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This review is from: Vampyres (DVD)
Okay, 1974's VAMPYRES admittedly has numerous nude scenes--full frontal female nude scenes, in some cases--that was a prerequisite for the sexploitation horror pouring out of Europe in the 1970s. And yes, the two female players have hourglass figures, ample bosoms, and beautiful faces. However, this British indie film, directed by Spanish auteur José Ramón Larraz, has a cinematic aesthetic that makes it stand out above its contemporaries as a horror film of true quality. Larraz does a fantastic job of directing, working in close conjunction with cinematographer Harry Waxman to ensure that nearly every shot of every scene is a balanced, well-framed image. In keeping with the spooky atmosphere of the moldering English manor house and surrounding grounds used for location shooting, production designer Ken Bridgeman maintains the perfect ambiance throughout. And unlike many other buxom sexploitation actresses of the era, erotic stars Marianne Morris and Anulka (Dziubinska) can actually act, and they do a superb job in making the eponymous characters both scary and sympathetic.
In addition to the outstanding efforts of cast and crew, the tight, well-written script is refreshingly new--even from this vantage point of some thirty years hence. Avoiding the usual vampire clichés, these VAMPYRES are really more like ghosts who have some inexplicable but insatiable desire to feed on the blood of the living. They don't have fangs, they can tolerate moderate sunlight, and instead of resting in musty old caskets, they sleep in a wine cellar during the brightest of the daylight hours. They also can eat, drink liquids other than blood, and seem to genuinely enjoy sex. And they even sometimes have sympathy for their victims, a characteristic that may lead to their ultimate downfall.
The myth of the vampire has always been regarded as sexual in nature, especially the intimacy of the flesh-penetrating bite on the neck. VAMPYRES carries this metaphor to the extreme, with heterosexual vampiric coitus portrayed as an intensely passionate, rigorous event that includes feasting on the blood of the non-vampiric partner. And the eponymous characters in VAMPYRES don't gently suck from two pricks in the neck; in the midst of sexual passion, they tear open their victims and lap up the crimson liquid with ferocious, writhing pleasure.
In short, VAMPYRES is an excellent British erotic horror flick that is superior to most others from its era of origin, and it can even stand up against many straightforward, non-sexploitation horror films. It is well written, well acted, and has high production values throughout--and all this in spite of a low, low budget. Director Larraz and his co-scripters have take an idea that they could play for camp or sheer sexploitation and, instead, deliver a thought-provoking look at indiscriminate and promiscuous sex, physical obsession, and guilt. And on top of that, they still throw in lots of delicious T&A.
The DVD from Blue Underground is a great buy. Not only does it present a widescreen restored director's version of this excellent film--transferred primarily from the original negatives--but it also has lots of cool extras. It offers a feature-commentary track with director José Ramón Larraz and producer Brian Smedley-Aston that is both hilarious--due to Larraz's frank use of English colloquialisms--and informative. And there are also recent interviews with Marianne Morris and Anulka Dziubinska, the film's beautiful stars; a lost scene recreated via production stills; U.S. and European trailers; and more. This is a piece of erotic artistic cinematic history that any serious horror fans will want to add to their collections.