Graphic Horror: Vampirella
Continuing on into Graphic Horror March, I decided to go a little ways back and check out this 90’s B-movie based on a comic that I know very little about except for the very iconic-and-barely-there costume that the main character wears. This was a Roger Corman production two years after his only unreleased movie the Fantastic Four and directed by Jim Wynorski. The film is more or less what you might expect from a Roger Corman production, it was made on the cheap, the acting is passable, there’s a couple explosions, and there’s a couple moments of gratuitous nudity. For the most part the plot was nonsensical as was the costume design. It never devolved into the so-bad-it’s-good territory, but there wasn’t much in the film that was good enough to latch onto. It was a bizarre mix of a space movie, a revenge story, a vampire movie, and cop movie all rolled into one, but all of the elements of the film were just half-assed and unmemorable.
To start things off, Vampirella looks more like a low budget sci-fi film as it takes place in space. Actually, it’s quite a bit reminiscent of Superman’s origin with a handful of things switched around. Here Zod and his cronies are replaced by Vlad and his cronies. And to make things even more spectacular, Vlad is played by Roger Daltry. And while Zod-err Vlad is being arrested and ready to be sent into space vampire jail, he breaks free and kills the entire high council before hijacking a space ship and heading off to Earth. Vampirella is the step daughter of the council elder so she takes the logical step of following them to Earth to enact her revenge. But this is where things get a little weird and aren’t exactly explained until later in the film, she ends up getting stuck along the way on Mars and has to hibernate for three thousand years before hitchhiking back on a manned mission to Mars. There’s also a side plot where the son of Van Helsing is part of this high tech, militarized operation out to rid the world of vampires and a Queen of the Damned-esque bit where Daltry is moonlighting as a Las Vegas rock star. But at its heart this film is just a basic vampire hunter movie mixed with a bit of a revenge tale.
One of the first noticeable things about this film is the awful choices in wardrobes. While on Drakulon, the fashions are ridiculously mismatched. Vlad is wearing a puffy pirate shirt with a leather vest, one of the elders is wearing a toga that looks like it was made out of some awful curtains while another one is wearing the equivalent of a high school production’s version of Merlin’s magic robes complete with the stitched on moon and stars. On top of all that, Vlad’s minions look like they’re dressed ready to go to an 80’s hair metal concert. And when Vampirella finally makes it to Earth, we get to see her in her “iconic” outfit that barely resembles how she’s represented in the comic. And while it’s entirely possible that recreating that outfit exactly would be completely impractical to move around in without popping out of it every few minutes, what they ended up with looked more like an orange vinyl cross between a bikini and suspenders with a cut that was very unflattering to Talisa Soto’s attractive body. And if that wasn’t enough, she refuses to wear anything else besides an overcoat for the entire rest of the movie. What’s even more bizarre is that there seem to be production stills with Talisa Soto wearing a much more comics-accurate costume that actually looks quite good, which is baffling why they went with the one that appears in the movie.
It doesn’t help that Vampirella doesn’t start off on a good foot when she gets to Earth. While she does very randomly rescue a nerd holding a very early 90’s computer for some reason and give him a thrill of a lifetime, it never makes sense that he figures out that she is a vampire and spells it out with constant Freudian slips before coming up with her comic book name after she leaves. Her name is Ella and she’s a vampire, therefore Vampirella. In fact, she basically never refers to herself by this name throughout the entire movie, but everyone else seems to come to this conclusion on their own. And when she discovers the first minion, he appears to be leading a very normal life as a schoolteacher and professor. He has a wife and kids and appears to be making an honest living when she doesn’t care and kills him anyway. It’s entirely plausible that he has been killing people to feed off of their blood since the film doesn’t present any other alternative, but it also doesn’t allow him to offer any alternative. The same situation happens when we meet the other supposed hero of the film, Adam Van Helsing and his team of operatives called Purge. He interrupts her first attempt at killing Vlad and captures her while two of his goons appear to be ready to rape her during transport. It’s not until later on when the two obviously fall for each other because of reasons.
It’s fairly easy to pick this film apart, there’s even this extremely odd plan of Vlad’s where he is using Drakulon technology to harness these invisible satellites that he has somehow placed in orbit all across the globe. When activated, the satellites would shoot out these carbon particles to create nuclear winter, aka they will make the Earth go dark so that the vampires can roam free. There’s a few other mini-subplots like this that don’t really contribute to the film very much, like the officer of Purge who doesn’t trust Vampirella until the very end after she proves herself. Or the high tech sun gun that they spend an awful lot of time setting up but only use once for what basically amounts to a gag where the nerdy scientist bags a kill. And for a film where the main character is known for wearing next-to-nothing, there’s not very much nudity either. There are only a couple moments and they are fairly brief and not all that titillating. As with most of these types of films, the acting from everyone is extremely flat with very little emotion. The fight scenes are nothing to speak of, and while Talisa Soto looks great, it’s very difficult to look past that ridiculous outfit with the completely pointless white collar. Truly nothing to speak of. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.