Release Date(s)1971 (September 27, 2016)
Studio(s)New World Pictures/New Horizons (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: D-
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: D
Released in 1971 by New World Pictures, The Velvet Vampire, quite frankly, isn’t a very good movie. Its attempt at a slow burn vampire tale that uses infidelity as a backbone, while throwing it all out the window at the very end, left me feeling a bit angry. In the style and vein of Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, its story tells of a married couple that pays a visit to a lady friend who turns out to be a vampire. Slowly, over the course of the film, they are sucked into her world... pun intended.
One could list the pluses and minuses of this movie in a more perfunctory manner, but it’s best just to say that the movie doesn’t work. Made by a former assistant to Roger Corman, Stephanie Rothman, it tries to tell its deliberately slow-burn story with dream-like imagery, as well as actual dreams. The lead actress, Celeste Yarnall, plays a very relaxed and charismatic vampire which, in a way, reminded me a lot of Count Yorga. Unfortunately, her co-stars are downright awful by comparison. Michael Blodgett comes off as sleazy right from the very beginning and never really feels like a man trying to maintain a marriage while being tempted by an adulteress. The female lead, Sherry Miles, spends most of the time whining and complaining about virtually everything. Both characters are miles away from the plot too; it never occurs to them that something is wrong until it’s far too late. When they finally realize it (past the 60-minute mark in an 80-minute movie, mind you), the movie quickly flushes itself down the toilet, losing what little pace or reason for being it might have had.
If there are any positives to The Velvet Vampire, I suppose you could give the look of the film some credit. It certainly is colorful and the concept is kind of promising. But imagery alone cannot carry this film. It needed a solid foundation that its actors and story failed to give it. As a consequence, it’s one of the worst films I’ve seen recenty.
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release (limited to 1,000 copies) carries a very organic-looking presentation that appears to have been sourced from a low grade print. It features heavy grain levels, but they tend to be a little splotchy in places. There are a couple of optical cross-fades that look terrible, even when you consider that the source is far removed from the original camera negative. Many shots also have a slightly soft look by design. The color palette is quite strong and pops very nicely, with bold reds, greens, and blues. Skin tones are also good and black levels are deep, with good shadow detailing. Brightness and contrast are generally pleasing and it’s a fairly stable presentation overall. There does appear to have been a bit edge enhancement applied, however, as some haloing and sharp edging appears in spots. The audio, which is a single English mono DTS-HD track upgraded to stereo, is a decent enough presentation. Dialogue is clear, and sound effects and score have some decent heft, but there isn’t much to offer in terms of directionality or ambience. There’s also some hiss and crackle left in the mix. Subtitles are available in English.
The extras have been carried over from Shout! Factory’s Vampires, Mummies, and Monsters Collection DVD release via their Roger Corman Cult Classics line. They include an audio commentary with actor Celeste Yarnall, the original theatrical trailer, and a photo gallery.
Recommending The Velvet Vampire just isn’t in my DNA. I’m sure someone will have a more positive experience with it, but I found the film pretty dreadful to sit through. Still, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release is worth exploring if you’re interested.
- Tim Salmons