• Vamp



    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: October 4th, 2016.
    Director: Richard Wenk
    Cast: Grace Jones, Robert Rusler, Dedee Pfeiffer, Sandy Baron
    Year: 1986
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    The Movie:

    When Vamp begins, two college frat boys, Keith (Chris Makepeace) and A.J. (Robert Rusler), are in the midst of a horror tinged pledge that just isn’t taking off the way it should be. Despite the fact that the pledge was a botched job, our two heroes want into this particular fraternity anyway for the singular and simple purpose of meeting girls. With the pledge having been screwed up, they decide to prove their worth to the older students by getting a hot stripper for their upcoming keg party - never mind the fact that neither of them know a stripper. At any rate, with that said and done the pair sets out to find a jiggly lady to disrobe for their pals but soon realize, hey, we’re nowhere near the city and we don’t have a car. Enter the requisite eighties nerd character in the form of Duncan (Gedde Watanabe), who lets them use his car in exchange for friendship.

    Our three dudes head straight into New York City to accomplish their mission but soon run afoul of a gang of street toughs (lead by Billy Drago) and eventually take solace in the ominously named After Dark Club. Once inside, they hit it off with sexy waitress Amaretto (Dedee Pfieffer) and then lay witness to a bizarre strip tease by Queen Katrina (Grace Jones). Despite the fact that Queen Katrina’s dance isn’t so much sexy as it is frightening, A.J. decides that she’s the one they need and so he approaches her to perform at the party. At this point it all hits the fan and the real purpose of the After Dark Club comes to light as Queen Katrina sucks A.J.’s blood and bares her fangs…

    Very definitely a product of its time, Richard Wenk’s 1986 film predates the similarly themed From Dusk ‘Til Dawn by a good few years, but isn’t nearly as good. That said, for all its flaws, and there are many, Vamp is still a good bit of fun provided you’re in the mood for bad eighties fashions, countless clichés, horrible frat boy humor and the genuinely unsettling presence of the perpetually freaky Grace Jones. It’s a film full of all the neon and bad one liners you could want and then some, and alongside eighties vampire cult classics like The Lost Boys and Fright Night, it’s bound to entertain those of us who lived through those years more so than those who didn’t. There’s definitely a nostalgia factor at play here, one that can make or break the movie depending on how susceptible you are to such things, but let it suffice to say that those of us who came of age around this time are going to be more prone to Vamp’s charms than those who weren’t.

    To the film’s credit, as predictable and hokey as it all is, it isn’t ever short on entertainment value. Drago, as the albino gang leader named Snow, is great in his role and if he over does it at least it seems in keeping with his character. Makepeace and Rusler are typical eighties frat boy characters through and through and don’t do much to differentiate themselves from those stereotypes, but they’re fine in the film as is Wattanabe, who has better lines than the other two. Grace Jones steals the show, however. She’s got the moves down properly and delivers a memorably weird performance here (and this for an actress who has made a career out of delivering memorably weird performances!) and plays her part very effectively. The whole film is frequently bathed in green and purple and yellow shades of neon light, which gives it a strange and almost alien look, but it moves at a good clip and delivers enough jokes, sex and gore to hold your attention.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Arrow’s AVC encoded 1080p high definition 1.85.1 widescreen transfer is pretty decent, showing some really impressive color reproduction and reproducing all of the garishness of the eighties in more detail than you’ve seen on home video before. The colors really pop here, all the over the top colors used throughout the movie really pop, while black levels stay nice and deep. Skin tones look good, there are no obvious problems with noise reduction or compression artifacts and the image appears free of any edge enhancement. The picture is also quite clean, showing no print damage outside of some small white specks here and there. Grain appears looking quite natural and all in all, the image quality here is quite strong.

    The LPCM 2.0 Mono mix is a good one and true to the film’s roots, but a 5.1 mix definitely would have been fun here. That said, there’s nothing to complain about in terms of the quality of the mix. The dialogue is easy enough to understand, everything is balanced properly, and there aren’t any problems with hiss or distortion. It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done. Optional English subtitles are provided.

    Extras on this release start off with a featurettes called One Of Those Nights that features interviews with director Richard Wenk, director of photography Elliott Davis and cast members Robert Rusler, Dedee Pfeiffer, Gedde Watanabe and longhaired Billy Drago. This piece runs forty-four minutes and in addition to some clips from the movie and all manner of behind the scenes materials (mostly stills), we learn where the idea for the movie came from, what went into casting the film, shooting the picture on its various locations (and Davis’ experiences shooting Tuff Turf prior to Vamp!), the humor behind many of the scenes in the film and the actors’ thoughts on their specific characters. There are some fun stories here about how Rusler and Pfeiffer got along, working with a remarkably committed Grace Jones (who brought an entourage with her!), bleaching Drago’s hair and eyebrows, the stylishness of the film, the costumes and wardrobe featured in the movie, punch-out’s that happened on the set and quite a bit more!

    Rounding out the extras is seven minutes worth of Behind the Scenes Rehearsals footage, a six minute Blooper Reel consisting of flubs made on set, the film’s original trailer and a twenty-one minute short film directed by Wenk entitled Dracula Bites The Big Apple which was originally made for HBO and which helped land him the directing gig on Vamp.

    Also look out for a few TV spots, a theatrical trailer and a still gallery. Menus and chapter stops are also found on the disc. It would have been to see Grace Jones interviewed here, but that didn’t happen. Inside the clear Blu-ray case is an insert booklet containing credits for the film, an essay from Cullen Gallagher entitled Vamp: More Than Just Scary Laughs, some notes on the transfer, some archival images and credits for the disc as well. This release also includes some cool reversible cover art and includes a postcard insert advertising Arrow’s Blu-ray release of Slugs!

    The Final Word:

    Vamp is really likely to appeal more to 80s camp fans than diehard horror buffs but it has its audience and that audience will appreciate this release, because as goofy as it all is, at least it’s never boring! Arrow’s Blu-ray looks and sounds quite good and contains an interesting documentary as its main featurette.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!