Grave of the Vampire (1972)
GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE
WRITER: Screenplay by David Chase
Screen treatment by John Hayes
DIRECTOR: John Hayes
STARRING: William Smith as James Eastman
Michael Pataki as Caleb Croft
Lyn Peters as Anne Arthur
Diane Holden as Anita Jacoby
Lieux Dressler as Olga
Eric Mason as Lieutenant Panzer
Jay Scott as Paul
Margaret Fairchild as Miss Fenwick
Carmen Argenziano as Sam
Abbi Henderson as Carol Moskowitz
Kitty Vallacher as The Unwilling Mother
QUICK CUT: A young man spends most of his life searching for his long lost father, only to discover he is not the man he expected him to be.
James - The son of a vampire and a human woman, James' sole reason for being is hunting down the man who created him. We skip over so much of his life, that's really all we know. He's single minded in his pursuit, and has little time for much else.
Caleb - The vampire who sired James, but not in THAT way, the normal sex way. He's clever, he's cunning, and has spent centuries traveling the globe and staying one step ahead of any pursuers. His one weakness is his long-dead wife, Sara.
Anne - A fellow night student with James, whom Caleb has taken an interest in. It's hard to say if James is only interested in her to take his father's toy away, but there does seem to be genuine emotion.
Anita - Anne's roommate, and someone who figures out Caleb's secret. She has strange desires, and is interested in the supernatural.
Leslie - James' mother, and let me just say, this poor woman. She's a good person, if a bit too easily swayed in her beliefs. She's a bit religious, doesn't like science or doctors, but has a good heart, when it comes to her boyfriend and her son. And look. She gets credited as nothing more than "The Unwilling Mother" in this movie's credits, and she deserves better.
THE GUTS: Greetings, Triskelions, and welcome back! Today I am heading back again to 1972, and seriously, I have zero clue why I've had so many reviews from that one year lately, totally coincidence. Anyways, this time out, it is Grave of the Vampire, the story of a man who was conceived one night when his vampire father assaulted his human mother, and is now seeking revenge on the monster responsible. Hmm. This sounds vaguely familiar...
The movie, or at least this version, starts with a warning card, that if the sight of a human child feeding off blood from his mother will make you sick, STAY AWAY! Which, for me, is a sign I have chosen well.
We get going after the credits roll over a thumping heartbeat, in 1940 as a couple leave an event and drive off into the night and into their destiny. And pssst, spoilers, sometimes your destiny is to die bloody with your spine snapped over a gravestone.
Meanwhile, the crypt of Caleb Croft cautiously creeps open, as the couple arrives to make out in the graveyard. Paul also uses this oh so romantic setting to propose to Leslie.
Caleb climbs out of his coffin, while the kids cavort in the car. He wanders around a bit aimlessly in their vague direction, since he didn't get a handy crow guide to lead him around.
Since Caleb just woke up and is kinda cranky, he finds the kids and rips the car door off like it was cardboard. He then proceeds to toss Paul around like he's less than even that. He just doesn't have a chance.
Caleb hoists Paul over his head, and slams him down atop a gravestone like I said, making this one of the shortest engagements in history.
As if that wasn't enough, the indignity continues, when Caleb reveals a mouth full of canines, and has a drink from the college kid. I bet he tastes like beer and regret.
He hears the girl screaming, and realises there's dessert to be had. Caleb carries the woman off to a conveniently open grave, and...
Y'know what, I am sorry folks, but there has been far, far too much rape in the movies I've been reviewing lately. My apologies.
It takes so long for Caleb to get it up and finish the job, that the sun begins to rise almost before he does. He finishes his deed, and runs as fast as he can to find a spot he can hide out in; a woman's garage, underneath a blanket. Yeah, you go to your shame corner, Caleb.
Later, the cops are investigating the murder, and talking to a local wino who was asleep in the cemetery, but got awoken by all that pesky screaming. He explains what he saw, and it sounds expectedly unbelievable as he talks to the cops.
But surprisingly, Lieutenant Panzer actually kinda maybe believes the story and that it might be vampires. Paul was drained of blood, the drunk noted the sun rising, etc. It's a refreshing twist to have a cop be all, sure! Vampires!
Panzer shows up to interview Leslie, still in shock and recovering, but he starts going through mugshots to see if they trigger anything. She is unresponsive, until he slips in a picture of the 'missing corpse' Caleb, and she freaks out.
The doctor shoos the cops off as his patient is getting agitated, and Panzer reveals what photo triggered her. His partner tries to use logic and reason why the dead man electrocutionaled across the country can't be the killer, and they head off to continue their investigation.
Meanwhile, the unsuspecting woman discovers she has a visitor lurking in her garage. Hey, it could be worse, it coulda been chopped up body parts coming after you.
Unfortunately, finding a vampire in your basement never ends well, and she dies, as Caleb feeds.
Leslie is getting ready to leave the hospital, and the doctor sits her down and lets her know she's pregnant. Now, either a bunch of time has passed since we were last here, which makes sense with her recovering from trauma, or that's one fast acting pregnancy.
She's sure it's Paul's baby, even though we never saw them having sex, and the doctor urges her to have an abortion, because the baby isn't actually alive, but being nourished from her own blood. That's actually a really progressive attitude for 1970.
Leslie just shakes her head and says silly doctor, I'm healthy and so was Paul, doctors are dumb! Trix are for kids! My baby is fine and I'm gonna keep my baby! And really, if it was a monster, the female body has a way of shutting that stuff down.
So she decides that her perfectly healthy normal perfect baby of perfection will be born, and she heads off with Olga her caretaker, or whatever that person is.
Pan Helzer decides to continue his search, because he hasn't chased the vampire lead enough yet, and heads back to the graveyard. While there, he checks out the Croft Crypt and Caleb Croft creeps up and kills the cop.
And not just kills him, but sets his head on the edge of the crypt and SLAMS the lid down on the guy's head for extra measure. Shortest investigation in a movie ever.
Later, or who knows, maybe at the same time, Leslie gives birth. I'm hoping for later, because normal, but there is ZERO sense of the passage of time, and for all I know, she went through an entire pregnancy in 20 hours.
The new mother wants to see her baby, and is so happy of her newborn son, but is concerned that he's kinda grey. Well, that's not normal. And STILL she refuses to see the doctors for this. Look, as someone who's own mother didn't see a doctor for their entire pregnancy with him, this is a bad idea.
More time passes, or it doesn't, as the baby refuses to drink milk, and Leslie continues to say NO DOCTORS. She tries to feed the child, and somehow cuts herself in an incredibly contrived way. She happens to dribble blood all over her poor child's face, and hey! Mikey likes it!
Even more time passes, and we jump ahead a bunch of years, to find NotBlade all grown up, at his mother's funeral. He gives us a voiceover about his mother's blood keeping him alive, but it used her up, and how he came to hate Caleb Frost...er, Croft. So now wants revenge. As one does.
NotBlade has been tracking Caleb all over, from college to college, but he's always remained one step ahead. Fortunately that's coming to a close, or there wouldn't be much movie, as the kid, now really grown up, heads to college to confront daddy deadest. Which begs the question, if Leslie was so blindly insistent that his father was Paul, how did HE figure it out? That might've been a nice thing to see.
While waiting for the professor to show up, NotBlade meets Anita, a fellow student, probable love interest, and just as probable victim because of that.
Elsewhere, Croft is on his way to class, and meets with a ladyfriend. They seem close, but also not, and they fight, until he kills her. As you do, if you're a vampire. She tries to fight back with a broken bottle, but the vampire turns the weapon on her, stabs her in the neck, then drinks from the spout. This dude really likes using people as beer bottles.
Back at the class, the five minute rule is about to be enacted since the professor is late after his murder, but Croft, now using the name Lockwood, shows up just in time. And it turns out he teaches a class on folklore/the supernatural. Well, teach what you know!
Lockcroft turns to his unknown son NotBlade, who starts talking about an obscure bit of folklore, a vampire known as Croydon. Just a guess, but I'm gonna say Croydon, Croft, Deacon Frost, and Professor Lockwood are all the same person...
And I gotta say, NotBlade points out a pretty big flaw of vampire literature. If vampires are so powerful, so much better than humans, why are they always shown as hiding, cowering, sticking to the shadows? I like that the movie goes there. There's enough ways around that, but it's a good plothole, and pokes at Croft's ego.
NotBlade continues, name dropping Croft, and Lockwood acts like dur hur, who? But Potential Love Interest knows all about Croft, since he's a local bit of folklore, and the missing corpse that was never found is a good story around town.
Potential Love Interest mentions a book all about Croft, and Croft goes hunting for it. It's a rare book, so the librarian won't let it go...but you can probably guess how that ends. Another bottle of Pale Human Ale.
NotBlade and Potential Love Interest get close, and she recognises in him something that reminds her of Croft/Croydon. She even says she'd believe he was a vampire himself, if not for seeing him in sunlight! First of all, he's done nothing vampiric. I do more vampiric things before breakfast than this guy has done all movie long.
Second of all, yes. He's a Daywalker.
Anita's roomie returns home from seeing Lockcroft, and she mentions his dead wife Sara, which randomly makes the Potential Love Interest put things together, because Croydon's wife was Sara. That...is a BIT of a stretch, but it's a good enough start to suspicions.
Just as randomly, NotBlade starts making out with Anita, because he has huge daddy issues, and wants everything his dad wants. SOMEhow, Croft senses them making love, because vampires?
Lockcroft heads over to Anita's place, and when he gets to the door of Potential Love Interest, the door magically opens. Whoa whoa, that is a new vampire super power there, I've never seen it before, but it is the BEST ONE EVER, because hey, lost your keys? No problem!
Potential Love Interest actually confronts Professor Von Count, which seems unwise, but then she asks him to make her a vampire? Is she trying to trap him, or genuine? Who knows!
But hey, he actually agrees. Or at least that's how it seems, until he slashes her throat, killing her right then and there. Man, when he says he doesn't want to be tied down to the same woman for eternity, he means it.
Meanwhile, Anne leaves NotBlade's apartment and heads downstairs, takes a shower, turns around...and finds Anita's drained corpse. You would think she would've noticed another body already in the shower, but whatever. Oh, she also sees Frost and his teeth through the translucent shower door, but he runs before he can have another snack.
The screams draw sonny boy's attentions, and he runs down, finds the girls, but no Croft. There's another time jump, to Croft's home, and Anne is just chillin' out by the pool, as another person swings by to chat about a seance they're attending.
She has the absurd notion while eating a tasty cake, that she can't believe dead people haven't found a way to eat it, because they're just like us! Just, y'know, crossed over! ...Check please!
The girl's sceptic boyfriend is busy ransacking Lockcroft's home to see if he's gonna rig the seance because seances are bunk, and he comes back having not found an...Oh geeze. It's Carmen Argenziano AGAIN! The guy keeps turning up in my Triskings!
Anyways, the seance gets underway, and Croft tries to summon his wife Sara to possess Ann's body so they can be together for all eternity. He chants for Sara! Sara! But no time is a good time for goodbyes. Anita shows up to the party though, and NotBlade asks her to tell her the truth about Croft.
She tries to possess Anne's body, the body Croft wants his wife to be in, but she wants to be with Croft, and MAN is this ever a soap opera seance, or what?! I can barely track who wants to be in which body for who when. Croft tries to stop her, not wanting the wrong person in the perfect body for his wife, but Anita takes control. And there's a fun twist in the evil villain urging the possessed body to fight back! Come back to us!
Oh, but during all this, she does confirm for the whole crew, especially NotBlade, that Lockwood is Croft is Croydon Jingleheimerscmidt is vampire.
NotBlade carries NotAnita up to sleep off the possession, and with under ten minutes to go, Croft decides to suddenly up the body count by slaying the four remaining people in the room. I'm sure Jacob will be fine, the symbiote should heal him up.
Finally, it's time for the father and child reunion, and the duo duke it out in the already ruined parlor room. Count Dadcula tosses NotBlade into the fireplace, but that's really just a minor inconvenience to his son.
Lockcroft heads upstairs to see Anne, but a slightly crispy Daywalker rushes him and pounces, continuing their fight. And with literally five minutes left to the movie, Croft asks who the hell *are* you?! and discovers he has a son.
They fight some more, with a nice callback when NotBlade picks his dad up over his head, just like Croft did to Paul 80 minutes ago.
And at last, NotBlade gets the vengeance he so richly deserves, before his father can call down any blood gods, by the classic vampire executional; running him through the heart with a wooden table leg.
NotBlade heads down the stairs to check out his father's corpse, and as it wrinkles and shrivels up like a bloodthirsty raisin, his son starts crying out in pain and anguish. Anne wakes up, comes down the stairs to see who's still alive, and finds NotBlade, having suddenly turned into a full vampire.
Because he killed his father? I guess? Is that a thing? The literal sins of the father being visited upon the son? So you kill your vampire dad, and BOOM fangs? I GUESS. Most frustratingly, the plot crashes to a halt right there, without even end credits. Because vampires.
Video: Well, it doesn't look great. It's scratchy, it's washed out, the colour shifts during scenes, but there was limited options in prints to use and what could be done. Honestly, they made this dated print look about as good as it could. And really, it's got that grindhouse charm to it, I almost don't want to see it fixed.
Audio: Solid enough.
Sound Bite: "And just suppose the boyfriend committed suicide by running backwards onto a gravestone??" Seems legit!
Body Count: We start strong, we slog through a long middle, and then BOOM BODIES EVERYWHERE. I can't complain too much about that.
1 - Nine minutes in, Paul gets killed on a grave and drained.
2 - Random woman dies when she discovers her houseguest.
3 - Caleb pops the cop's top.
4 - Leslie dies from accelerated old age.
5 - Caleb kills ladyfriend with a broken bottle, then pours her blood out of the spout.
6 - A librarian learns not to say no to vampires.
7 - Anita dies at Caleb's hands.
8 - Some other guy at the seance gets his neck snapped.
9 - Sam gets his head bashed in Croydon
10 - One of the women dies
11 - Carol gets drained
12 - Caleb Croft Croyden Lockwood gets his in the end with a wooden stake.
Best Corpse: Dude, I gotta go with HEAD SMASHED OFF BY CRYPT.
Blood Type - D+: Not much to report on this front, a surprisingly bloodless affair, and the vampire teeth are laughable, at best.
Sex Appeal: Implied nudity during sex!
Drink Up! every time someone mentions Croydon.
Video Nasties: Don't watch this clip if the sight of a baby drinking blood from its mother could make you sick!
Movie Review: This is NOT a great movie. The structure is a mess. The whole first thirty minutes take place in the 40s, and is very rushed AND drawn out to get to James' birth. That could've been ten minutes before the credits, at MOST. There's no real transition from there to the next 30 minutes of playing with Croft at the college. That would've been good to see, James struggling and learning what he is, or something. And then there's the final act which is a sudden bloodbath. And the movie just comes to a crashing, inexplicable halt that doesn't make sense and is a twist just to make you go ?!. Which...it succeeded, I guess. Two out of five baby bottles of blood.
Entertainment Review: And yet...I actually liked this. It has that 70s charm to it, I like the IDEA behind the movie, as evidenced by my love of Blade. The acting isn't terrible, even if it's far from great. The kills are great, and memorable. There's a lot of good IDEAS here that just never quite gel. But the movie is fun, and is just plain weird and 70s, with laughable vampire teeth. I don't know why I liked this, exactly, but I had a lot of fun just watching it. Four out of five back breaking headstones.