Vampyres (1974): Blu-ray

Where to begin with a movie like Vampyres? How do you discuss it’s rather depraved combination of Hellspawn and Howard Stern and do both the killings and the abject kinkiness justice? To only focus on the “friskier” moments without dealing with the vivisecting or ample ambience would be like discussing an issue of Hustler without mentioning Larry Flint’s wheelchair. Probably the best way to approach any review is to micromanage it, to tell fans of specific genres what they will be getting once they break open the new Blu-ray remaster seal and pop this slick bit of soft core horror porn into their player.

First, though, a little background on the segmented storyline. In a spooky old house in bloody olde England, a couple of comely lasses get aerated by an unknown assassin. Toddle over to some other narrative strand, and we follow John and Harriet as they head out into the British countryside. Coincidently, their campsite happens to be right next to the previous murder scene. Scanning the horizon for yet another plotline, we find mysterious business man Ted, who runs into hot hitchhiker Fran on the road near…you guessed it. After a hot night of non-connubial bliss, he awakens feeling surprisingly tired and drained. He also has a fissure in his arm the size of a Mini Cooper.

Fran is eventually joined by her special female “friend” Miriam and together they pick up, preamble, and pry apart more hard-up horndogs. Unhappy camper Harriet can’t help but notice the sinister shenanigans and vows to make it her goal to discover the girls’ slutty secret. Eventually all the divergent details start to mesh as everyone ascertains what the attentive members of the audience have been privy to since the first shot of bare bodkin. Fran and Miriam are undead drinkers of human blood, scorching lesbian Vampyres of lust!

Taking in total, without any attempt to compartmentalize, Vampyres is unsane, an all over the map miscreant macabre outing that’s about as logical as a loan agreement. For certain members of the proposed demo, this will be a God-send, a trip to depravity on gross-out, gratuitous wings. Others will focus on the more arterial aspects of the presentation and feel sated. Looking at all aspects individually, we can see how the many freakish facets come together to create one of the best, more brazen genre efforts of the Me Decade.

FOR THE SEXPLOITATION CROWD: Lesbian action and lots of it. Marianne Morris and the sultry, single named Anulka provide enough simulated stimulation to power an entire metropolitan men’s club. These ample actresses, while occasionally as forced as a Jim Carrey performance in their attempted terror, really generate a great deal of memorable male fantasy heat. This really is some steamy stuff, especially for 1974. A shower scene between the two fetching females is enough to have you reaching for some solo soap on a rope.

FOR THE GOREHOUNDS: As the old slasher mantra goes, “for every act of sin, there must be an equally effective Tom Savini scene of anatomical slaughter.” Well, Vampyres doesn’t have the inspired insanity of Romero’s favorite bloodletter, but this doesn’t keep our British brethren from finding their own recipe for “clotted” cream and then splattering it all over the countryside. Particularly, there is an unnerving death of a young man that screams of agony and ferocity. His skin is torn in large hunks with his wounds leaking gallons of grue. Ouch!

FOR THE HAMMER FAN: Though made by a Spaniard for a home country producer trying to outdo the classic British horror factory (and succeeding, thank you), Vampyres has enough of the UK stalwart’s mood and rococo settings to have you wondering when Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing will show up for tea. The main manor used in the film is actually Hammer’s old standby castle haunt. From forests filled with fall weather foliage to ornate interiors that evoke gothic decadence and decay, Vampyres provides the look and feel of a standard Bray Studios fright fest without resorting to its tired trademarks.

FOR THE VAMPIRE LOVER: Look, if the only choice you have for revisionist vampirism is between Anne Rice and Stephane Meyer’s miserable Twilight twaddle, you’ll hate Vampyres. Lovers of really naughty neck biters, however would and should instead invest their obsession on a couple of true Transylvania tigresses. Bram Stoker may be spinning in his family plot over the liberties taken with his immortality mythology, but it’s no worse than lovelorn monsters or members of the undead who sparkling like diamonds in the moonlight. Yeesh.

FOR THE HORROR BUFF: As an actual work of evocative, erotic horror, Vampyres works surprisingly well. Much of the credit must go to director/writer (under a pseudonym) Jose Ramon Larraz. He creates a narrative filled with unexplained scenes, missing information and wildly suggestive sensuality that keeps the viewer tantalized and teased throughout the running time. He utilizes the incredibly moody settings and countryside of England to give his movie more than a modicum of menace. He then adds those red herrings and scenes of mysterious consequence to keep things unsettled and surprising. Match that with a couple of curvaceous creatures and the aforementioned torrents of red torment, and you’ve got a good little gothic terror on your hands.

The print for this new Blu-ray release (the movie has been available on DVD for a few years now) is really magnificent, looking virtually brand new. There is some minor artifacting in a single night scene toward the end, but overall, the 1080p HD 1.85:1 image is a stunner. Aurally, the presentation here preserves the Dolby Digital Mono and the soundtrack is clean and crisp, while the new 5.1 Surround track adds some decent depth.

As for that wealth of extras, we are treated to a 14-minute interview with stars Marianne Moore and Anulka. Both ladies have aged gracefully and it’s fascinating to hear them discuss how a little low budget horror film with “some minor nudity included” turned into such a torrid tale of hot lesbian lust.

There is also a commentary (lifted from a previous Anchor Bay issue of the film) featuring producer Brian Smedley-Aston and professed “dirty old man” director Jose Ramon Larraz. The contrast between the two personalities couldn’t be greater. Smedly-Astin is all courtesy and calm. Larraz is like a leering letch let loose in a ladies’ lingerie store. He comments on the women’s private and public parts. He comments on the sex scenes. He celebrates the copious amounts of blood and gore. He swears and curses a blue streak. And he offers wonderfully insightful details about all aspects of the production, even going so far as to explain those baffling, seemingly pointless and disconnected scenes scattered throughout the movie.

Anyone looking for a linear narrative revolving around traditional vampire lore will be sadly disappointed by this ribald re-imagining of Count Vlad’s naughty nieces. But if you like your fright on the fiendishly fleshy side, you’ll truly enjoy this vixen version of Vampyres. It’s got something for everyone!

RATING 7 / 10