• Vampyres



    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: 3/30/2010
    Director: Jose Ramon Larraz
    Cast: Marianne Morris, Anulka Dziubinska, Murray Brown, Brian Deacon, Sally Faulkner
    Year: 1974

    The Movie:

    One of the seemingly countless lesbian vampire films that were pumped out by various European filmmakers in the sixties and seventies, Jose Ramon Larraz’s stands out from the pack thanks to some solid casting, an instantly identifiable and incredibly atmospheric location, and plenty of sex, violence and sleaze.

    When the film begins, sometime in the 1800s from the looks of things, dark haired Fran (Marianne Morris) and pretty blonde Miriam (Anulka Dziubinska, credited as, simply, Anulka) are enjoying some alone time in bed. A man walks in, we assume a jealous lover of some sort, and shoots them both dead. Or so it would seem. Flash to the modern day of 1974 where we meet John (Brian Deacon) and Harriet (Sally Faulkner), a nice young couple vacationing in their motor home. They decide to pull up in front of an old mansion that appears to be empty and set up camp. She spends her time painting and he’s into fishing and they have no problems finding ways to entertain themselves.

    Fran, however, starts to become a bit preoccupied with a few ladies she’s been spotting skulking around the premises. They seem to be luring strange men back into the mansion, but for what purpose? Enter Ted (Murray Brown), a fairly dopey guy who is enamored with Fran and who the pair spy wandering around a few times, looking more than a little bit out of it. Harriet wants to snoop around, but John insists they mind their own business. Eventually, however, the two worlds collide in a bizarre mix of Sapphic lust and carnal bloodshed.

    Shot almost entirely in and around Oakley Court (Rocky Horror Picture Show fans will recognize it instantly), a stately old English mansion that makes for a perfect setting, Vampyres doesn’t always move at a rocket’s pace. It starts off with a great opening scene but soon winds up spending too much time with dull John and Harriet. As the film picks up steam towards its second half and focuses more on Fran and Miriam, the movie becomes much more interesting, affording writer-director Larraz the chance to deftly exploit his female cast and to bring on the buckets of blood. This is a film that was obviously inspired by some of Hammer’s output, and so it doesn’t always feel like the most original work in terms of story, but Larraz infuses his picture with enough of an art film sensibility that at times it feels closer to the work of Jean Rollin than Roy Ward Baker.

    The film benefits from some great camera work that not only accentuates the odd and eerie locations but also really does a fine job of showcasing the feminine wiles of its two lead actresses. Marianne Morris and Anulka are shot with an almost fetishistic care in order to accentuate their sex appeal and put us in Ted’s shoes to a certain extent. It works fairly well and it’s hard to imagine anyone not seeing how he could be drawn to the women in the film. The story may not win any awards for pacing, plot development or dialogue but it’s got enough dreamlike ambience and intense sexualized horror that you probably won’t care so much.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Those with an aversion to grain might not appreciate the way that Blue Underground has brought Larraz’s film to Blu-ray, but the AVC encoded 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen 1080p transfer definitely looks considerably better than the film did on the various DVD releases it’s been given over the years. There is some minor print damage and yes, the grain is there, but there’s way more detail present here than ever before and Blue Underground’s transfer is a good one. Skin tones look pretty realistic and there aren’t any problems with mpeg compression artifacts, edge enhancement or digital scrubbing to note.

    An English language lossless Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix is supplied as is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix, but the original English language Mono track, also included, is the way to go here as it just fits the film better and sounds more natural. Optional subtitles are offered in English French and Spanish. Regardless of which option you chose, things sound fine here even if they do show their age. Levels are generally well balanced and James Clarke’s excellent guitar heavy score sounds great. Dialogue is easy enough to understand and whatever audible defects might arise are minor.

    Most of the extras from Blue Underground’s previous DVD release are carried over here, with the exception of the still galleries. They’re almost all in standard definition, but if you haven’t checked them out before they’re definitely worthwhile. Director/co-writer Larraz provides a commentary track with some help from Producer Brian Smedley-Aston while both Anulka and Marianne Morris, both of whom are still very fetching, show up in a video interview to talk about their work on the film, what it was like working with one another, and their thoughts on Larraz as a director. The international trailer is supplied (the only extra in HD), as is the original U.S. theatrical trailer, while menus and chapter stops round things out nicely. There’s nothing new here in terms of supplements, but the ones that have been carried over are strong ones.

    The Final Word:

    Dark, twisted, sexy and bloody, Vampyres may take a bit of time to really get moving but once it does, it’s a pretty impressive piece of work. Rich with atmosphere and bizarre visuals, it may not reinvent the wheel but it delivers exactly what you’d want a European lesbian vampire film to give you. Blue Underground’s high definition transfer offers up a nice upgrade and while it’d have been nice to see every single one of the extras off of the standard disc carried over, at least the more important ones are here.