Vampirella (1996)
Vampirella (1996)

Genre: Action and Superhero Running Time: 1 hr. 22 min.

Release Date: September 28th, 1996 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Jim Wynorski Actors: Talisa Soto, Roger Daltrey, Richard Joseph Paul, Brian Bloom, Corinna Harney, Rusty Meyers, Lee de Broux, Tom Deters, Angus Scrimm

 


 

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n the planet Drakulon, 30 centuries ago, Ella (Talisa Soto) learns of her ancestors’ barbaric ways, a secreted urge to drain each other instead of drinking from the plentiful, organic rivers and streams of blood that course throughout the land (in current times, scientists have even manufactured a third alternative, a synthetic serum to replace the need for real blood). But one subsection of the largely peaceful society, led by the rebellious Vlad (Roger Daltrey), wishes to wreak havoc, embracing their violent sides to suckle from the necks of innocents. When he escapes from a tribunal gathered to convict him of his crimes, Vlad and his cohorts fly (via space shuttle) to Earth, anticipating plenty of fodder for generations of sustenance. “Don’t destroy your soul trying to avenge this act of madness,” croaks Ella’s stepfather, the high elder (Angus Scrimm) as he perishes from wounds sustained by Vlad’s explosive getaway.

“We’re civilized people; we’re not monsters like Vlad and his cult.” Hundreds of years later, in present day Los Angeles, Forry Ackerman (David B. Katz) finds himself being mugged in an alley. But swooping in to rescue him is Ella, decked out in her (Vampirella’s) signature, revealing crimson outfit (little more than a bikini, tacked together quite pitifully), which she didn’t use on her home planet, and which has no practical application on Earth. “Do you have any idea how gorgeous you are?” Nevertheless, Ella has an ongoing mission to resume: to track down and kill Vlad and his lackeys Demos (Brian Bloom), Traxx (Tom Deters), and Sallah (Corinna Harney).

“Tell me I’m dreaming. Vampires from space?” Adam Van Helsing (Richard Joseph Paul), an agent from a covert, anti-vampire, paramilitary organization, also works to apprehend Vlad (under “Operation Purge”), though he can’t seem to figure out the criminal’s clandestine new identity – despite the fact that Vlad is masquerading as a celebrity rock star in Vegas. And, as expected, Daltrey gets to perform a song on a stage – perhaps just slightly too good for this kind of Roger Corman production (though his bright makeup and bad hairdo are appropriately laughable).

Far less amusing are the incredibly cheap costumes, the tragically unconvincing fight choreography and editing, the appalling acting, the pitiful special effects, and the cheap plastic props (given funny names, such as for the high-intensity assault weapon, the “sun gun”). The film also seems disinterested in making up for the low budget with serious dialogue or sensible storytelling; the conversations are awkward at best, while the script is peppered with a tremendous amount of cheesy vampire jokes. At least Daltrey seems to be enjoying himself with his own eccentricity and overacting.

Just as hokey are the action-movie sequences, which find Vampirella constantly stripping off her long black coat before engaging in combat, vehicles colliding or exploding in nonsensically dramatic ways, and plenty of aggravating stalling before kills (time is always designated to growl impotent insults and threats). The vampire lore, while adopting a few of the source material’s particulars (such as Drakulon and Vampirella’s allegiance with mankind), retains the weaknesses of sunlight, holy water, Christian symbols, and garlic, along with the ability to transform into bats – though none of this lends to genuine thrills. And, unfortunately, in part due to the destroy-the-world scheming by the villains, it appears as if everyone is always on the verge of laughing in each other’s faces. The unintentional absurdness is difficult to overcome. At least Soto looks the part, though her sexy physique doesn’t aid her lifeless deliveries or toothy expressions – not that she has much to work with, considering the amateurish nature of the screenplay. Curiously, the movie concludes with the tease, “Vampirella will return in ‘Death’s Dark Avenger'” – a sequel that, thankfully, never saw the light of day.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10