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There Is Nothing To See In The Desert…. Except Boobs.
Let’s just start out by clarifying one thing: I’m not much of a fan when it comes to vampires. I love the old Hammer flicks with Christopher Lee or Ingrid Pitt, and I grew up with Salem’s Lot, Fright Night, and The Lost Boys. Past that, there really aren’t that many vampire films that truly “wowed” me. And I can’t really blame the films themselves here. (Well, some of them I can.) Vampires just never did it for me, not when there were so many other cool monsters out there. Today’s film, The Velvet Vampire is no exception. However, this film does feature a healthy dose of something that the other films listed above were fairly deprived of. Nudity.
The film opens on what appears to be a shopping plaza. It’s nighttime and all of the stores have long since closed. Into the shot walks a tall, leggy brunette in a red dress. She’s not walking the street for money, and she don’t care if it’s wrong or if it’s right. She happens upon a parked motorcycle and pauses in her tracks. The biker grabs her from behind and pushes her to the ground, flicking open his switch blade mere inches from her face. He climbs on top of her and she uses this momentary distraction to shove her own knife into his gut. The woman then sits at a small fountain in the plaza, casually fixing her hair and make-up while a crunchy little blues number plays in the background.
The film cuts to the bluesman playing for a small gathering of people at an art gallery exhibit. A young man walks up to a young, blonde woman and starts telling her about the musician. She doesn’t really appear to be paying him much attention, but that doesn’t stop him. He persists by telling her that she’s easy to talk to. In “man talk” that means “I hope that you are also easy to get in the sack”. He asks her if she comes here often, and she replies, “Only when I want some ass”. Maybe I should have been more into art in my single days?
The 2 walk over to a nearby sculpture of what may or may not be a pair of spread legs. Diane LeFanu (Celeste Yarnell – Beast of Blood, Scorpio), our lady in red, is also admiring the piece. The blonde, Susan (model and bit-player, Sherry Miles) sees it as a sensual piece. LeFanu says that it represents death. She’s kinda freaky-deaky like that. Carl, the gallery owner, walks up and introduces all the parties. Carl introduces the man, Lee (Michael Blodgett – Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) to Diane, but she catches Lee off-guard when she announces that he is actually Susan’s husband. Immediately “impressed” by her (i.e. turned on), Lee offers to grab her a drink. Susan, looking increasingly jealous, asks him to get her one too.
At the bar, Lee sees some blood on Diane’s neck and attempts to wipe it with a napkin. She attributes it to an injured cat that she found on the way over. This, and the fact that his wife can’t hear him, is enough for Lee to tell Diane that he “likes her”, which is just his way of politely saying that he wants to take her for a ride on his baloney pony. They rejoin Susan, and Lee tells her that Diane has invited them both to her place in the desert for the weekend. Susan looks stunned and none-too-pleased, probably because Lee never got her that drink.
Fun Fact: While Blodgett may not have been overly successful as an actor, he did fare better as a screen writer. He wrote the screenplays for both “Turner & Hooch”, as well as “The Hero and The Terror”, starring Chuck Norris.
Back at their apartment after the party, Lee steps into a bubble bath with the already bathing Susan. She is giving him the cold shoulder after his advances towards Diane. She should rightfully be giving him treatment along the lines of, “Hello? You were trying to cheat on me…. RIGHT IN FRONT of me! You’re an asshole!”, but it’s more along the lines of “I’m jealous. You might not be getting any tonight”. He tells her that if she is THAT against the idea of going, they will cancel the weekend getaway.
The sun rises the following morning, and the couple are speeding down the highway on their way to Diane’s. Maybe Susan wasn’t so against the idea after all. They find the trip to be something other than expected as it soon become apparent that Diane’s place is buried deep in the desert. The couple was expecting something a little more fancy. Palm Springs, perhaps? They stop for gas at a station in the middle of nowhere. They ask a mechanic for gas, but he refuses to service them, saying that he’s “a trained mechanic”, and “trained people don’t pump gas”. Lee is prepared to pump the gas himself, but the station owner comes out and takes the hose from him, filling the car himself.
A short distance from the gas station, the couple’s car breaks down. Just then, Diane appears in the sands, launching a buggy over the dunes. She picks them up and drives them back to her secluded villa. When asked how she knew where they would be, Diane attributes it to luck. She takes them inside the house and has her man-servant, Juan, serve them a dinner of steak tartare. For you not-so-fancy types out there (myself included), that’s just another name for raw meat. Susan declines to eat it, so Diane sends Juan to the kitchen to make her a salad instead. Meanwhile, Diane and Lee continue to eye each other longingly…. with Susan sitting there to watch the whole thing.
While Juan is in the kitchen making Susan’s salad, there is a knock at the backdoor. Juan answers to find the “trained” mechanic from the gas station. The mechanic is sent to the garage to work on the dune buggy. After her guests have headed back to their room, Diane is informed about the mechanic. She meets him in the garage and begins trying to force herself upon him. When he rejects her advances, Diane has Juan come in to “dispatch” her guest. The mechanic tries to scramble away, but impales himself on a pitchfork in the process.
Susan, who sleeps naked BTW, is woken by the mechanic’s scream. She cuddles closer to Lee for comfort, telling him that she is creeped out by this place. As an example, she cites the large mirror in the corner of their room. She says that it makes her feel as if someone is watching them. And indeed, Diane IS on the other side of the mirror watching them. Susan must not be TOO bothered by it, for she and Lee partake in some naked wrasslin’ in Diane’s guest bed. REALLY? You’re staying in the guest room of some woman whose “hallway” your husband is desperately trying to throw his hot dog down, and you are still willing to have a naked make-out session with him in that woman’s house? She does show some dignity when she refuses his request for…. um….. “penile inflation”. They finally drift off to sleep while Diane quietly watches.
This brings us to the first in a series of bizarre dreams in which we find the couple having sex in the guest bed in the middle of the desert. The only other remainder from the “waking world” is the ominous mirror. Diane, in a flowing red nightgown, walks into the shot from deep in the desert and appears to manifest from the mirror. She walks to the bed and takes Lee’s hand, leading him away from the bed and from Susan.
The dream ends when Susan wakes, sitting up in the bed and emitting a tiny “no”. As I stated earlier, she sleeps completely naked, so the fact that she is now exposed made me emit a large “YES”. She wakes Lee and tells him about her dream. He says that he had the same dream, only she was pushing him away in his version. At that moment, Diane knocks and enters the room. She informs them that it’s now morning and that they should get dressed so that she can show them around. She seems completely unphased by Susan’s nakedness. I am not.
Diane takes them to an abandoned mine. She explains that the mine was closed many years back after something started attacking and killing the miners. Diane intentionally wanders off, “losing” the couple in the mine. Lee tells Susan to wait behind while he searches for Diane. Soon after, Susan hears someone whispering her name before being attacked by an incredibly lifeless bat. The wings aren’t even flapping on this thing. The stringed prop appears to just be repeatedly swung into her face. She is soon rescued by Lee and Diane.
They leave the cave and drive into an expansion era settlement, now completely deserted. Tired, and still a little spooked, Susan decides to stay behind sunbathing in the middle of the dusty road while Diane and her wandering-eyed husband investigate. Yeah, I’m totally sure that he won’t try to screw her while you are out of sight, Susan.
The 2 enter what was once a saloon. Diane tells Lee that this was the saloon where the miners used to come to drink. They would also come here for a little “something-something” else too. When Lee asks what those other things were, Diane decides to show him and starts unbuttoning his shirt. He tries to return the favor, but is stopped by Susan screaming from outside. Susan has just been bitten by a rattlesnake while sunbathing. Diane produces a gold-plated knife and lances the wound before sucking the venom out of Susan’s thigh. They leave the ghost town and drive back to Diane’s, Susan passing out in the back seat on the way.
With Susan asleep safely back at the house, Diane & Lee go cruising in the desert yet again. Diane takes Lee to the grave of her late husband. She tells Lee that she hates the desert, but she can’t leave because the desert air helps preserve her husband’s body. Lee might be a little weirded out by this, but he’s still trying to knock dem boots, so he’ll deal with a small dose of crazy.
That night, the same dream of making love in the desert begins again. Once more, Diane takes Lee from the bed. This time, Lee disrobes Diane. She stands there topless as Lee examines the bloodstone pendant hanging around her neck. Lee takes his sweet time to study the charm, which leaves the viewer plenty of time to study Yarnell. Lee awakens, revealing that he was the dreamer this time. He gets out of bed and leaves the room, Susan waking as he exits.
She dresses and also leaves the room. She makes her way downstairs to the living room. She walks in on her husband & Diane, naked & screwing on a shag carpet. Heh, heh. “Shag”. Susan says nothing, silently watching in disbelief and defeat from the doorway. Diane sees Susan watching and just smiles at her. It’s a look that says, “I’m in charge here and there is nothing you can do about it.”.
It’s also right about this time that I noticed Yarnell’s startling resemblance to my 9th grade English teacher. I can’t say whether or not I ever pictured her naked back in those confusing, pubescent days of long ago, but it’s safe to say that I am now. Needless to say, if I had thought that there was even a remote chance of the teacher taking off her blouse and throwing her Funk & Wagnalls up in my face, my attendance would have been significantly better.
Fun Fact: For his sex scenes with Yarnell, Michael Blodgett used masking tape to hide his “junk”.
At breakfast the next morning, Susan says nothing about what she saw the night before. Lee has “hit it” and is now trying to “quit it”, but Diane tells him that his car has not been repaired yet. When Lee complains, Susan tells him that she’s happy to stay, and that it would be rude for him to “hit and run”. Zing! Diane is elated that they’ll stay (as if they had a choice) and excuses herself from the room. As soon as she leaves, Lee nonchalantly says, “Ok, I got laid last night. Is that what you want to hear?”. Admission of guilt makes everything copacetic, ya know.
Shortly after, Lee tells Susan that Diane doesn’t “turn him on”. Susan, understandably, forgives the entire affair.
Lee, you claim that Diane didn’t turn you on.
The masking tape determined that was a lie.
Lee starts to distrust Diane, while Susan slowly starts to fall under her spell. A few more people die incredibly boring deaths before any attempt to escape is made. That, in turn, leads to an action-packed sequence of Susan sitting on a Greyhound bus. Really, it’s riveting. You keep thinking that she’s going to stand up, but nope…. still sitting. There’s another dream sequence somewhere in there with both actresses naked in the bed, as Diane has now turned her affections away from Lee. That’s something to look forward too, huh?
The film culminates in a rather odd scene near a church, with seemingly random spectators taking part in the action. It’s also a little peculiar that something well-known as a nuisance to vampires plays a role in the scene after being a complete non-factor in all the scenes prior.
Other than Diane being a vampire, there’s not much here to sell to horror fans. And despite its bounty of nudity and sexuality, the film is nowhere near explicit enough to be pornography. What you get is a just another skin flick with the faintest hints of a horror story.
I’m just glad that Diane didn’t look like my high school Spanish teacher. I hated that guy.