Directed by E.W. Swackhamer
Starring Jason Miller, Richard Lynch, E.G. Marshall, Michael Tucker, Joe Spinell, Barrie Youngfellow, Jonelle Allen, Jessica Walter
At a ground breaking ceremony for a new church, a huge cross towers behind the podium where a priest is blessing the site. The shadow of the cross falls across the land behind the small stage. Where the cross is casting a shadow, the earth has turned black, as if burnt, and is smoldering. Later that night, a hand breaks through the dirt, pulling its owner to the surface. Rising from his grave for the first time in 30 years, a creature of the night returns to stalk the city of San Francisco. And so starts the 1979 made-for-TV movie simply titled Vampire.
Genre star Richard Lynch plays the 800 year old vampire, Price Anton Voytek, known in his day as the “Golden Vampire”. Lynch has always been a personal favorite of mine, with his raspy voice and his leathery face, which was apparently due to the fact that in the 60’s, while on LSD, he set fire to himself in New York’s Central Park. Lynch was born to play the bad guy and the more evil the better. Here, he is elegant and courtesy, but also shows us an underlying evil in his eyes that shows his true power. This power also shows in his confidence when dealing with his modern-day vampire hunters. He shows no fear of them, and makes sure that he puts the fear into them…if not for themselves, for ones close to them.
His adversaries here are played by two other actors well known in the genre. E.G. Marshall is probably best known to modern fans as Upson Pratt, from Romero’s Creepshow. Here he plays a retired police detective, who remembers investigating a series of murders like these recent ones of mutilated bodies, drained of blood. Except that was 30 years ago. Marshall does a great job fitting into the Van Helsing type character. His reluctant partner is Jason Miller, probably most known from his role as Father Karras in The Exorcist. He’s an architect who teams up with Marshall after his wife is killed by the vampire and turned into one of the undead. Also having a small bit-part is everybody’s favorite popular character actor / sleaze ball, Joe Spinell.
I think the real power of this movie is because of Lynch and Marshall. Both give such realistic portrayals in their characters. Lynch is always a treat when he comes on screen. He gives off the sense of ancient power, looking upon humans as we would look at an insect…just a little annoyance that can be swiped away with your hand. Miller is also good, but tends to go a little overboard on some of the more emotional parts.
This was a pilot for a possible new series, but for some reason, it was never picked up. That’s a real shame, since I would have loved to have seen where the series would have gone. But this was at a time when Kolchak: The Night Stalker series was dead and buried, and years before Buffy would start slaying vampires. But like the Kolchak series, this movie stayed with the old-fashion vampire mythology. The plot even resembles parts of Stoker’s Dracula when Marshall and Miller are searching out for all his different resting places. Although the film sticks with most vampire trappings, the vampires themselves don’t have fangs, at least none that you see. They do seem to have that hypnotic power over their human prey. Since the film was made for TV, there’s not a lot of violence and I don’t believe you see any blood.
This was released on video by MTM Enterprises, but has never been released on DVD or Blu-ray, as of yet. We can all hope for a special edition, but it is a shame that it never happened when Lynch was still alive. He was quite fond of this picture, stating that it was one of his favorite roles. If you can find a copy, I would highly recommend checking it out.