dweller who invites young couple Lee (Michael Blodgett, "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls") and Susan (Sherry Miles, 'Hee Haw') to her isolated mansion. Co-writer / director Stephanie Rothman, the woman behind such other drive-in gems as "The Working Girls" and "Terminal Island", incorporates elements such as eroticism, voyeurism, and mysticism into this often artfully done, dreamlike horror film with palpable desert atmosphere, excellent music, and impressive sun baked cinematography by Daniel Lacambre. The dream sequences are especially enjoyable, even more so when we learn Lee and Susan are having almost the same dreams in unison. Susan often comes off as too whiny and insecure, although one couldn't blame her too much for the latter when they see just how powerfully attracted Lee is to Diane. In fact, both Lee and Susan end up rather intrigued by their cagey and alluring hostess, just not at the same time. The isolated setting ensures that escape is, while definitely not impossible, certain to be a daunting task. The sequences in the cemetery, as well as those aforementioned dream sequences, are the best in the movie. Restrained use of violence helps to make the bloodier parts that much punchier when they do occur, and in general the use of colour is quite striking. Blodgett and Miles are okay as the couple, but this is definitely Yarnall's show, and she makes the most of her role, and both she and Miles show off an appreciable amount of skin. Supporting players Gene Shane, as Carl, and Jerry Daniels, as Juan, are decent as well, with familiar character players Sandy Ward, as Amos the service station attendant, and Robert Tessier - playing a biker, naturally - making appearances as well. "The Velvet Vampire" is a good little movie for discerning vampire movie lovers to check out, as it continues to remain an overlooked item. Seven out of 10.
Stephanie Rothman's "The Velvet Vampire" is an intriguing slab of erotic vampire horror.The desert setting with the ghost town the characters visit provide plenty of unsettling atmosphere.Stunningly beautiful Celeste Yarnall plays the mysterious beauty Diana who after meeting married couple Susan and Lee Ritter at an art gallery lures them into staying the weekend at her Mojave Desert home.Soon both husband and wife find themselves sexually drawn to their mysterious host who suffers from a rare blood disease."The Velvet Vampire" was one of the first horror movies released by Roger Corman's company New World.The female vampire played by Celeste is a fascinating and deeply sensual character.The only known master print belongs to Quentin Tarantino's private collection and he is graciously lending it for the occasion.8 out of 10.
Okay, first things first, Velvet Vampire emphasizes neither Vampires,
nor Velvet. This film has much more in common with that strange
sub-sub-genre of 70's sexual awakening films where a person, or couple,
meets an unusual and erotic woman, or man, and travels to a far off
place secluded from the reality of everyday life never to return home
the same again. In this case it is a couple made up of beefy bodied,
effeminate-featured Lee, and his extremely awkward wife, Susan. They
travel to the middle of the desert as guests of the weird, beautiful
and eccentric Diane LeFanu, the Velvet Vampire. Most of the film
involves the erratic far-out shenanigans of these three and slowly but
surely the vampire angle builds.
While VV may not involve a lot of hissing, pointy teethed nightcrawlers - it does weave a strange entrancing spell mainly due to the sheer utter weirdness of the trio of folks at its core. These are three actors you would never normally see in a film. Coupled with a very unusual vampire location - a dessert villa - this is tale of the undead that likely has not been seen before or since. And again - it is very 70's!! For this reason alone, I highly recommend a viewing to all fans of Gothic, Vampire or Strange 70's Flicks - as it offers a slightly skewed version of each.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Eschewing the traditional vampire settings of old-world Europe and the modern-day big city, Stephanie Rothman's 1971 film "The Velvet Vampire" instead has as its unusual backdrop the American desert Southwest, a milieu that works far better than might be expected. In the film, we meet a (seemingly) young woman named Diane Le Fanu (a distant relation of Sheridan and/or Carmilla, perhaps?), a beautiful brunette played by Celeste Yarnall, an actress more often seen as a blonde (and who is still, amazingly, quite a beauty, 40 years later). Diane invites Susan and Lee Ritter to her house in the desert after meeting them in an art gallery, but what the Ritters don't suspect, until too late, is that Diane is more than just a vamp...she's a vampiress, and with quite an appetite, to boot! Though filmed on a very limited budget, and with nary a special visual effect to its name, this film still manages to impress. In the three leads, Celeste is by turns supremely sexy and not a little frightening; Michael Blodgett is certainly more sympathetic than he was in the previous year's "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls"; and Sherry Miles, though no great shakes as a thespian, is certainly convincing as the dim-witted Susan, not to mention an accomplished screamer. The use of some surrealistic dream sequences, and the deliciously morbid soundtrack score by Roger Dollarhide and Clancy B. Grass III, consisting largely of weird sound effects and trippy acoustic guitar, are the two elements that really put this picture over, though. Indeed, they elevate the film above the level of the mere horror flick to something quite artful. Filled with unusual touches (that voyeur's room, those raw chicken livers!) and culminating with a Greyhound bus ride from hell, "Velvet Vampire" yet manages to ultimately disappoint, insofar as Diane's undoing is concerned; perhaps the weakest and most unconvincing vampire death scene I've ever witnessed. Up until then, however, the picture is fairly riveting. The DVD that I just watched, by the way, from an outfit known as Cheezy Flicks, looks a bit on the coarse and grainy side. A shame, really, that the picture quality isn't as sharp as Diane Le Fanu's teeth....
A vampire in the middle of the desert? That is just what is the subject of this somewhat forgotten, semi-erotic tale made in the only decade one would make a movie about a female vampire with inclinations toward both sexes: the seventies! Now before I get too far, let me say that this film is unique in several ways. It has as its vampire a vampire that defies almost all of the traditional myths about vampires. This one, named Diane, can go about freely in the sun. She can see her reflection in the mirror. She sleeps in a luxuriously large bed(all the more room to entertain her guests). She does feed on blood. She is reputed to be over a century old.. She has a deathly aversion to the Crucifix. What does all this mean? I really don't know, but I am of the opinion that the director and writer were portraying a real vampire rather than a mental vampire(one that believes herself to be a vampire). Diane, played deliciously by Celeste Yarnell, meets a guy and his wife while at a club in Los Angelos. They are invited to her house in the middle of nowhere in the Mojave Desert. Once there, we see Diane and company explore a mine shaft, visit a ghost town, have sexual relations in three different pairings, ride on a dune buggy, and see Diane suck the venom out of a bikini-clad Sherry Miles's leg. This is a strange film not always sure where it is going, but it does lots of things fairly nicely. The acting is pretty good. Yarnell, aside from being beautiful, gives a good performance despite the flaws she inherited with a script fraught with problems. The script keeps cohesive though never explains anything really and tries way too hard at the end. The sex scenes are really quite tame by today's standards. I liked the guitar score throughout much of the film. Though I believe the movie tried to heap much on its being seen as a risqué film in its favor, the film is much more than that. It is far from great, but it is definitely worth a look.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Velvet Vampire isn't a particularly good film, but it does feature four things in its favor: the alabaster beauty of Celeste Yarnall, here playing sexy desert-dwelling vampire Diane LeFanu; podgy Beyond the Valley of the Dolls veteran Michael Blodgett, cast as dimbulb horndog Lee Ritter; a yellow dune buggy, and a genuinely spectacular score. Credited to Roger Dollarhyde and Clancy B. Grass III, the score is an amazing blend of raga rock, pre-Dark Side of the Moon Floydian atmospherics, Joe Byrd-inflected electronica, and Fahey-esque guitar picking. I don't believe this score has ever had a commercial release, but soundtrack buffs would snap it up in an instant, so if anyone from Trunk Records or Film Score Monthly is reading this, buy the rights! The story revolves around fairly routine bloodsucking stuff, but director Stephanie Rothman's work reflects the influence of Antonioni with scenes reminiscent of both Red Desert and Zabriskie Point. That's something I never thought I'd write about a New World release, but I swear it's true.
This movie is an interesting, rare take on vampirism from a female perspective. In most movies of this genre, the women are merely adjuncts to the male lead. I (accidentally) saw this as a kid, at a drive-in double-feature in the 70's, and have ALWAYS remembered specific scenes. I hadn't seen it since until recently, in 2008. Of course, nothing is as good as you remember. My younger friend who watched the DVD with me wasn't impressed with it. I guess this'll be forgotten like so many other films - regardless of the hard work that went in to producing them. The Cheezy Films DVD has a couple of good trailers for bad films - exactly what Tarentino was paying homage to in Grindhouse.
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