• Grave Of The Vampire (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: April 16th, 2019.
    Director: John Hayes
    Cast: William Smith, Michael Pataki, Lyn Peters, Diane Holden
    Year: 1972
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    Grave Of The Vampire – Movie Review:

    Directed by John Hayes, 1972’s Grave Of The Vampire starts off with a great scene where a young woman and her date (who sort of looks like a leprechaun) stop their car in a cemetery for a little make out time. Unfortunately as they get down to business, the crypt of one Caleb Croft (Michael Pataki) opens up and its lone inhabitant pops out, hungry as can be. He tosses the leprechaun guy into a tombstone and then drinks his blood, after which he drags this poor lady into an open grave and has his horny undead way with her.

    The cops are stumped – they can’t explain it, though a bit of background research on Croft inspired by the fact that they found his grave empty does reveal he had a sordid past. Our poor rape victim, though? She’s pregnant. The doctors urge her to abort the baby but no dice, she’s keeping it… and can you guess who the father is? Well when you see the infant nursing on at his mother’s teat sucking blood not milk, you can pretty much figure it out. This kid grows up to be a guy named James (William Smith) and he decides to do something about the curse he’s had to deal with since day one: track down Caleb Croft and get revenge.

    This proves to be easier than you’d think. While the cops were never able to track him down, James quickly learns that Caleb is currently teaching lessons in the history of the occult at a nearby university. As James sneakily enrolls in one of his father’s classes in order to get closer to him, we learn the truth about his real identity, his past, and what he’s really up to with all of this decidedly sinister behavior and blood drinking and what not.

    The first twenty-minutes or so of this movie are pretty solid, with some nice atmosphere and a few interesting twists thrown in to hold our attention, a nice mix of traditional vampire motifs (the opening attack), some twisted sex (the rape, though it’s all off camera) and a well-played shock (the bloody breast feeding). From there, the movie does run into some pacing issues but thankfully Pataki, more than anyone else in the cast, really manages to save things. His performance is energetic without being too over the top and he makes for a genuinely intriguing character here. William Smith is alright as the ‘hero’ of the movie, though he isn’t quite as enthusiastic on screen as his rival.

    This one doesn’t try to rise above its horror movie origins, its ambition seems only to entertain and to spook – on that level it actually does succeed, as it offers up a few eerie images and a very strong finish which, of course, leaves the door open for the sequel that never happened.

    Grave Of The Vampire – Blu-ray Review:

    Shout! Factory presents Gave Of The Vampire on a 50gB Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.85.1 widescreen transfer that looks to have come from a master provided by MGM made up of the American theatrical cut (more on that in a bit). This is a pretty big improvement over past DVD editions, offering significantly better depth and detail as well as noticeably improved texture. Colors look better here as well, more natural, with strong black levels. There’s very little print damage to note MOST of the time, but there are some scenes that show more than other. Mostly there are just some white specks here and there, and the image is free of compression artifacts, edge enhancement and noise reduction problems.

    The DTS-HD 2.0 Mono soundtrack is presented in the movie’s native English with optional subtitles provided in English. The track is clean, the levels are properly balanced and the dialogue is plenty easy to follow. No problems here, and again, a nice improvement over past DVD editions.

    Shout! Factory provides two different commentary tracks here, the first of which is with Troy Howarth who notes that the movie ‘doesn’t mess around’ in that it gets off to a very strong start. From there, he talks about how and why the film became a favorite of his, its connections to Spanish cinema, the atmospheric visuals and how the soundtrack compliments this, how John Hayes both directed and edited the film, some of the quirkiness in the titles (‘unwilling mother’), the performances from the likes of Jay Scott and Michael Pataki, the film’s connections to Count Yorga, the film’s unlucky history and how Hayes directs the film with ‘sensitivity.’ He also talks about the significance of the breastfeeding scene, the filmed depictions of vampires in cinema over the years and how this one compares, the film’s rating, and quite a bit more. The second commentary features Nathaniel Thompson and Howard Berger and they open with talking about the opening scene and how it’s clearly a throwback to gothic horror pictures. They talk up the picture’s Hammer connections but also how the movie doesn’t play by the rules. They discuss John Hayes’ work and career and give a lot of detail about his work and the work of the different cast and crew members gathered together to work on the film, how this picture compares to other vampire films and also how it differs, the odd story structure that the film uses, David Chase’s screenplay (therefore giving the film a Sopranos connection) and Chase’s TV work in the 70’s and 80’s, the film’s tragic elements, Pataki’s presence and connection to Hayes’ other work as well as William Smith’s work and plenty more. Both of these are solid tracks, adding quite a bit of value to the disc.

    As the American theatrical version of the film is technically cut, Shout! Factory has included some of the deleted footage from a German VHS source. This doesn’t really turn out to be all that much footage in total, but it’s great to see it included here. In this section we basically get a bit more gore – Croft sucks the blood out of the neck of a victim and in a second bit plays with the blood of a dead prostitute. We also get an alternate end title card here. These aren’t in great shape but far better to have them here than to not!

    Additionally, the disc includes two different trailers for the feature, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    Grave Of The Vampire - The Final Word:

    Grave Of The Vampire is a solid watch. Michael Pataki makes for a fun antagonist and if William Smith takes his sweet time getting on screen, once he does he is pretty good in the part. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds quite good and includes some solid extra features as well. Recommended!
    Click on the images below for full sized Grave Of The Vampire Blu-ray screen caps!

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