Vampirella (1996)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

Zoltan, Hound of Dracula

The Satanic Rites of Dracula

From Dusk till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter


Lava LampLava Lamp

Our rating: two LAVA® motion lamps.

"We're not rolling, right?
Because I don't think the lighting
guy is done yet."
A lot of the time you hear people talk about movies that are So Bad They're Good. We're not sure if that's the correct nomenclature. There are probably movies that are so bad they're fun, but they still aren't good. If they were good, they'd probably be a lot less fun.

Vampirella is a movie this close to being fun. This close! However, it has the bad part down pat.

In a prologue, we are introduced to the planet Drakulon. Drakulon is home to a race of vampires who drink freely from the planets organically rich rivers. But one vampire, Vlad (played by Roger Daltrey-- yes, that Roger Daltrey), has started a cult that drinks blood from other vampires. Vlad is arrested, only to engineer an escape, and he kills the planet's head magistrate in the process. Vlad and his top cronies escape in a model spaceship. The head magistrate's daughter Ella (Talisa Soto) vows vengeance, and she sets out in a model spaceship of her own.

Thirty thousand years later, a.k.a. the present day, Vlad has set himself up as a rock star named Johnny Blood. Hmmm... Where have we heard that before? You know, this could have been a funny joke, like if he had fronted a band named "Lestat," but all such opportunities are missed.

Oh yeah, that's why she's
in this movie.
Meanwhile Ella, after a thirty-thousand year detour to Mars, arrives on Earth aboard a space shuttle. After meeting a nerd named Forrey Ackerman (get it?), she takes on the name Vampirella and starts to track down the members of Vlad's group.

But it turns out that we Earthlings know about the vampires. In fact, there is a government organization called Operation: Purge (insert your own "Ally McBeal" joke here) that is dedicated to destroying the bloodsuckers. Purge is led by Lt. Walsh (Lee de Broux) and their chief operative is Adam Van Helsing (Richard Joseph Paul). Remember John Carpenter's Vampires? Well Purge is surprisingly similar to James Wood's motley lot, only much more organized. Purge uses guns that shoot silver-tipped wood bullets and "sun guns," rather than engaging bloodsuckers hand to hand.

Vampirella finds Vlad pretty quickly, and decides to get close to Vlad by seducing him. But just as things are about to get interesting, Purge shows up and takes Vlad and Vampirella into custody. Vlad's men engineer an escape, and Vlad runs. Vampirella allies with Operation: Purge to stomp out the vampire threat.

The movie's plot is pretty standard, so the movie will succeed or fail based on things like the quality of the acting, the comic relief, the special effects, and the action scenes.

We have nothing to say about this.
Nothing at all.
In terms of acting, Vampirella is a disaster. Talisa Soto, probably best known as a Bond girl, was obviously cast as Vampirella solely on the strength of her nice ass. And she has a very nice ass. But she delivers every line in a flat monotone. Roger Daltrey, as Vlad, is very convincing as a washed-up rock star, but that has nothing to do with his acting. Sadly, the best acting in the film comes from Corrina Harney, Playboy's August 1991 Playmate*. She plays one of Vlad's cronies, and she out acts every one else in the film. And she gets naked! Who woulda thought?

The comic relief is also lame. To give you some idea, take this joke. Please! Forrey Ackerman (get it? Do you?!) offers Vampi something from his fridge. "Would you like someone to drink... I mean, something to drink. Sorry about that." That's about the level on which the movie operates.

There are surprisingly few special effects. The spaceships at the beginning are all right, but after that the effects are limited to Vampirella's and Vlad's transformations into bats. This effect is achieved by a crude animation, and it essentially looks like the actors dissolve into smudges. This is somewhat ironic, because when Lt. Walsh first sees a picture of Vampirella he states, "If that's a smudge, I'm Peter Pan." Apparently Lee de Broux is the oldest, baldest actor to ever play Peter.

Lestat on tour.
Perhaps the most special effect of all should be Vampirella's costume. Those of you familiar with the comic book incarnation of the character will probably be disappointed. The two dimensional version of Vampi wears a garment that is essentially a one piece that stretches from her crotch to her neck to cover all the non-Comics Code approved parts. While this may look great on paper, this costume would never stay on a real three dimensional woman who had to engage in activity more strenuous than breathing in and out. So the movie version of the costume is really a two piece pleather jobbie, with straps connecting the two parts in a little nod to the original. Rather amusingly, the lapels on the costume tend to pop up whenever Soto moves her arms, at least in the movie's early scenes.

Finally, we have action scenes. Sadly, most of them are badly edited, and the fights are just lame. Talisa Soto tends to just throw herself at her opponents, then roll around on the floor for a while. This would be fine if she were mud wrestling with Corinna Harney....

Sorry, we got a little distracted by something there. What we meant to say was that this would be fine if she was mud wrestling, but in general she's fighting ugly beefy guys or Roger Daltrey, and that's just not attractive. And the final fight, which takes place on a dam near Las Vegas*, has some laughably obvious stunt doubles. (See the 3rd picture above.) Occasionally the camera pulls back to obscure that fact, but they don't pull back far enough, we assure you. Have you seen Tootsie? That's how far they need to pull back.

We're not sure if anyone was clamoring for a Vampirella movie, but even those who were would probably be disappointed with the end results. It's a shame too, because this idea had the making of a fun cult movie.

Own it!

Review date: 11/8/1999

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* We only know that because that particular magazine had lots of great articles. Go back!









































* At least we assume it's near Las Vegas. The whole movie seems to be shot in Las Vegas. Heck, Corinna Harney lives in Las Vegas. Though we only know that because we had to flip by her pictorial to read all those great articles.Go back!