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This English-made horror thriller is the story of two female vampires who hitchhike along a deserted highway in the English countryside, luring unsuspecting drivers to their gothic mansion for a night of passion - followed by the victim's murder at the hands of the femme fatale.
For more about Vampyres and the Vampyres Blu-ray release, see Vampyres Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 31, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Marianne Morris, Anulka Dziubinska
Director: José Ramón Larraz
» See full cast & crew
Vampyres Blu-ray Review
'Vampyres:' Nynety mynutes of nothyng.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 31, 2010
Very unnatural ladies.
Terms like "exploitation" and "cult" are labels that often draw in passers-by to movies that might otherwise remain untouched -- and often rightfully so -- on dusty video store shelves. Pint-sized budgets, miniscule production values, no-name actors, and superficial plots don't always spell doom for those little obscure titles that promise something dangerous, sexy, or otherwise often forbidden in more mainstream fare, but there's a line between "alluringly different" and just "painfully dull." Unfortunately, Director José Ramón Larraz's 1974 Erotic Horror picture Vampyres falls squarely into the latter category; it's a movie built on nothing but naked bodies and filler material that makes the 88-minute runtime seem like 888 minutes (or maybe 666 minutes to take the "this movie is so slow it would be better to be sucked dry by a seductive vampiress/vampirette/whatever those bloodsuckers of the fairer sex may be called). Vampyres, or Daughters of Dracula (it's one of those old 1970s Horror films with multiple titles for multiple markets, see also The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue) doesn't even have a playfully fun title like 1971's Vampiros Lesbos. In fact, the "i" for "y" switch-a-roo might be the most interesting thing about this one, and for those that are watching solely for the eroticism, just keep Blue Underground's spicy Blu-ray menu playing on a loop.
For what it's worth, the actual plot of the movie goes something like this: in a chilly corner of the English countryside, two bisexual vampires -- Fran (Marianne Morris) and Miriam (Anulka Dziubinska) -- live in an old, cobweb-infested, and dark castle. They survive by posing as hitchhikers and luring gullible men back to their beds, only to kill them by drinking their blood before morning. Fran catches a lonely traveler, Ted (Murray Brown), but rather than kill him, she feeds off his wounded arm, keeping him dazed but alive, allowing for them to continue on with their physical affair. Meanwhile, travelers John (Brian Deacon) and Harriet (Sally Faulkner) set up their camper near the vampires' castle, slowly becoming intrigued not only with the location but with the two young women they see going to and fro and hitchhiking on nearby roads. As suspicions rise as quickly as the body count, the mysteries of the castle and its resident vampires come into focus for all involved, but will intense seduction and the allure of beautiful women obscure the fact that neither Fran nor Miriam are what they seem?
Vampyres is pretty much a one-trick pony spread out into 90 grueling minutes, interspersed by some steamy scenes and a bit of bloodletting, neither of which make up for the sheer lack of story and purpose. Vampyres is about on par with late-night Cinemax offerings, but with perhaps just a bit more in terms of production values and a nice-looking filmic structure rather than a cheap shot-on-video visual tone. The real problem here isn't the erotic content; it's the lack of focus and the absence of any other reason to watch. Nothing sets Vampyres apart from anything else in a long list of exploitation films; there's no charm to the shoestring budget feel of the movie, the acting is mediocre at best, the script is packed with clichés and poorly-developed characters, and the pacing is sluggish at its fastest. Granted, nobody expects greatness from something like Vampyres, but the film has to meet audiences partway in offering a semblance of something beyond the promise of naked and nubile bisexual vampires, which the movie admittedly delivers in spades.
Additionally, hardcore fans of Vampire cinema might gawk at Vampyres' lack of adherence to some basic genre tenants, like the creatures' inability to function during the day (which, perhaps, the film covers -- but never explicitly states -- through the consistently bleak and overcast locale), a lack of visible fangs, no coffins, or any number of things normally associated with such tales. It's no secret from the get-go, however, that Vampyres isn't about mythos; it's about eroticism, and everything else plays second fiddle to lots of skin but not quite enough blood. Even as it tries to cobble together a story, Vampyres seems to go in circles, never really explaining much of what's happening, ultimately lacking any real purpose or payoff when it comes to character development. It's sloppy moviemaking to be sure, but considering the premise, it's not hard to dismiss its many downfalls in favor of the eroticism the film delivers, eroticism, though, that can be found in somewhat more cohesive and coherent exploitation pictures that don't gnaw on the nerves quite as badly as Vampyres.
Vampyres Blu-ray, Video Quality
Blue Underground and Vampyres fans will want to sink their fangs into this good-looking 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer. Though it's a bit rough around the edges and not without its faults, Blue Underground has nevertheless delivered another high quality and, more importantly, film-like transfer of an aging low budget movie. Despite some washed-out blacks, slight artifacting, errant speckles, a touch of softness, and an oftentimes painfully flat appearance, Vampyres looks awfully good for what it is. The transfer retains a fairly heavy layer of film grain which seems to vanish only in several shots. Not exactly a vibrant image, what colors there are -- green vegetation mostly -- appear rather dull, though seemingly as part of what appears to be less-than-stellar film stock used to shoot this low-budget motion picture. The level of fine detail often fluctuates but as a general rule strikes the viewer as more impressive than not; the dull color palette and generally dreary tone don't help matters, but there's a fair amount of clarity and visible detailing on clothing, furnishings, and the like, but outdoor vegetation often suffers from a clumpy look that's not unsightly but isn't as sharp and detailed as other objects found throughout the movie. Additionally, flesh tones remain consistently neutral throughout, here extending from head to toe and not limited to faces. Overall, Vamyres will probably never look at that much better than it does here; Blue Underground's transfer seems faithful to the source and should satisfy fans of low budget exploitative cinema.
Vampyres Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Vampyres arrives on Blu-ray with a serviceable trio of soundtracks, a 7.1-channel DTS lossless mix, a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX lossy presentation, and a Dolby Digital 1.0 track. The DTS mix proves far richer and fuller than the original 1.0 mono track; it enjoys a more spacious and robust feel over the film's opening title sequence, which proves to be just about the most sonically-engaging part of the film. The DTS track spreads things out to each channel, but most of the rest of the movie is presented with minimal sound effects and is certainly a front-heavy presentation. There's a good, haunting support structure to be heard in some of the interior castle scenes; a constant low humming that seems evenly spread about the room and plays as somewhat convincing adds a nice amount of atmosphere to several scenes. However, outdoor ambience is limited and not particularly engulfing or convincing, though several rolls of thunder and light falling rain occasionally make for a halfway pleasurable and realistic environment. Dialogue reproduction is steady throughout. Vampyres may not make for a stellar track, but Blue Underground's presentation acquits itself well enough given the film's age and low budget.
Vampyres Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Vampyres lures viewers in with the inclusion of a few supplemental features. First is a commentary track with Director José Ramón Larraz and Producer Brian Smedley-Aston. The participants jump straight in and recall the look and performances of the two lead female vampires, the politics surrounding the production of the picture, the assemblage of the cast, shooting locations, and more. There are also plenty of interesting anecdotes surrounding the shooting of the film. Next is Return of the Vampyres -- Interviews with Stars Marianne Morris and Anulka (480p, 13:39). The piece intercuts recent interviews with both actresses to tell the story of the movie and its production, interspersed with numerous clips from the film. Rounding out this collection of extras are the film's international (1080p, 2:33) and U.S. (480p, 3:05) trailers.
Vampyres Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Vampyres isn't a very good movie, but it serves as a pretty good example of low budget/erotic/exploitative filmmaking. It's rough, unconvincing, poorly-acted, meandering, and boring, but it's worth checking out as a curiosity if nothing else. There are better cult films out there, and there are worse, though Vampyres still ranks pretty low on the list. It's a good film for a lazy afternoon and as a demonstration of filmmaking that's professional but far from memorable. Blue Underground's high definition release of Vampyres should satisfy fans. The technical presentation is about what one should reasonably expect of a movie of this sort, and the supplements are few but worthwhile. Recommended for fans of cult and unusual cinema.
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Vampyres Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Vampyres Restored for Blu-ray Release - November 23, 2009
Blue Underground has announced that they will bring the cult horror film 'Vampyres' to Blu-ray on March 30th. Often edited by censors around the world, the film, which is also known as 'Daughters of Dracula', will be presented uncensored utilizing a new 1.85:1 ...
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