Blu-ray
A Guilty Pleasure
3 stars
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Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3 Stars
Supplements
2 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
A Guilty Pleasure

Vampyres

Street Date:
March 30th, 2010
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
March 30th, 2010
Movie Release Year:
1974
Studio:
Blue Underground
Length:
88 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

"They shared the pleasures of the flesh, and the horrors of the grave!

Vampires have always been the most sensual of the predatory monsters populating fiction and fantasy, but they really ramped up their kinky A-game during the short-lived Euro-cult lesbian vampire sexploitation craze of the early 1970s. Classics like Hammer Films' 'Karnstein Trilogy' (composed of 'The Vampire Lovers,' 'Lust of the Vampire,' and 'Twins of Evil'), as well as entries by cult icons Jean Rollin ('Le Viol du vampire' and 'La vampire nue') and Jesus Franco ('Vampiros Lesbos') dared to push the envelope by fully embracing the word "bloodlust."

Trailing not too far behind those flicks came perhaps the most controversial of them all -- Spanish filmmaker José Ramón Larraz's 'Vampyres,' also known in North America as 'Daughters of Dracula.' Upon its release in 1974, the visceral bloodletting in 'Vampyres' was deemed so graphic that the movie was promptly neutered by censors all over the world. Even though the film is rather tame today compared to the likes of the 'Saw' and 'Hostel' franchises, Blue Underground still aims to quench the insatiable thirst of this sultry shocker's dedicated fanbase by bringing the uncut version to Blu-ray.

John (Brian Deacon) and Harriet (Sally Faulkner) are a young couple planning to spend a few days alone together camping in the English countryside. Along the way their caravan passes two mysterious women -- one in the process of being picked up by a motorist and the other strangely just lurking in the trees. Although Harriet finds the scene a bit peculiar, they still continue on and eventually decide to set up camp right next to a seemingly abandoned old mansion in the woods.

Little do they know the property is actually home to the women they encountered earlier, cursed lovers Fran and Miriam (Marianne Morris and Playboy centerfold Anulka Dziubinska). The latest victim of these undead temptresses is Ted (Murray Brown), the traveler who picked up Fran on the road. She takes him back to her spooky place for an evening filled with casual conversation, fine wine, cigarette smoking, more wine, and finally some steamy intercourse topped off with a wine chaser (it's damn good wine apparently!). However, all of this is merely an appetizer--as poor old Ted is unaware that he's the main course.

As with most of these exploitation films, the plot is about as thin as Anulka's netted see-through lingerie -- especially since apparently Larraz was often winging it as he went along. But in all fairness, the story only really serves to hold together the gratuitous softcore sex scenes and shocking gore anyway. All bases are covered in that regard, as Larraz packs in numerous erotic sequences featuring frisky girl-on-girl action in bed, girl-on-guy action in bed, girl-on-girl action in the shower, and a healthy helping of a menage à trois sandwich. And after tearing open their victims, the girls gleefully roll around in blood drenched sheets--smearing crimson liquid all over their naked flesh and lapping up sticky plasma goo with their moist skillful tongues. See? I'll bet you've forgotten all about the lack of a story in 'Vampyres' after reading this paragraph… I know I sure have.

The film also isn't the least bit scary, but the movie does have a chilling atmosphere thanks to the cinematography by Harry Waxman and, of course, the haunting locale. The withered and gnarled trees surrounding the area have an aura of spookiness to them, and the old cemetery the vamps dash through every morning is both eerie and beautiful at the same time. Then there's the rickety Oakley Court Manor, a common setting for many Hammer movies, though it's probably most recognized as Dr. Frank-N-Furter's humble abode in 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' which would time-warp to theaters about eight months later. The backdrop really is a visual feast, and adds so much character to the film.

James Clarke's grating "musical score" on the other hand, really tested my patience. In the commentary Larraz mentions his previous projects involved composing elevator music (no joke), so you can imagine how awful it is. The main theme at the start and end of the movie sounded like they just gave a chimp a synthesizer and said, "here, go bananas" and went with the first take. The background instrumentals are more tolerable at least, but they still seemed like a random racket more than anything.

Annoying music aside, 'Vampyres' remains a delectable erotic treat for fans of these types of grindhouse era exploitation films. The movie clearly isn't for everyone, but those who are prepared for lots of female nudity and buckets of blood may find themselves seduced by these luscious creatures of the night.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

Blue Underground presents 'Vampyres' on a BD-25 Blu-ray Disc housed inside a standard blue keepcase. The disc boots up to a menu without any previews (you rock, Blue Underground!). The Blu-ray is also reported to be region free and therefore should function properly in all PlayStation 3 and standalone players.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Vampyres' was made on the cheap and has more candles on its birthday cake than I have on my own, so it will never be as pristine as new releases or even Criterion's meticulously restored older classics. Even so, Blue Underground's 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 (1.85:1 aspect ratio) encode on this Blu-ray is actually fairly decent.

The source is relatively clean, although there are occasional specks and other print related blemishes throughout the movie. The picture has a consistent grain field that never really becomes bothersome, but is more noticeable in darker indoor scenes. Levels of clarity vary as Larraz favors soft focus for many of the shots, and while there are some crisper images seen around the forest, these cases still aren't crystal clear as on some other high-definition titles. This tends to affect the illusion of depth most of the time, as well as fine detailing. Some scenes do expose strong texturing in background wood objects and stonework, yet complexions (and we see plenty of skin here) have accurate pigmentation though are rarely revealing. The rest of the palette mainly consists of earthy tones with the odd splash of deep crimson and vibrant greenery. Blacks also remain surprisingly rich from start to finish, too. And without much in terms of digital tampering, dedicated fans will no doubt give Blue Underground a pat on the back for this transfer.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Blue Underground provides an all-new DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as the default mix that is definitely a step up over past options, but the lossless track can only do so much with what it has to work with here.

What you can expect is a very front-heavy presentation, as the rear surrounds are practically unnoticeable except for the occasional cackling of crows or a distant clap of thunder. Even downpours of rainfall don't seem to wrap around the entire soundstage, only really having a presence across the front channels. Bass is just as inactive, aside from very faint and sporadic rumbles scattered through James Clarke's aggravating score. Directionality is pretty weak when vehicles drive by the cameras, and it's interesting how an eerie moaning wind frequently haunts the manor's main floor, despite it being dead calm outside in the courtyard. Vocals are mostly clean and intelligible, although I did notice a slight lip-synching issue in a handful of scenes when Anulka is speaking. As expected, 'Vampyres' doesn't have a spectacular audio set-up, but in all fairness this is still the best the film has sounded yet.

The disc also includes English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround-Ex and the original Mono soundtracks, as well as optional English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

The Blu-ray edition of 'Vampyres' ports over most of the same supplemental features found on the previously released DVD.

  • Audio Commentary – This is a relatively newer track featuring director José Ramón Larraz and producer Brian Smedley-Aston reflecting on the film. Their comments are informative and Larraz is highly energetic and jovial, but I found his thick accent a bit tough to decipher at times. Still, it's not a bad track for those interested in learning more about the movie.

  • Return of the Vampyres – Interviews with Stars Marianne Morris and Anulka (SD, 13:39) – In this 2003 segment, both lovely 'Vampyres' actresses reminisce on their experiences working on the film under the direction of Larraz, how they landed the parts, their impressions of the sex scenes and nudity, the impact it had on their careers, and what they did after the film, and more.

  • Trailers (SD, 5:38) – Finally there are two 'Vampyres' trailers included on this disc: an International Trailer (2:33) and a U.S. Trailer (3:05). The excessively cheesy written dialogue the poor voiceover guy had to say in the U.S. Trailer makes for one of the most unintentionally hilarious trailers I've ever seen. Don't miss it.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There aren't any high-definition exclusives.

The Cutting Room Floor: What Didn't Make the Blu-ray?

Blue Underground's past DVD release apparently included a "lost" caravan scene, a Poster & Still Gallery, an Anulka Glamour Gallery, and a DVD-ROM tribute to the film that isn't carried over to this Blu-ray.

Final Thoughts

Although José Ramón Larraz's 'Vampyres' has lost some of its shock factor for modern audiences, the film is still considered by many to be a cult classic and one of the best lesbian vampire exploitation flicks ever produced. This Blu-ray edition from Blue Underground looks and sounds decent, especially when factoring in the movie's budget and age. However, it's worth noting that a handful of supplements from the prior DVD are missing from this release, which may annoy diehard fans. Due to the subject matter I find it tough recommending this film for the masses, but those who love exploitation films of the sex/horror variety shouldn't hesitate in picking this one up for their collections.

Technical Specs

  • BD-25 Blu-ray Disc
  • Region Free

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG 4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Surround Sound
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround-Ex
  • English Mono

Supplements

  • Audio Commentary with Director José Ramón Larraz and Producer Brian Smedley-Aston
  • Return of the Vampyres – Interviews with Stars Marianne Morris and Anulka
  • International Trailer
  • U.S. Trailer

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List Price
$29.98
Amazon
$12.99 (57%)
3rd Party
$12.97
Usually ships in 2 to 4 weeks Buy Now»