Vampirella (1996)

In 1969 (heh heh), Forrest J. Ackerman, creator of the publication Famous Monsters of Filmland, and artist Trina Robbins created a new superhero of sorts in the shapely form of female vampire from the planet Drakulon named Vampirella. Vampirella’s origin would later be updated to have her become the daughter of Lilith. For those like me who never grew up with religiosity, Lilith was a demonic figure from Biblical Hebrew. She was Adam’s first wife before Eve came along. She’s become quite an icon in Wiccan belief and modern Occultism.

But we’re not here to talk about Lilith. We’re here to talk about her sort of, later, maybe baby daughter Vampirella!

Vampirella’s book was published by Warren Publishing who also published horror mags Eerie and Creepy. While she would feature and headline the comic in her own adventure, the book was actually an anthology. She would host other horror short stories to fill out the rest of the book. She would get various appearances and published by companies over the years and is currently among some of the cult followed figures that get regular appearances in various Dynamite Entertainment books.

Now, here’s the thing, Vampirella is a very popular, sort of underground character. She’s an anti-hero because, duh, she is a vampire. Because she was part of a horror book published as a magazine and not a comic, she was mostly read by older kids, teenagers, and young adults. Why would a character like hers grow to considerable prominence with young men?

Gosh… I can’t imagine.

Let’s deal with a quick elephant in the room. Ol’ Uncle Forry was a bit of a perv. I mean… While he was a major proponent for b-movies and drive-in monster flicks, and one of the earliest cosplayers ever recorded, more has come to light about how he treated others – particularly women. I don’t know quite enough about anything to say much more, but it was obvious that he was, like, really into the ladies – and he wasn’t shy about hitting on them or possibly even more inappropriate things. On a lighter side of all that “being really into ladies” thing, I’m guessing all of this played a heavy hand into the creation Vampirella. This was also WELL before outfits got sexier and sexier for superheroines and villainesses. Shit, look at characters like Marvel’s Wasp, Black Widow, and Scarlet Witch in the 60s because they were quite covered up. Not Vampi. She was out and about and feelin’ real hot to trot.

So think about this… Boys are pervs. Vampirella was hardly dressed. The sexual revolution made shorts and skirts shorter, and the tops tighter, and the go-go boots shinier. Vampirella was bound to destroy boys’ brains and ruin undies if the right actress slipped into that tiny little leather outfit. It took over 25 years to get the character in a movie. However, it would be a somewhat low budget affair executive produced by Roger Corman and directed by Jim Wynorski. Not that those names attached to the movie means anything. Honestly, these would likely be the guys I would pick to bring this particular character to a live action movie.

I would think that Corman would not be shy about the skin, and Wynorski would be able to have some fun with it. But… Who do you pick to play the part? Well, someone too famous would be too costly. Besides, there’s the whole skin thing. So, how’s about a lower-to-mid-range actress? How about a former Bond girl? Well, Ursula Andress is a bit older than you might want for this part. Jane Seymour is a bit too classy. Wait! How about Talisa Soto? Let’s check her stats…

Yes. She will do very nicely. However, just know that the costume isn’t going to be quite what you see in the comics, but still… pretty scanty. Soto is not quite as curvy as Vampirella had always been drawn. That said, she’s still really hot. Interestingly, Jim Wynorski wanted to cast Paula Abdul originally. He didn’t really picture Soto in the role. He felt she was indeed very pretty and sexy, but just not Vampirella. There were other names tossed around. Wynorski considered Julie Strain, but the name wasn’t a draw to the other people involved with producing, casting, and financing the film.

Some of the production and the way the effects turned out was not to Wynorski’s liking. He even admitted that he should have stopped when it got to crunch time and the rights only had about six months to go before he and Corman lost them, but he ignored that warning siren going off in the back of his mind, and they pressed on. It was filmed in Las Vegas while it was really hot. People were staying up all night, gambling was pretty much the only thing you did when not filming, and there was a thief on set that kept lifting money from people’s wallets all through the filming.

While, yes, it was a nightmare to make, the effects weren’t to Wynorski’s standards, and the actress wasn’t really right, but, 25 years later, how does the film work NOW? Let’s find out!

Our movie starts on Drakulon 30 centuries ago. Here, we meet “Ella” who is Talisa Soto learning about some things that I kind of feel like she should know about her race of Drakulons… Drakulas? Draculas? Anyway, that’s the fact that the Draculas of Drakulon used to feed on each other instead of using the various organic deposits that naturally formed on the planet. This was due to the barbaric cultish personality of a guy named Vlad. We’ll soon find out who plays Vlad. What is important is who is playing this member of the High Council of Drakulon:

Shit yeah! That’s Angus Scrimm because of course it is. He was in a whole bunch of Jim Wynorski flicks. But wait… Hang on a sec. What’s this at the bottom of the picture? Music By? Who is the Music By?

Yeah, Joel Goldsmith. He’s the son of one of the real greats, Jerry Goldsmith. For the most part, the younger Goldsmith worked relatively steadily and was nominated for three Emmy Awards for doing music for a couple of the Stargate series, but aside from working on a handful of movies that were fairly big, like collaborating with his pops on Star Trek: First Contact, he mostly did b-movies like Laserblast and Moon 44, etc. Considering a huge number of his movies were either sci-fi or horror, you can tell he was probably mostly influenced by his dad’s work on things like Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Sadly, Joel passed away in 2012 at a relatively young age.

Okay, so now, it’s time to talk about bad guy Vlad Tepish. No, not the real one, the movie one. No, not the movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This one. In this film, he’s played by none other than Roger fuckin’ Daltrey. Yeah, the lead singer of The Who. One of the rock gods of a couple generations. Most people forget that Daltrey was an actor. While he got started with the movie version of his own band’s rock opera Tommy, he ended up having dozens and dozens of television and movie credits. The Who continued to perform for decades too, so he stayed busy. More recently… Well, let’s say he has some questionable ideas and leanings, but you can’t deny that he could fuckin’ rock.

And he can chew the scenery all over this production.

Vlad here has been arrested and is to, more or less, stand trial before the High Council. Kind of like the beginning of Superman with Jor-El passing judgment on Zod and his cronies, we hear about how he started turning on the people of the planet to feed from them. When it looks like Vlad is going to throw himself at the mercy of this tribunal, he springs a trap. He’s got a trio of followers, a couple dudes and a babe, come in and shoot up the place, killing the High Council.

Ella comes in and sees that her stepfather, the Tall Man, has been slain, she gets mad.

Real mad.

Before dying, the old man tells her that she must not sully her spirit and soul by carrying off to avenge this murder. I guess Drakulons are meant to be big-brain boys and girls? I guess they aren’t ones to cave to their more base desires and anger, etc. I don’t think she ever makes that promise, or… or we wouldn’t have a movie?

Anyway, Vlad and his crew take off for another planet. He already spots one that he would like to go to, the third one from the sun of this solar system. Hmmm, I wonder which planet that is. Also, isn’t it, like, 30 centuries ago? Are they landing on Earth in ancient times? Like, REAL ancient times? Oh, fuck it. Doesn’t matter.

I dunno, guys. I don’t think this Goth Queen cover band does a very good version of the Bohemian Rhapsody music video.

We fade over to Los Angeles of the present. I don’t think we’re ever to find out if they landed here in 1000 BC or not. I get it that this is Vlad Tepish and maybe it is meant to indicate that he was an alien that brought vampires to Earth or something. I dunno.

There seems to be some sort of clandestine military/police group that hunts monsters. We meet Adam Van Helsing who is the star agent of this group. There’s a whole bunch of tech and guns and what have you in this group. Van Helsing is shown a video of a space shuttle touching down after a “successful mission to Mars”. He knows about this, but hadn’t seen the pictures of what appears to be a large bat that flew out of the space shuttle after it came to a stop.

It doesn’t take long for us to discover who it was that was stowed away on the space shuttle. In a creepy alleyway, a dorky guy carrying a computer and a monitor, who goes by the name of Forry Ackerman (no shit), is attacked by some thugs. He’s saved by a beautiful woman in a very revealing outfit. She says her name was “Ella, but that was a long time ago” so he brings her home… As you do.

She tells him how she’s 30 centuries separated from everything she loved and held dear. Believing this because, you know, she’s hot, Forry asks who did all this bad stuff to her. She says she did what she had to do to follow the bad guys here. She names off the four escaped villains – Vlad, Demos, Traxx, and Sallah.

Hey… Hey, Vampirella… You know what they say about being attracted to Sallah and trying to take her out for dinner and a movie?

Bad dates…

Get it? Do ya get it? Do ya?

You know what? That’s… That’s a fair response to that.

Forry tells Ella that Professor Arnold Traxx is the foremost authority on debunking supernatural stuffs. He teaches classes at Berkeley. Naturally, he only teaches night classes. She’s off to find Traxx. When Forry asks what she’ll do when she does find him, she admits that she plans to kill him. After kissing him goodbye (she made a comment about how she learned about various human customs, but some are all goofed up because comedy), Forry gets the idea that Ella, the Vampire Girl, would make for a wonderful concoction called Vampirella. Kind of cute, but it probably wouldn’t have really cut it in any decent adaptation of the character or magazine.

I do have a couple questions, though. Really just one main one. Twice, Forry makes reference to her being a vampire. The first time was talking about how the internet is basically a “database you can sink your teeth into” before quickly trying to cover up what he said as if that’s going to offend the girl who literally fell off a space shuttle a few hours ago. The second time was after she left and he straight out calls her a vampire girl. Okay, great. That’s true, she is a Drakulon who is also, as we would know them, vampires. Buuuuut… She didn’t reveal this character bit to him on screen in the previous scene in the alley. How did he know she was a vampire? It’s either a scene cut out, unable to be filmed due to budget reasons, or completely left out of the script.

Meanwhile, that cover band decided to go with a more Goth Devo look after a shake up in the band’s lineup, and went to Brazil to see if they can make it there.

It seems as though Vlad and crew run a criminal empire. Some of Vlad’s dudes are here in Brazil to talk to one of their subordinates. Apparently, he’s not cool. They kill his bodyguards and take this guy, Carlos, to a room to crucify him on an upside down cross. This organization is made up of vampires. What exactly this gang is or what they did to get themselves dead and crucified, I wasn’t following all that well. If you know, let me know in the comments, but I warn you in advance… I don’t exactly care.

Vampirella catches up with Traxx in Berkeley. What’s kind of interesting is that he seems like a normal doofus of a dork. He’s on the phone with his wife and he asks her if she wants anything from the local Kroger or something, and seems to not be the same hard edge lord that Demos proved to be in the previous scene. He apologizes to her for killing her stepfather. He’s got a family and has drifted apart from Vlad ages ago. When she threatens to kill his family if she doesn’t get Vlad’s location from this guy, he attacks her. She karate kicks him out a window and out onto a wooden post, killing him. She beats cheeks (which is very easy to do in the Fruit Roll-Up material she’s wearing) and goes to Traxx’s home.

There, we see her take a sip from a vial of blood that she carries with her when she gets a little weak. She goes into Traxx’s kids’ room and sees, that, yeah, he’s got a sweet little family who is no longer with a patriarch to help raise them with their momma. She does see a poster for Jamie Blood, a rock star that also looks an AWFUL LOT like the lead singer of The Who.

You know what? I’m not too sure Vampirella is all that great of a hero. She killed these kids’ dad. I get it she’s all butt hurt over her stepdad dying and what have you, but this guy had changed his life. She didn’t give him a chance to prove that to her. She just killed him by karate kicking him out the fuckin’ window and to his doom. He had kids. He really did. Okay, okay, they had a poster of Vlad as Jamie Blood, but they were sweet little angels all snug in their bed when she broke into their place after killing their dad.

Elsewhere, Van Helsing is sweating Demos for information. To find out where Vlad is, and what his current identity is, he’s employing the use of a shitload of garlic and holy water in a syringe. Demos tells Van Helsing that Vlad is in Vegas and operating under the name of Jamie Blood.

So now, we go to Vegas to hear Roger Daltrey sing some gothy hard rock. There’s even some weird effects done that interact with the stage effects of the flashing strobe lines. You see, Jamie Blood apparently is a big rock star, but he plays small Vegas nightclubs. Vampirella is sitting at a table in front and the place is packed, but then sometimes it is just her sitting at the table and no one else is around. Then, it goes back to everyone being there. But then not. I get it. I do because she’s so hellbent on avenging Angus Scrimm that it’s just her and him in that joint.

But then, after his show, he comes out to talk to her and no one reacts to him being out in front of the stage. Normally, if you go to a place to see some people perform, and you’ve paid for the admittance, you don’t just ignore the rock and roll guy with the really stupid hairdo when he starts to do some amount of mingling. You also don’t typically find someone who looks like Talisa Soto wearing what Talisa Soto is wearing sitting alone at a bar without a line of douchebags trying to pick her up.

And you picked up on me saying Vlad’s got a stupid hairdo? You did? Don’t believe me? Here…

She introduces herself as Vampirella. Also, it didn’t take very long for Traxx to remember Ella. Maybe that was due to some kind of long suffering guilt, but I feel like Vlad would remember the stepdaughter of his mortal enemy on his home planet. Oh whatever… Maybe he’s just full of himself.

Anyway, Vlad gets arrested by Operation Purge and Van Helsing just as she was about to tear Vlad’s throat out with her fangs (as he was going to do with her). Vlad says something about Adam Van Helsing being the son of a true legend. They also arrest Vampirella too. Naturally, the goon squad that works with Van Helsing are a bunch of dicks and don’t believe that she is working against Vlad too. In fact, one of the goon squad just wants to “interrogate” her alone.

In the paddy wagon that is transporting Vlad, the master vampire puts the whammy on the driver causing them to wreck. Vlad is about to bite Van Helsing, but Vampirella stops him. He frees her from her handcuffs. Naturally, she stops him again from biting Van Helsing and decides to meet him in one-on-one combat. And, it’s at this point, that Roger Daltrey GOES for it.

There is something that is really awesome about an actor who just revels in being a bad guy like Daltrey is here. I feel like he watched an episode of Batman The Animated Series that had Mark Hamill’s Joker in it and he was like, “THAT… THAT is how I’m playing this.” I applaud him just chewing that scenery up.

Anyway, later on, Van Helsing and Vampirella get to know each other. She learns that Operation Purge was created by his father to kill vampires. He learns that she left Drakulon to find and kill Vlad for killing her stepfather. She was given a lifetime supply of “highly synthesized serum” that would be an adequate substitute for blood or for the natural resources of Drakulon. She chased after Vlad in her little spaceship, but it ran afoul of an ion storm in space and she crashed on Mars. She stayed in hibernation for 30 centuries until some dudes from Earth found her. She hypnotized the two dudes to forget about what they found on Mars and returned to Earth with them.

And those two dudes – Deathstalker II and John Landis.

No shit, it’s John Terlesky and John Landis.

Elsewhere, in a dusty ghost town, a council of vampires meets and we see Bad Dates’ tits because why not. She just goes into a room and takes her top off and puts a robe on. Vlad shows up and explains to his real old lady that his cover is blown and he’s sure it was Demos who blew it. She says maybe they should change their plans for “Judgment Night” whatever that might be. Vlad says no and they should just go on a raid of Purge.

The next day, Van Helsing takes Vampirella to his office. She explains that when Vlad and his crew came to Earth, something was different in space during that time 3000 years ago. Van Helsing backs this up and says they confirmed this with Cal Tech. Please, stick with me here, folks. Anyway, this mutated Vlad, Demos, Traxx, and Sallah. Instead of their bites killing people, it infects them and turns them into vampires. They also can’t be out in the sun. These are not things that Drakulons have as traits. Bites kill. Sunlight does not. Capice?

While it’s not a bad idea for Vampirella being brought in so she can assist Operation Purge, this section of the movie is not great. Yes, we get all the background on Vampirella that covers the opening scene and the time she shows up on Earth. However, it’s just minutes ticking off the runtime. There’s no real need for Vampirella to be taken to Operation Purge for his boss to be suspect of her intentions. We don’t get too far here. Plus, we get a kind of silly romantic moment for Vampirella and Van Helsing, but he rebuffs her. That might have been better later in the movie. We don’t really need this movie to be cluttered with romance.

When Adam comes home, he gets kidnapped by a couple big titty hoes. This is part of Vlad’s plan. He wants to trade for Demos, but he wants Vampirella to do the trade off. However, Adam’s boss is even more suspect of Vampirella and wants her to know that if anything happens to Adam, he will kill her. So she goes to the trade, but it doesn’t result in Vampirella obtaining Adam, but a vampire trying to pose as him. She beats him up and Operation Purge kills a couple vampires before she and Demos can escape back to Vlad’s compound.

While Vlad tries to get the truth from Demos on whether or not he leaked any information about them while he was being tortured, Vampirella sneaks around the compound. Of course, Vlad knows that Demos did tip them off about his rock star alter ego, but he’s like, “Whatever, let’s go talk to the Big Twelve”. Apparently, they wanted to induct either Kansas or Oklahoma into this new vampire college sports league.

I’m just fuckin’ with ya. The “Big Twelve” are powerful vampires who are being brought into the plan for this big Judgment Day event. Demos is going to be the field general and Sallah will run base operations. Meanwhile, Vlad will command the several satellites that have Drakulon technology. Basically, they will cover the planet with something similar to a nuclear winter so the vampires can run amok across the surface without hiding from the sun. It will happen in 24 hours.

Okay, so there’s more to Vampirella’s backstory that just doesn’t make a goddamn lick a’sense. So, Vampirella is not in any way the honorable person she thinks she is. No. She’s from the wastelands of Drakulon. Apparently, she’s a little more related to Vlad himself. Now he says that she has this bloodline to her that he recognized the “moment” he met her. Okay, was that on Drakulon? They didn’t have any scenes there. Was it at the nightclub where he picked her up in Vegas? Okay, if so, why didn’t he say anything about what he sensed in her? Is he full of shit? Is he trying to manipulate Vampirella? Am I going insane?

He takes tosses her into the dungeon with Van Helsing and takes her synthetic blood. Basically, in a few hours, she will become thirsty. So she won’t have her fake blood and will need to feed from Van Helsing. But remember! She’s not mutated, right? In that case, if she bites Van Helsing he will die. Buuuuut… I have more questions. How about he just pricks his finger on a splinter or cuts the palm of his hand with a shard of glass? How about she drinks from that without biting him? You know like he squeezes the wound over her mouth where she doesn’t actually touch it to mix whatever would kill him? How’s about that? She would feed, quench her thirst, and then not kill Van Helsing. What do you think of that Vlad? What say you Sallah?

Huh? How do you guys like my original thinking there on this Kobyashi Maru test? Guys? How ’bout it?

Alright… Sigh. I guess we’re not going to reprogram this no-win scenario and actually do this the hard way. Vlad starts the countdown for the evil satellite. Van Helsing’s boss gets a note from Vampirella saying that she’s gone after Vlad. Van Helsing wakes up, gets caught up. She has him shackle her to the wall to prevent her from going after that sweet sweet blood in his neck. He then makes out with her HARD.

But fuck all that noise. Roger Daltrey, the very best thing about this movie, hands down, has to speak to the congregation and announce his plans to take over!

While Vlad tells everyone that those assholes from Wolfmansvania are not sending their best people to our country, and somehow throws in a really bizarre bigoted comment about the people of Frankensteinico, Van Helsing is trying to bust out of the dungeon while Vampirella is turning into a sexy, sexy monster. She eventually is convinced to feed just enough for her to survive. She knocks out the goons sent to bring her to Vlad, and she and Van Helsing escape.

Well, sorta. She goes to see Vlad. She play kisses him and kicks him in the balls. Van Helsing tosses her a gun which causes the satellites to disappear. Question… And by question I mean questionS. First, where did that gun come from? Yes, Operation Purge is attacking, but that was kind of after they got out of the dungeon. Van Helsing also has his special vampire guns. Where did those come from? Second, how did shooting a console make the satellites disappear/disintegrate?

Oh fuck it.

Vampirella chases Vlad to the Hoover Dam where they have a big chase in a location they could get kind of cheap and easy near Las Vegas. Why are they having their final showdown here? Who cares. They got that location and, goddammit, they are gonna use it. Oddly, this is a better fight between Talisa Soto and Roger Daltrey than the fight at the same place between Gal Gadot and Kristen Wiig in Wonder Woman 1984.

Okay, enough bullshit. Vlad is a flaming vampire corpse at the bottom of the Hoover Dam. She says that vengeance has sullied her, but Vlad’s disciples are still out there. She hopes they will someday renounce his hateful way of life and find a way to co-exist with the humans of the world. I dunno, though… That proposed wall between us and Frankensteinico that Vlad kept going on and on about makes me think it will be real hard for co-existence to really happen any time soon.

This movie is… not great. It’s got some fun ideas in there, but as I mentioned previously, this movie had a very troubled production. It was more or less an absolute nightmare making it. There was a tease saying that Vampirella will return, but, yeah, it never happened. It probably also didn’t help that this movie was very poorly received and for good reason. This movie looks cheap and is fairly shoddy. What’s funny is that I think this movie is worse than Corman’s Fantastic Four movie. There’s something about this that has a total low budget, B-movie feel to it that wasn’t always as obvious in Corman and Wynorski movies. It didn’t have a whole lot of fun, outside Daltrey’s bonkers performance, and the script felt real flimsy.

I could allow some of the shoddiness to pass if there was any semblance of heart or an honestly good script that just didn’t have the money to back it up, but this movie just falls short everywhere. I wish I had more good to say, but I don’t. I love Talisa Soto for being one of the Bond girls in one of my favorite Bond films, but damn, she doesn’t feel comfortable in this movie. I know she has a voice that sounds kind of pensive, but I never felt like she was tough enough. I think they weren’t terribly wrong in casting her, but, yeah, maybe Julie Strain could have done something more. At the very least, she could have possibly tipped it to the “so bad it’s good” side of the scale. Instead, it just kind of hovers between bad bad and good bad, and that’s not fun.

But you know what is fun? Following B-Movie Enema on Facebook and Twitter. Do that. That way, when the next article drops in one week, you’ll know it. What is that movie? Well, it’s The Mummy Lives. What is that? I have no idea. Somehow I came across that movie and saw the box art and saw Tony Curtis playing an Egyptian, in the 90s, and I just had to jump at it.

Oh! And guess what? By this time NEXT MONTH, B-Movie Enema: The Series will have kicked off Season Two of the series that some people say is “the next best thing to eating gym socks”. That’s something. Right? Right? Anyway, you want to know where to find those episodes and where you can also see all the clips to movies I’ve covered like I did in this article above? Then subscribe to the B-Movie Enema YouTube Channel today!

See you all back here in a week to check out some mummies and reincarnated loves, my dear Enemaniacs!

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