Vampire (1979)

A Californian architect and his wife, John and Leslie Rawlins, are giving a party, and they are introduced to the mysterious art lover Anton Voytek. He has an intriguing proposal for them, which includes saving hidden pieces of art which he claims are family heirlooms. But when their relationship turns sour, they are to discover there is more to Anton than meets the eye.

 

Vampire is a “made for TV” film, but it is very competently produced and there was clearly a lot of effort regarding the sets and props. In addition, this film features a score by Fred Karlin which – while pretty generic – is rather effective. I would also argue that the writing by Steven Bochco and Michael Kozoll is good, even if a large part of the film is derivative of Stoker.

But there are elements of the execution where the film is lacking. Some are minor technical details, such as voice-over dialogue that “sounds wrong”. More importantly, there is a problem with the pacing and the arc of suspense. In the latter part of the film, there is a vampire hunt of sorts. That hunt is meant to create suspense, and it does indeed do exactly that; but that suspenseful hunt still feels anticlimactic (and long-winded) compared to earlier parts of the film which contained far more activity.

The other major problem is the performance by the male lead, Jason Miller. For me, performance issues are always directing issues as much as they are acting issues – there is often more than only one person to blame. Miller is very good playing the successful architect in the beginning of the film, but as soon as the story turns gothic, he seems entirely unsure what is expected of his character. So part of the blame has to go to the director, E. W. Swackhamer.

 

The other performances in the film are mostly good. The most notable roles in the film are Anton (“that-guy” actor Richard Lynch) and retired cop Harry Kilcoyne (E. G. Mashall), and these roles are consequently cast with the film’s best actors. Supporting cast members include Nastassja-Kinski-look-a-like Kathryn Harrold as Leslie Rawlins, and Arrested Development’s Jessica Walter.

 

As I said, this is a competently made little film, but nothing special. As this is a TV-movie, there is no blood and no gore, and the film goes for suspense far more than for horror. If this is your kind of thing, you could do worse than watching this 90-minute gothic drama. But, realistically, there is no real reason to seek this film out.

Rating: 6 out of 10

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