Buffalo native Frederick King Keller, yet in his twenties, directs a noirish film wherein all action is held in his home town, principally on and about Elmwood Avenue. Keller attempts to establish his own style and there are integrants of the surreal and of symbolic naturalism here, as well as manifest homage to Huston's THE MALTESE FALCON, with efforts at satire, but nothing surfaces as a challenge to cinematic masters of those genres. Patrick Duffy is cast as Harry Baranski, a jazz saxophonist whose career is off track, resulting in his having had to pawn his instrument with an antique dealer. To retrieve his sax, Harry has committed a burglary under the direction of the dealer (Fred A. Keller - the director's father) who performs as an obvious reference to Sydney Greenstreet in FALCON. In the midst of what he has decided will be last break-in, Harry apparently falls in love with his victim's photograph, and subsequently with her, opening a Pandora's box of afflictions for him. For the lady at issue, earnestly played by Catherine Hyland, although a recent widow, may or mayn't be one of the grieving ilk, and when Harry decides to find out more about her, he discovers insights to secrets that he does not wish to know. A low budget production, VAMPING includes interesting concepts, perhaps the reason it was received well at Sundance (although not nearly so kindly at Cannes) and it also is taxed by a vapid script that worsens as the picture progresses, losing control of its continuity and details. Duffy makes a strong effort to create an interesting characterization, but his material leaves him scant opportunity to do so. Although Buffalo is not upon the short list of sites suitable for noir, Michael Moran's art direction develops an appropriate atmosphere. The most enjoyable aspect of the affair stems from the sound track, and sax man Bobby Militello does an excellent job in coaching Duffy on how to simulate playing, with a Militello solo being an aural highlight. Vamping is a jazz term which has come to mean several things including riffing or improvising, although technically it refers to short chord progressions, generally utilized as in introduction to a number; an interesting title for a film that collapses into folly.
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