Thursday, October 20, 2016

Grave of the Vampire (1972)



Enervated horror flick Grave of the Vampire has a solid premise and at least one memorably perverse scene, but the combination of lifeless dramaturgy and stiff acting renders the piece impotent. Here’s the premise. When two lovers sneak into a cemetery one evening, they happen upon the crypt of Caleb Croft (Michael Pataki), a rapist and murderer who rises from the dead because he’s actually an ancient vampire. (Never mind that he was electrocuted and buried, and never mind that his resurrection defies even the sketchy logic of monster movies.) Caleb rapes the woman, who subsequently gives birth to a child that she raises by nursing him with blood instead of milk. When the child reaches adulthood as James Eastman (William Smith), he tracks down Croft, who has assumed a new identity as a college professor specializing in vampirism. (Again, never mind.) James uses detective work and eventually a séance to confirm that Croft is the creature who violated his mother, then seeks vengeance. Excepting the clumsy mechanics of the storyline, the underlying notion is fun—a vampire begets a son, who then wants payback. As for that perverse scene, it involves James’ mother discovering his taste for plasma. She accidentally cuts her finger and drips blood onto her baby’s face. He laps up the stuff, so she slices open her breast and he suckles the wound. If only the rest of the picture had that much nerve. Pataki, usually cast in humorous or thuggish roles, is atrocious, employing a community-theater version of sophisticated diction and moving like he’s got a wooden board tied to his back. Smith, badly miscast, spends most of the picture sitting in chairs while seething, so his powerful physicality is mostly wasted. All in all, Grave of the Vampire plays like a bad episode of Dark Shadows.

Grave of the Vampire: LAME

3 comments:

Joe Martino said...

Pete,

I got to disagree with you on this one. Lame? Hardly. Written by future SOPRANO'S creator David Chase, there's some great twists and turns in the first act. I saw this at the drive-in and couldn't figure out where it was going (granted I had a nice beer/weed buzz going - but even in that state I knew a cool movie from a "lame" one). Call it a guilty pleasure, or Funky, but Lame it is not.

toomuchhorrorfiction said...

I've been obsessed with that crappy poster for decades! As for "at least one memorably perverse scene," man, that's all I need. I will watch 89-and-a-half minutes of boring cliched nonsense solely for those 30 seconds of perversity...

William Blake Hall said...

Joe Martino, my favorite David Chase horror work was the eight episodes he wrote for that show "Kolchak: The Night Stalker." Some seemed desperate, like one about decapitations and a ghostly biker, an episode which Stephen King specifically put down, but "The Spanish Moss Murders" is a keeper.