Friday, December 1, 2017

B-Movie Review: 'Vampirella' (1996)

The cult comic book heroine got her own straight-to-VHS feature film in the mid-1990s. And much like the character herself, it sucked.

By: Jimbo X

No, I have no idea what convinced me to watch Vampirella. It's not like I have enough stuff to do in my life that actually matters to spend 90 minutes watching a Grade Z straight-to-video turd-fest, but I suppose having that rare downtime around Thanksgiving sapped me of my common sense. 

Yes, there is a Vampirella movie. Of course, it was so goddamn terrible that nobody wanted to take credit for it, let alone 1990s' comic publisher Harris, who did pretty much everything in their power to pretend the movie didn't exist. Now, the character of Vampirella has been around since the late 1960s, but she's probably most famous for being one of the most iconic "bad girls" of the the nineties' comic boom. Alongside Shi and Lady Death, she completed the holy triumvirate of pre-Internet shameless spank goddesses, and I suppose it's not that surprising that Roger Corman eventually got around to securing the film rights. And if you thought this guy couldn't mathematically make a worse move than his ill-fated attempt at a live-action Fantastic Four flick - think again. 

Even in the hands of James Cameron or Sam Raimi - or hell, Ingmar Bergman or Akira Kurosawa, for that matter - I don't think anybody could've made a good movie out of the license. In fact, pretty much the only way to make Vampirella even halfway work is as a softcore erotica horror film, which probably explains why Corman picked Jim Wynorski - the same guy behind Sorority House Massacre II and Virtual Desire - to direct it. Really, the only way anybody would want to watch a Vampirella movie is so they had something to jerk their monkey to, and if your looking for some sexy good times, buddy, you're about to be disappointed big time. Indeed, the bare flesh is kept to a minimum, there are no sex scenes and - worst of all - Vampirella herself don't even bother popping her top and showing all of us her bodacious Dracula titties. Hell, it's basically a PG-13 movie with about five seconds of nipple - excise that, and you could probably run the whole movie as is on the SyFy Channel at 3 o'clock on a Monday afternoon.

We'll dissect and deconstruct the flick toward the end of the article, but for the time being, let's just give this movie an opportunity to speak for itself, why don't we?

Here's something to remember me by - oral herpes for the rest of your life.

We begin our tale on Planet Drakulon, like a bajillion years ago or some shit. Less than a minute into the movie and I'm fairly certain 90 percent of the special effects and props (the spaceships, the computer terminals, etc.) are either carry-overs from other movies or literally scenes from other movies. Vampirella (played by Talisa Soto, who played Kitana in the first two Mortal Kombat movies) is talking to her daddy about how evil this guy named Vlad is, 'cause he wants the planet dwellers to continue drinking people blood instead of making synthetic plasma they can safely subsist upon (which sounds like a ripoff of True Blood, I know, except this movie came out five years before the first Sookie Stackhouse book was published.) Oh, and Vlad is played by Roger Daltrey - the lead singer from The Who, who actually kinda looks like Al Pacino in this particular role.

Anyhoo,  Vampirella's dad sentences him to death for being a no-good sonofabitch, but before they can execute him three other vampires run in the room with laser cannons and shoot everybody up and holy shit, one of them looks JUST like Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr. So Vlad eats Vampirella's daddy's neck and tells him "remember me as you rot in hell" and hey, how convenient, Vampirella shows up just in time for her daddy to give his dying monologue. He tells her to not waste her life trying to exact revenge, but come on - how fun would the movie be if she listened to him?

We jump cut to modern L.A. (and by modern, I mean 22 years ago) where this guy walks into a closet-cum-elevator to some underground secret shooting range. His name, of course, is Van Helsing. He and his superior watch a TV broadcast about a crew returning from Mars, and they think a bat escaped out of the shuttle. Yep, a Martian vampire, the worst kind of goddamn vampire. Then this nerd gets mugged in an alley, but Vampirella shows up to save him. One of the goons calls her "Miss TNA" and she beats the shit out of them. As it turns out, the nerd's name is Forry Ackerman. Get it, because the name of the actual creator of Vampirella is a guy named Forrest Ackerman? Ho-ho, these are some clever motherfuckers we're dealing with here, lemme tell you.

Now, believe it or not, Vampirella's costume in the movie is CONSIDERABLY MORE conservative than the one in the comics. She has this weird plastic half shirt with a collar and these panties that come up to her rib cage, instead of the titty ribbons and G string we're used to. She gives the nerd a monologue about falling asleep for 40,000 years and how she's STILL on a quest to exact revenge on Vlad, and before she leaves him she gives him a quick smooch to remember her by, thus insinuating the Vampirella comic character is based upon this "real" world experience. Uh - does that count as breaking the fourth wall, or are these guys that shitty at being meta?

Then we travel to Brazil (in reality, the suburbs of Las Vegas) and there's this one drug dealer talking to a bunch of guys in black Hazmat suits at a casino table. Oh, the guys in Hazmat suits are vampires - that kinda' makes sense, I guess. Then a crew of FBI vampire killers show up with a buncha' guns. Yeah, I know it sounds like a ripoff of John Carpenter's Vampires, but wait - this 'un came out TWO years before that flick did. Then the casino drug dealer guy is hung upside down on a cross and they rough him up a bit. Then Vampirella goes to Berkeley (i.e., a random high school in Nevada) to give a stern talking to a professor with a ponytail who CLAIMS he doesn't know where Vlad is. Naturally, a kung fu fight in a chemistry lab follows, and the prof gets defenestrated and impaled on a lamppost. And boy howdy - are the vampire bat transformation "effects" in this one sheer shit.

So after breaking into the dead prof's house, she finds out Vlad has rechristened himself as Jamie Blood Rock ... a rock star, naturally. So the Vampire FBI is garlic-boarding an S&M vampire for more info and then they threaten to inject him with holy water blessed by the Pope hisself. And yes, we do get a crappy goth-rock song from Daltrey - titled "Bleed for Me," naturally - who is now rocking a mullet-and-ponytail combo.

Don't worry - it's totally normal if you get a boner while watching this. J/K ... you a damn freak then.

Then Daltrey starts hitting on her and he's too stupid to realize it's the daughter of the vampire space king he killed 30,000 years ago even though she looks exactly the same as she did way back then. He takes her for a beach-side romp and he calls her "Raven Hair" a lot and they try to bite each other's necks while making out and he calls her "a bitch" and backhands her and then the vampire police show up and try to laser cannon the whole lot of 'em.

So Vampirella and Vlad are in the back of a paddy wagon talking shit to each other. Vlad uses his vampire telekenesis powers to make the van driver fall asleep and there's a rollover and he escapes. Then Vlad and Vampi have a karate battle. Then Vlad gets away and Vampi tells Van Helsing she's a vampire and gives him a long story about how her mama invented synthetic blood. Then she recounts jacking the Mars probe and hypnotizing the crew so she could get onboard. Then Vlad and this hot little blonde vampire number with a perm hide out in Nevada and makes plans for a raid on the vampire police. Van Helsing takes Vampi to the Vampire FBI bunker and this one scientist shows her their latest vampire melting laser cannon.

And because this IS a Wynorski movie, of course Van Helsing is kidnapped by vampire strippers with giant jugs. I knew this movie had gone too long without an exposed aerola or two. Anyway, Van Helsing is held hostage at a scrapheap for old neon Las Vegas signage. Of course, it's a vampire phony and Vampi just slaps him around and Vlad's goons know she has a tracker on her and our laser cannon shootout with the Vampire FBI doth begin. So Vlad has Ven Helsing tied up in the back wearing a leather jumpsuit. Meanwhile, Vlad chairs a dinner party for all of the vampire Illuminati board members, who are about to kick off some grandiose project to take over the world or something. Anyhoo, they've been working on some kinda super ray that will block out the sun for all eternity, just like C. Montgomery Burns tried that one time. Vlad gives Vampi one final offer to join the Vampire World Order, but of course, she refuses. Van Helsing gets roughed up and he tosses Vampi in a cell so they can enact "Judgment Night." You see, Vlad took away Vampi's fake blood capsules so the idea is that eventually she's going to eat him. So Van Helsing chains her up and starts kissing on her, because - that makes sense, I guess?

Vlad and his crew of like, 24, vampires gather to kick start the vampire revolution. Vampi starts going full vampire and she has to fight her urge to drink Van Helsing's blood, so he slits his wrist and lets her have a sip. The best part is that he acts just like he's getting a blow job while she does it, and it's great stuffAnd that's our cue for the great big vampire cartel vs. vampire FBI throwdown. By the way, Vlad is in a full on Walmart Dracula costume now and it's terrible. So Vampi chases him through an underground lab and then they run up some stairs and have their big kung fu fight grand finale on top of a dam and she throws a weather vane through his heart and he bursts into fire, for some reason.

Then she picks up Vlad's medallion and puts it on and does a closing soliloquy about her destiny being showing all of Vlad's followers "the way." And there's the credits, kids.

Nearly a quarter century later, and we're still waiting, guys ...

By the way, there's a lot of weird stuff going on in with those credits. Apparently, both John Landis and Angus Scrimm had cameos, but I didn't recognize either of 'em anywhere in the movie. And if you're into puns, you'll have a field day with the listings for the film's carpenters - which includes, among other fictitious individuals, "Nick Nails" and "Mary Chapin." Get it? 

And then there's the plug for Death's Dark Avenger, the Vampi sequel that - of course - never came to fruition, seeing as how this movie was a colossal VHS dud. Hell, this flick was so bad that Wynorski - who has literally made his living off crappy movies - has deemed it too terrible to sit through.

Oddly enough Hammer almost pulled the trigger on a Vampirella movie back in the late 1970s, but regrettably this remains our only live action Vampi flick to date. It's one of those flicks that's so bad it doesn't even have redeeming qualities in being bad. You can't laugh your ass off at it like R.O.T.O.R. and there's not enough blood and/or titties to placate exploitation horror purists. It merely exists as this really iffy and indistinct blob of a movie whose only standout characteristic is how overwhelmingly bland it is - even for late night, mid-1990s Showtime bait, this stuff is just exceedingly lame

Still, the Vampirella print juggernaut rolls on, with Vampi comic books - some of which co-star the band Kiss - continuing to circulate. And with both capeshit and lite horror making tons of bank at the box office these days, it's probably just a matter of time until somebody comes along and tries to give Vampi yet another live-action film adaptation.

And this much, we all know; no matter how crappy that hypothetical movie might be, it's STILL going to be exponentially better than this utterly forgettable snoozer.

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