Friday, September 24, 2010

Vampirella (1996)

Director: Jim Wynorski

Starring: Talisa Soto, Roger Daltrey, Richard Joseph Paul and Corinna Harney

When I was a kid, I loved the publications produced by Warren Magazines...EERIE, CREEPY, and VAMPIRELLA were basically all a growing boy (who was also a comic book fanboy) could get when you were too young to purchase PLAYBOY in the days before newsstands were hip enough (or had the good taste) to carry HEAVY METAL magazine.





This isn't exactly the first time an attempt had been made to adapt the property. Hammer Films went into pre-production on a Vampirella film in the 1970s, with publicity photos announcing Barbara Leigh in the title role, but when Hammer went under, these plans were scrapped (great article about that unproduced film to be found HERE).




Now, I wasn't expecting much going into this flick. I was aware that it was a Roger Corman production with a incredibly small budget (according the film's director, Jim Wynorski, around 1 million bucks). What I didn't expect was that I'd walk away entertained. There's a lot of charm packed into this cheap little movie.





Talisa Soto portrays the space vampire Vampirella, who's step-father and the rest of the members of the high council on Draculon (a planet where instead of water, they have oceans of blood) are murdered by Vlad (The Who's Daltrey hamming it up), a bad guy General Zod-wannabe who goes to Earth and lives out his Anne Rice rock star fanatasies. Vampi follows, but is marooned on Mars for about 30,000 years until she hitches a ride on the Space Shuttle. She gets to Earth, saves a computer nerd from getting mugged, then hooks up with a top secret government organization bent on destroying vampires, where she discovers Vlad's evil plot to black out the sun.

No...really.

I couldn't make this shit up if I tried. Trust me.



For one thing, the film doesn't seem to take itself very seriously. The plot is pretty tongue in cheek, as well as fairly decent adaptation of Vampi's black and white Warren magazine origin. Amidst the GALAXY OF TERROR and BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS stock footage, you'll find Angus Scrimm as Vampi's step-father, Daltrey in make up and a cape, and be sure to look for director John Landis (Animal House, The Blues Brothers, American Werewolf in London) as one of the astronauts who find the sleeping Vampi on Mars.





My only problem is: I don't buy Ms. Soto in the title role. Sure, she's a decent enough actress who does her best to pull off a role that's literally just a red swimsuit and fangs, but, I had always envisioned Vampirella as being a little less naive as Soto's performance leads to believe the character is, and....well....a heck of a lot more busty. Now, this is just my opinion, but the artistic representations of Vampi over the years have presented her as practically spilling out of her costume, where as Soto doesn't even seem to fill it up.


Who would I cast as the Daughter of Draculon, you might ask? Well...Julie Strain seemed to fit the bill quite nicely when she donned the costume in some mid-1990s photo shoots.....'Course, this is just the ramblings of a self-proclaimed boob lover, so take anything I say with a grain of salt.



Even so, VAMPIRELLA is a lot of fun...the type of fun you get from a film that lacks budget, but makes up for it with ambition. Plus...it's got Daltrey in a cape. So, there.

- HONG KONG CAVALIER

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