Cinema/TV, Dracula, Film Notes

Your Daily Dracula – Vampirella (1996)

Roger Daltrey as Vlad/Jamie Blood, Vampirella (1996)

Jim Wynorski’s VAMPIRELLA, adapted from the Warren comic book once developed for the screen by Hammer Films, premiered in the Roger Corman Presents cable TV series. Created by Forrest J Ackerman, the comic character was a schizoid mix of adolescent-appeal girlie art in the style of Barbarella and childish plotting and writing straight out of the 1940s; screenwriter Gary Gerani takes FJA’s loony premise (vampires come from the planet Drakulon, where blood flows in rivers) and tosses in Man From UNCLE business about Operation Purge, a government anti-vampire operation. An amazingly-cast Roger Daltrey is Vlad, Count Dracula, an ancient alien vampire passing himself off as Jamie Blood, a lame rock star with hair extensions. After Vlad murders the benevolent High Elder of Drakulon (Angus Scrimm) and flees in a stock footage spaceship from GALAXY OF TERROR. Ella (Talisa Soto), the ruler’s stepdaughter, heads off in pursuit but is sidelined by a crash-landing on Mars. ‘30,000 years later’ on Earth, Vlad has sired a race of vampire gangsters and is plotting to turn out the sun. Ella gets a lift on a space-shuttle (co-piloted by John Landis, who alludes to IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE) and hops back on the vengeance trail. Though the first thugs she meets nickname her ‘Miss T&A’ for her odd outfit, a passing nerd named Forry Ackerman (Robert B. Katz) names her ‘Vampirella’. She hooks up with Adam Van Helsing (Richard Joseph Paul) and tracks Vlad to Las Vegas, where a messy confrontation at Boulder Dam cops the already-quite-bad-enough ending of SCARS OF DRACULA.

Less successful in its melange of pulp influences than Wynorski’s THE LOST EMPIRE, VAMPIRELLA has the feel of a skimped project. A sleeve still shows Soto sporting something close to the original, revealing comic book costume; in the film itself, she is strapped into an unflattering outfit on the (perhaps likely) grounds that it would be impossible to do action scenes in the comic book costume without continually ‘popping out’. Soto is athletic and smouldering, but doesn’t have the stature or sense of humour needed for such an impossible character. Daltrey, who allegedly took the role because the late Keith Moon was a big Vampi fan, is among the least impressive screen Draculas and, even sadder, comes across in his Jamie Blood act as a sub-Austin Powers caricature of himsef. Full of bizarre concepts (a gun that projects artificial sunlight, hypodermic injections of holy water, vampires in protective suits modelled on PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES), this is still too makeshift to qualify even as camp. Limp fight scenes are overdubbed with foley punches that sound like Sonny Liston pounding watermelons and a few near-extras contribute Wynorski’s trademark naked silicone breasts.

First published in Video Watchdog.


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