Film Review: Vampires, Mummies And Monsters Collection


SYNOPSIS:

Vampires, Mummies And Monsters Collection: Lady Frankenstein, Time Walker, The Velvet Vampire, Grotesque

In The Velvet Vampire, a couple accepts an invitation from the mysterious Diane LeFanu to visit her in her secluded desert estate. Unaware that Diane is actually a centuries-old vampire, the couple soon realize that they are both the objects of her seduction and cravings.

When Baron Frankenstein is killed by his creation, his daughter Tania creates her own creature using the brilliant mind of her assistant and the body of her dimwitted servant in Lady Frankenstein. She not only ends up with the perfect lover, but one that can destroy her father’s killer.

Lisa was looking forward to a nice, relaxing vacation at the family cabin, but instead she bears witness to the brutal death of her friends and family at the hands of a group of mindless punks in Grotesque. As the thugs close in on Lisa, they don’t realize they are about to come face to face with something far more horrifying than themselves

From deep within the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, Professor Douglas McCadden ships the coffin of Ankh-Vanharis to the California Institute of Sciences, where X-rays reveal five diamondlike crystals hidden within the coffin. Technician Peter Sharpe steals the crystals, but he doesn’t notice that the powerful X-ray has revived a green fungus. When the coffin is opened at a university press conference, the reporters uncover more than they bargained for. The mummy has disappeared… the Time Walker is alive again!

REVIEW:

I can’t praise Shout! Factory enough for their ongoing series of Roger Corman’s Cult Classics, dedicated to doing justice to the substantial output of the legendary independent producer/filmmaker. The man deserves every bit of praise he receives. Although most of his “big” titles have been exhausted by this point – Shout! has been putting them out for over a year now – the company continues to put a lot of care into each and every title. The latest entry, a two-disc collection dubbed Vampires, Mummies & Monsters, features 1971′s Lady Frankenstein, 1971′s The Velvet Vampire, 1982′s Time Walker and 1988′s Grotesque.

Mel Welles and Aureliano Luppi’s Lady Frankenstein kicks off the package. Both the U.S. cut and the extended international version are included. Reminiscent of Hammer’s gothic take on Mary Shelley’s iconic novel, the surprisingly stylish film has strong production values considering the time and budget.

Upcoming being brought to life, the monster’s first order of business is killing his creator, Baron Frankenstein (Joseph Cotten). Wanting to avenge her father’s death, Tania Frankenstein (Rosalba Neri) comes up with the only logical solution: to construct another creature to take down the first. She does so by combining the mind of her father’s assistant, Charles Marshall (Paul Muller) – who, creepily enough, always had the hots Tania – with the body of a big brute to whom she is attracted.

Save for a relatively graphic transplant scene, the film doesn’t really tread into the familiar B-movie territory until about halfway through, when the monster happens upon a young couple making love and kills the nude girl. This is actually not the only time that this happens in the movie.

As a matter of fact, a lot of kill scenes play out much like a slasher, despite the genre’s boom not coming until a decade later. And the connection does not end there. No green skin or neck bolts for Frankenstein’s monster this time. Instead, he looks a bit like an unmasked Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, with a bulbous head and disjointed eye.

Next up is Stephanie Rothman’s Velvet Vampire. Lee (Michael Blodgett) and Susan Ritter (Sherry Miles), an attractive, young couple, accept a mysterious invitation to visit Diane LeFanu’s (Celeste Yarnall) mansion. While things are obviously not right from the start, it eventually becomes known that Diane is an ancient vampire who is as thirsty for sex as she is for blood.

The only creepy moment comes from the viewer knowing that Diane is watching the couple in their bedroom without their knowledge – although the giant two-way mirror through which she does so isn’t exactly subtle. She hears their conversations, of which she is often the subject, and sees their every move, including the intimate ones. Once asleep, she even haunts their dreams – if you could call dreams of passionate lovemaking “haunting.”

The dream sequences are actually quite nice looking from a cinematography standpoint. It’s an aesthetically pleasing view, shot in slow motion, of a bed on the beach, with its crimson red sheets contrasting against the pale sand. But these scenes are essentially softcore p*rnography. Corman was never known for his subtly in showing off his actresses’ assets in genre pictures, but this one hardly has any horror until the final act. Instead, it emphasizes the eroticism of vampires. It seems that at least one of the two lead women shows their breasts every 10 minutes.

Tom Kennedy’s Time Walker begins the second disk. Professor Douglas McCadden (Ben Murphy) unearths  what he believes to be a mummy in the tomb of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun – better known as King Tut. Upon being sent of for testing, lab technician Peter Sharpe (Kevin Brophy) discovers a quintet of crystals in the coffin. Peter sees this as a golden ticket, but it turns out that they aren’t just nice to look at – they’re deadly. And so is the now-revived alien that emerged from the coffin.

The film puts a refreshing sci-fi twist on the tale by replacing the mummy with an alien. It’s a cool concept, but the execution is poor. It’s a cheesy product of the ’80s. Perhaps the worst part is the awful looking death scenes in slow motion. The best part of the film is a bowtie-clad James Karen (The Return of the Living Dead) as Dr. Wendell J. Rossmore. Austin Stoker (Assault on Precinct 13) is also present as Dr. Ken Melrose, but his talents are underused.

Peter Sharpe’s Groteqsue seems to have been slapped on the set as an afterthought. Unlike the other three pictures, it did not receive a new transfer, nor does it have any special features. The existing print leaves a bit to be desired, but it suffices.

The film’s sole selling point is The Exorcist’s Linda Blair. She plays Lisa, the daughter of a special effects artist, but the family’s idyllic cabin getaway ends in true horror. A gang of local punks were already planning on breaking into the house under the guise that there was money stashed away, but when Lisa refuses to help them when they break down, the family becomes a target. As they are brutally murdering the family, the punks discover what the family was hiding: a deformed freak that lives up to the film’s title.

The film’s biggest problem is that it never settles on a tone. The earlier sequences bring to mind exploitation films, the most obvious influence being The Last House on the Left (the family’s surname is even Kruger), but any discomfort is ruined by the cheesiness of the antagonists. The gang is made up of stereotypical ’80s punks, clad in leather and chains. They all seem to be neurotic caricatures, but the leader, Scratch (Brad Wilson), is the most over the top.

The mood then shifts gears to a Frankenstein-esque film with a monster that is only “evil” due to society’s perception. It later becomes more of a revenge flick, in which Uncle Rod (Tab Hunter) seeks retaliation. The picture gets increasingly ridiculous as the time goes, peaking at the end with an unintelligible twist.

Sure, these films aren’t the best – even calling them cult classics is a stretch – but the quadruple feature takes viewers back to simpler time. No one was exactly clamoring over special editions of any of these flicks, but it’s a fun little set that B-movie fans will enjoy.

Vampires, Mummies And Monsters Collection: Lady Frankenstein, Time Walker, The Velvet Vampire, Grotesque

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