THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
The Satanic Rites of Dracula is a bizarre, entertaining latter-day Hammer film with Lee as the sinister count with a very creepy basement-dwelling following. Their plans are to kill loads of people with a plague but the thing that makes this film fun is the super-70's style (Shaft-style wah-wah guitar and all) plus an unbelievably fun performance by Joanna Lumley (Patsy from Ab Fab). Whenever Eddie refers to Patsy's past as an actress in films like the fictional Bond Meets Black Emmanuel she's referring to Lumley's work in films like Satanic Rites. It's great fun to get to share in the joke. Equally interesting is the film's X-Files-esque device of pitting an anti-paranormal squad of Scotland Yardies (including a Mulder-esque suit and Lumley's extremely red haired character) against the evil vamps. Cushing plays a descendant of Bram Stoker's Van Helsing out to stop the vampires. The quality of the print and transfer detract from the film, but only a little. This strange and crazy film is colorful, gaudy, loud, and totally cool.
The Devil Bat isn't a vampire movie at all (which stinks) but it stars the always awesome Bela Lugosi (which rocks), so the viewer comes out even. The plot is garbage: An evil doctor (Lugosi) gets fed up with designing shaving relief products (what?!?) for a greedy corporation so he uses weird electrical charges to make a bat grow really big and kill anyone wearing his specially designed cologne. Whenever the stuffed bat falls on his prey there is tons of screaming and flailing – just like the infamous octopus sequence in Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster. Devil Bat is no more competent than Wood's films except that Lugosi is much younger here (and lived through the entire shoot, no less). His sneaky smile and nefarious monologues are always enjoyable and even though the film's director (Jean Yarbrough) was no James Whale, this is a great rainy afternoon flick.
The Last Man on Earth is actually the film that makes this disc almost a necessity. This rare film is one of the weirdest entries in the vampire genre. Shot in Italy (and it shows), The Last Man on Earth finds Price the only survivor of a plague that transformed everyone into vampires. (Maybe it's the plague from Satanic Rites.) The film, made four years before George Romero's masterpiece Night of the Living Dead, is actually a zombie movie in disguise, with the brain-dead vampires endlessly banging on Price's door to gain access. The black-and-white cinematography, the sense of dread, the loneliness all appeared in Romero's film. I wonder if he was a fan of this film before he made his own. While not a typical vampire movie (the vamps can see themselves in mirrors – but they don't like it) The Last Man on Earth is intriguing and terrific. Price delivers his typical excellent performance and the ending is both heart-breaking and perfectly over-the-top.
Nothing worth noting.
Email Gil Jawetz at [email protected]