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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Vampirella
Vampirella
New Concorde // R // June 25, 2002
List Price: $9.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by D.K. Holm | posted June 26, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Vampirella is all about Talisa Soto.

This is all a matter of taste, but she is one of the most beautiful actresses on the screen. She's like Susan George, Sharon Gurney, or Liz Hurley, some of whom went on to fame and some of whom didn't. That is, she's has that type of beauty that is so intense that in a certain sense people can't take it. They like their stars to be not so perfect.

People might have forgotten about Soto until the recent Pinero, in which she played the "poet"'s girlfriend, before going on to marry the star, the Julia Roberts-rebounding Benjamin Bratt. Before that, she's had a long career in movies. She started out in an Andy Warhol-sponsored film, and has appeared in over 20 more. Like Jennifer Connolly, she started as a teen. Like Tia Carrera, she has flirted on the edge of genre films without ever fully submitting to their more exploitational side. She is perhaps the best possible Vampirella, even though there were several qualified female starlets, and Femme Fatales magazine tried to put forward candidates of its own, including Julie Strain.

Vampirella started out as an oversized magazine style anthology comic published by Jim Warren in the late 60s but invented by horror film guru Forrest J. Ackerman (in a self-reflective in joke, there is a horror nerd character in the movie named Forry Ackerman, played by David B. Katz). She was a lithe vampiress in black boots and a red form fitting suit, and she was a blend of sci-fi and horror.

Rumors of a Vampirella movie had plagued the industry for years before the prolific Jim Wynorski, something of a modern Roger Corman, grabbed the torch. The script is credited to Gary Gerani and it is an "origin" tale, perhaps the worst way to introduce the character whom the studio must have hoped would have inspired a franchise.

After the murder of her step-father, Vampirella travels from Drakulon to Earth (via Mars) to seek revenge on the evil vampires who murdered him, led by Vlad (Roger Daltry), who has become a Vegas rock star on earth. Adam Van Helsing (Adam Joseph Paul), leader of a team of vampire hunters, gets involved with her. Vampirella enjoys all the virtues and suffers all the sins of its low-budget straight-to-video format: nudity, but also a sluggish pace, and lots of night shooting in blue light.

Of course, Vampirella is less about the comic book and more about Anne Rice. Most of the story is an unacknowledged adaptation of some of her books, but unlike in the recent Queen of the Damned, they hired a real rock star (the over-the-top Daltry) to play the vampiric rock star. The film, like the comic, posits that all vampires come from another planet. But unlike the comic, Vampirella is all good, a sacrificial lamb on a quest for vengeance.

Part of the problem with the film is Vampirella's costume. It's impossible for anyone in the real world to wear a red thing such as the comic character wears, unless a costumer were to paint red liquid latex. The movie Vampirella wears a modified patent leather or plastic swimsuit and black go go boots, and sexy as we want the costume to be poor Soto may look back on this 1996 film with as much embarrassment as we do now, though still mixed with lust.


The DVD

VIDEO: New Concorde offers a pristine full frame edition of the film on disc, a format that perhaps betrays its TV roots. The transfer is a little dark, which means the viewer must strain to get a good look at the ravishing Soto, but at least it's spot free.

SOUND: The box indicates that the audio track is in Ultra Stereo (rather than Dolby Digital?), but it comes across a little soft, requiring higher tuning on the TV.

MENUS: The static, but musical, menu offers 18 chapter scene selection for the 85 minute movie.

PACKAGING: The keep case at least has a full figure pin up of Soto on the back; the front cover image is simple, but a little misleading as to the personality of Vampirella.

EXTRAS: Supplements are in the mid range. The most sizable is an audio commentary track by Jim Wynorski. The 51-year-old director is an informed and informative fellow (he's written and edited a couple of books). He announces that what we are watching is the director's cut. He also admits that almost all the outer space footage is culled from some of his or Corman's earlier films. He also takes due pride in a moment that later popped up in other films. That's the scene when Paul offers up himself to Vampirella, who needs blood to stay alive. In the end, there's really not all that much to say about Vampirella, but Wynorski manages to come up with all there is. Other features include what is billed as the "original trailer." Also on hand are cast and credits for Roger Corman (because it is his company), Roger Daltry, Richard Joseph Paul, and Soto. Finally, there are trailers for three films in New Concorde's Vampire Collection, Blood Ties, Dracula Rising (with really bad sound), and Night Hunter.

Final Thoughts: If you are a worshipper of Talisa Soto, Vampirella is a must have. Others may find themselves bored, disappointed, or misled.


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