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GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (director/writer: John Hayes; screenwriter: from the novel Still Life by David Chase; cinematographer: Paul Hipp; editor: John Hayes; music: Jaime Mendoza-Nava; cast: William Smith (James Eastman), Michael Pataki (Caleb Croft), Lyn Peters (Anne Arthur), Diane Holden (Anita Jacoby), Kitty Vallacher (Leslie Hollander), Eric Mason (Lieutenant Panzer), Margaret Fairchild (Miss Fenwick), Lieux Dressler (Olga), Jay Scott (Paul), William Guhl (Sergeant Duffy), Abbi Henderson (Carol Moskowitz), Carmen Argenziano (Sam); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Daniel Cady; Sinister Cinema; 1974-UK)
“Ridiculous low-budget gory horror thriller about vampires.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director-writer John Hayes (“Tomb of the Undead”) bases this ridiculous low-budget gory horror thriller about vampires on the novel Still Life by David Chase.

It opens with loving young couple, Paul (Jay Scott) and Leslie (Kitty Vallacher), visiting a California cemetery at night, where Paul proposes and she accepts. They then make out in his car, but a vampire awakens after a long slumber for no apparent reason and leaves his crypt. The vampire murders Paul and drains his blood and rapes Leslie in the open coffin of Charles Kroft. The missing corpse of Kroft is that of a murderer who was electrocuted on the railroad tracks in Boston three years ago while on the run from the police. This baffles the police investigating, and the lead investigator Lieutenant Panzer (Eric Mason) thinks vampire and follows a suspect to the site of the Kroft grave one night and is killed by the vampire and has his blood drained.

Leslie’s family doctor strongly tells her to get an abortion, that she’s pregnant with something that’s not human and will be stillborn. She rejects his medical opinion, railing against all doctors who think they know it all, and gives birth at home with midwife Olga. The baby boy is born a strange gray color and will not be nursed with milk. Accidentally she cuts herself, and as the blood drips onto the baby’s mouth he laps it up. She feeds the half-human and half-vampire on bottles of blood, and she soon becomes insane and warns that this child isn’t like other children–he could never share a life with whole human beings. Years later, the grown child is now a twentysomething named James Eastman (William Smith). His mission in life is to hunt down his father to save the world from his vampire attacks and get rid of the one who gave him this cursed bloodline. James finds his father teaching a night course (I gues only vampires teach at night) on occult folklore at a college under the pseudonym of Professor Lockwood (Michael Pataki). He has thoroughly researched the professor and knows he’s really the English vampire Caleb Croft, who got the boot from England in the 17th century and settled in Massachusetts. His vampire wife Sara was burned at the stake in Salem, but he was never found. James knows that Profesor Lockwood is Kroft and that Kroft is Caleb Croft. Anne Arthur (Lyn Peters) and Anita Jacoby (Diane Holden) are roommates and classmates of James, in the same popular course given by the vampire prof. The prof goes on a killing vampire spree and the film builds to the final showdown fight to the death scene between father and son.

There’s not much to get carried away about this routine vampire tale, as the characters all seemed to be drained of life and give wooden performances.

REVIEWED ON 11/26/2006 GRADE: C-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”