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Vampires, Mummies And Monsters Collection (Lady Frankenstein, Time Walker, The Velvet Vampire, Grotesque)

    Ian Jane

  • Vampires, Mummies And Monsters Collection (Lady Frankenstein, Time Walker, The Velvet Vampire, Grotesque)

    Released by:
    Shout! Factory
    Released on: 9/27/2011

    Cast: Various

    Year: Various

    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movies:

    Continuing their great work with the films of Roger Corman, Shout! Factory unleashes the Vampires, Mummies And Monsters Collection which brings together for Corman backed horror films on two discs. Here's what you get for your hard earned dollars:

    Lady Frankenstein (1971):

    Long a staple of budget releases and multipacks thanks to its 'public domain' status, Lady Frankenstein stars the gorgeous Rosalba Neri (credited as Sara Bay) as Tania Frankenstein, the daughter of the infamous Baron Frankenstein (Joseph Cotton). When we meet her, she's just been accredited as a surgeon and is keen on following in her father's footsteps in terms of medical research and experimentation. What she doesn't realize though is that her father's experiments on transplants are no longer just being conducted on animals - he's taken it to the next level and started experimenting on cadavers which he and his assistant, Charles (Paul Mueller), have been buying illegally from a shifty guy named Flynn (Herbert Fux).

    While Tania is keen to help her father with his experiments, and he surprised to learn that she knew of them in the first place, the Baron decides he'd prefer to work alone with Charles. When they decide it's time to conduct the final experiment and put a brain into the body of a freshly hanged man, they're excited by their success as lightning brings their creation to life. Due to a problem with the brain they used, however, the creature is a bit off his rocker and promptly crushes the Baron to death. Charles, who has a bit of a crush on Tania, thinks they should go to the police, lead by Captain Harris (Mickey Hargitay), but Tania has other plans. She wants to protect her family name and continue the experiments herself. Meanwhile, the creature runs around and wreaks havoc, tossing naked ladies into rivers and killing random people, Charles convinces Tania he can love her and she wants to put his brain into the buff body of the dim witted groundskeeper - which will also come in handy in trying to stop the monster, and Harris starts putting together the pieces of this bizarre puzzle.

    Slick, gory and filled with a pretty awesome cast of Euro-cult regulars, Lady Frankenstein is a pretty awesome take on the tried and true Frankenstein mythos that, at this point in the game, had been done to death by the Universal and Hammer films prior. By taking the emphasis off of the Baron, well played by Cotton, and putting it onto Tania, the film ups the sex appeal considerably. Neri is stunning here, and nude more than once, and she knows how to use her feminine wiles to get what she wants from the men around her. She fits the role well, looking great in her period dress and exuding a smart, sexy confidence that fits her character very well. Mickey Hargitay is a bit out of place as the police officer but other than that, all involved put in a good effort here.

    Also noteworthy are some of the effects and sets used in the film. There's plenty of oddball laboratory gear on display throughout the movie and a few different transplant scenes involving brains and open heads and gooey, icky stuff like that. The fact that the monster looks like The Toxic Avenger makes it a bit hard to take him too seriously but you don't have to in order to enjoy the movie. There's loads of screwy gothic atmosphere and style giving the film enough cult appeal and entertainment value to help less discerning viewers easily overlook the logic gaps, goofball monster and questionable character motivations.

    It should be noted that the film was trimmed of roughly fifteen minutes by New Word when they distributed it in North America in 1971 and that every home video release of the movie in North America since then has been taken from one of those edited sources. Shout! Factory's DVD contains that version (83:37) of the film but also contains the longer international cut (95:44) which adds quite a bit of footage back into the film. While this isn't perfect on a technical level due to the source materials they had to work with (for more on this skip down to the video portion of this review) it's great to see it included here. While none of the added footage is particularly gory or grisly it does serve to fill in some of the blanks in terms of story flow and character development and its inclusion here is very welcome indeed.

    The Velvet Vampire (1971):

    Stephanie Rothman, the same woman who gave us Terminal Island, Blood Bath and The Student Nurses was kind enough to bestow on us, during her time working for Roger Corman, 1971's The Velvet Vampire.

    The film follows a young couple, Lee (Michael Blodgett) and Susan Ritter (Sherry Miles) who meet a woman named Diane LeFanu (Celeste Yarnall) while attending the 'Night Vision' exhibition at the Stoker Gallery. Lee is quite taken with Diane and she with him and soon enough, Lee and Susan are heading out to the desert to hang out with Diane at her impressive home out in the middle of nowhere where she lives with her servant, Juan (Jerry Daniels).

    Things are going okay at first and while Susan is showing some understandable jealousy, there isn't really any drama per se. This changes when the three hop into Diane's dune buggy and head out to explore the desert. Susan decides to sun bathe a bit while Lee heads inside and plays with Diane's boobs - when Susan is bit by a rattlesnake, Diane has to suck the poison out of her leg. From here on out, it becomes more and more obvious that there's something odd about Diane. Not only does her husband's grave indicate he died over a hundred years ago, but she's showing a strange interest in Lee… and a strange interest in Susan as well.

    While this one disregards a lot of the 'rules' of vampire stories (Diane has no problem wandering around in the sunlight), it does manage to put an interesting and highly sexualized spin on the mythos with some surprisingly surrealist touches. There are some really well shot dream sequences in which the characters wind up on a bed in the middle of the desert that would not seem out of place in a Jodorowsky movie, and the site of a vampire vixen zipping around in a bright yellow dune buggy is certainly one you don't see too often.

    Performance wise, Michael Blodgett reminds us a bit too much of Leif Garrett but is otherwise fine in the role. He's into Diane from the very start, much to the dismay of his wife. Sherry Miles plays said wife as a bit of an airhead but is pretty enough that you won't mind and takes her top off frequently. The real start of the show is Celeste Yarnall, however. Probably best known to cult movie fans as the female lead in Beast Of Blood and the love interest opposite Charles Bronson and Jan Michael Vincent in The Mechanic, her insanely oversexed vampire is hip, sexy, cool and… weird enough to hold our interest even when the story slows down a bit.

    Time Walker (1982):

    Up next, director Tom Kenney's Time Walker follows the exploits of one Professor Doug McCadden (Ben Murphy), an archeologist who works for a university that has just acquired a sealed
    sarcophagus and basically handed it over to him to be in charge of studying. McFadden does just that, opening it up and marveling at how well preserved the mummy inside is, unaware that he's also unleashed a green mold that is not unlike Alien blood in that it eats through anyone it comes into contact with. Complicating matters further is the presence of a student named Peter Sharpe (Kevin Brophy) who learns of the sarcophagus and correctly assumes that it just might have some riches inside. He sneaks around and when no one is looking helps himself to a bunch of jewels he finds tucked away, which he then hands out to some of the foxiest ladies on campus hoping that his generosity will win him favors of the sexual kind.

    Unfortunately for Peter, the mummy, which has just been x-rayed for research purposes by the good Professor McFadden, doesn't like being stolen from - that is, if it is even a mummy at all, which McFadden is starting to doubt based on his research.

    This one starts off with a cool intro that takes place in ancient Egypt and which sets up things to come, but then crashes into a wall and barely moves for the next forty minutes or so. Once it picks up steam again in the last act it does at least partially redeem itself, but Time Walker is the weakest of the four films on the set (and not surprisingly it was skewered pretty harshly by the MST3K team under its alternate title The Being From Another Planet which pretty much spoils the film's twist right there). There are a couple of good kills here and some rare instances of suspense and atmosphere but overall this isn't scary. It gets some points for at least trying something different, you've got to give it credit for that, but no one in the cast seems particularly committed to their role and the way in which the script throws together frat boy comedy and killer mummy elements results in a pretty inconsistent tone and pace.

    Some of the effects are kind of cool in a low budget sort of way, though the finale's overreliance on a fog machine indicates that maybe some of them didn't go as well as the filmmakers had hoped that they would. Looks for Return Of The Living Dead's James Karen as a faculty member named Dr. Wendell J. Rossmore and Shari Belafonte in a supporting role as Linda Flores.

    Grotesque (1988):

    Joe Tornatore, the man who helmed Zebra Force, directs this Linda Blair vehicle in which she stars as a perfectly pleasant young woman named Lisa who, along with her pal Kathy (Donna Wilkes), heads into the mountains of California to visit her parents. Her father, Orville Kruger (Guy Stockwell - yep, the dude from Santa Sangre!), was a popular Hollywood special effects guy and Kathy jokes that maybe he'll get her an in with a hunky Hollywood actor like Dustin Hoffman. He's dreamy. At any rate, their trip seems fine until they're almost run off the road by a group of “punkers” lead by a dude named Scratch (Brad Wilson) barreling by in an old Volkswagen van. They don't think too much of it until they shortly thereafter pass those same “punkers” at the side of the road - at this point we realize that one of them is Robert Z'dar and we giggle appropriately. They want Lisa and Kathy to help, but these two shoulder pad wearing hotties know better and they just keep on driving.

    Eventually they get to the house where they're told that Uncle Rod (Tab Hunter), a big time plastic surgeon, won't be showing up until the next day. No big deal, really, they'll just hang out and let the old man tease them with movie props until it's time for bed. Mom tells Lisa, however, that Patrick is having good days and bad days. We don't know who Patrick is though, at least not yet. Shortly after everyone retires for the evening, those troublemaking “punkers” arrive at the house and proceed to trash the place and kill a few people - but not Lisa, she dashes through the woods and tries to find safety - but as the “punkers” give chase, and we then learn who Patrick is and why he has bad days. When Uncle Rod shows up the next morning and the local police get on the case, we learn the real story about all of this insanity.

    This movie is a mess. It starts out as a fairly standard horror film playing off of the fear of the inevitable Last House On The Left style home invasion we know is coming (it never even comes close to approaching that level of darkness, however) and then, after the murders have more or less all been committed, it shifts gears and turns into a bizarre revenge drama in which Tab Hunter takes over from Blair (who is credited in the opening scrawl as an associate producer) as the lead. It's a pretty jarring shift in tone and the big finish is even more jarring - as such, the movie is erratic in terms of pacing and atmosphere and it winds up a fairly confusing mishmash of ideas, none of which are handled particularly well.

    Where the movie succeeds, however, is in the camp value/unintentional hilarity department. Linda Blair, who does not get naked, has hair almost as big as her shoulder pads and her dialogue with Donna Wilkes (of Jaws 2 and Angel fame!) is sometimes amazingly awkward and dopey. The film features some pretty ropey latex monster effects and earns bonus points for overusing the word “punker” more than any other movie this reviewer can think of and for staging a chase scene that apparently lasts from the evening until the morning - though no one seems to notice how much time has passed and that the sun has come up. A gratuitous Robert Z'dar appearance is always cause for celebration and you've got to love Nels Van Patten as Gibbs, a “punker” with the most obnoxious (and frequent) laugh on the planet and who apparently suffers from performance anxiety, erectile dysfunction, or both. Ironic when you consider that he really is the son of Dick. Zing!

    Note: The Media VHS release of this film differs from the version on this DVD in that, without wanting to go too heavily into spoiler territory, this disc contains the 'movie within a movie' ending featuring Frank N. Stein and the Wolf Man. It makes more sense that this completely nonsensical ending would be left off - it doesn't fit the movie that plays before we get to it - but hey, here it is for those who want it and it's always best to have the complete version of a movie when you can, right?


    The video quality for Lady Frankenstein will vary depending on which version you watch. If you opt for the domestic cut, which looks to be sourced entirely from some pretty decent film elements, the image is consistently clean and colorful and free of major print damage. In short, it looks as good as you'd expect it to given the great quality of Shout!'s other Corman releases. If you go for the extended version, well, most of the transfer is sourced from those same elements but in order to extend the film, some of the cut scenes were culled from two different sources, one of which is a TV broadcast (judging by the SAT logo in the top right corner) and the other of which is a European VHS tale (which features some burned in subtitles on the bottom). Obviously the quality takes a noticeable dip whenever the movie switches from one source to the other BUT fans of the film will no doubt appreciate the efforts that Shout! Factory have gone to here to include the longer version of the film on DVD - both versions are presented in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen. It should be noted that on one of the two DVD players Lady Frankenstein was tested on there was a slight lag or hiccup when the longer version switched from one source to the next.

    The Velvet Vampire and Time Walker are also presented in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen and look pretty good here on DVD for the first time. Colors are reproduced nicely and while the images can be a bit grainy in spots that probably won't upset fans at all. Print damage is never too harsh and colors look good.

    Grotesque is the only movie of the four that's presented fullframe and the compositions actually look fine here and don't appear to be cropped. The image quality isn't as strong as the other films indicating that there probably weren't the same sort of elements available so expect some softness throughout the picture and it was taken from a tape source. It's perfectly watchable though.

    Each of the four films in the set gets the Dolby Digital Mono treatment, in English, without any subtitles or alternate language tracks provided. While there are a few spots in Lady Frankenstein where the levels seem to spike a bit, this doesn't happen in the other movies and it's not a constant problem. Overall the audio is fine throughout the set.

    Extras for Lady Frankenstein are slim but we do get two versions of the movie so that helps to make up for it. A trailer, a still gallery and a few TV spots are also included. The interviews with Mel Welles and Rosalba Neri that were on the DVD Drive-In release of the movie from 2001 have sadly not been carried over to this disc.

    The Velvet Vampire gets the most love in the bonus features department as it features a commentary track with Celeste Yarnall moderated by Nathanial Thompson. Yarnall starts the track off by talking about how she got the part and then gives her thoughts on the script and the character she plays. She also mentions some excitement she had about working with a female director and how this film offers an interesting 'twist on the vampire lore.' Yarnall notes that the production never felt rushed but that the movie did feel more like television than a large scale feature, and she talks about seeing the movie at a drive-in with her mother. Yarnall talks about how she was supposed to make another film for Corman, a women in prison film that was to shoot in Costa Rica, but how she was offered the role in The Mechanic at the same time and had to take it for the sake of her career. From there she makes some interesting comparisons between this film and some other works of art and elaborates on various details in regards to the script and the story. All in all she has quite a detailed and particularly fond memory of working on the picture and is plenty keen on sharing her stories about this period in her life. Aside from that, the film's theatrical trailer is also included as is a still gallery.

    Time Walker has a theatrical trailer and a couple of interviews, the first with Kevin Brophy (8:56) and the second with the film's producer, Dimitri Villard (9:40). Brophy talks about how he came on board with this project and how it all came together, noting that it was financed by getting a few different companies interested and how Corman got the US theatrical and TV rights and how other companies got rights for different formats in different territories. He then shares his thoughts on Corman, the MST3K version which he really thought was funny, and how weird older films like this one are finding an audience these days on home video. Brophy talks about how he auditioned for the film, and how he had done a few features before this one but that this gave him a nice sized role in a movie that he describes as a lot of fun to make. From there he talks about the other cast members he worked with, how this film has found new life on DVD and how he became friends with Linda Blair and Morgan Fairchild over the years.

    Grotesque, sadly, doesn't get anything outside of a menu and chapter selection - a shame, as the trailer is on

    The Final Word:

    While fans probably would have liked to have seen more extra features than those included on this release, overall this is a great set. Each of the four movies is entertaining in its own right, some for the right reasons and some for the wrong reasons, and while the A/V isn't always perfect, overall the
    Vampires, Mummies And Monsters Collection from Shout! Factory definitely delivers.

    • JoeS
      Senior Member
      JoeS commented
      Editing a comment
      VELVET VAMPIRE (1971) Stephanie Rothman's THE VELVET VAMPIRE is disappointing in many ways, but has a strangely interesting mood, nonetheless. The script by Rothman and two other writers (including her husband Charles Swartz) is rather weak and trite. The plot is pretty aimless, and the acting isn't anything to teach at the actor's studio.

      Still, the combination of the desert setting and the fact that Rothman was working at a time when very few woman were Directing gives it a curiosity. Daniel Lacambre's glossy cinematography elevates it above what the low budget would indicate, and Rothman's use of dissolves is good. The electronic scoring by Clancy Grass III and Roger Dollarhide is offbeat, but effective.

      With Roger Corman as Producer and distributor, it guarantees a certain amount of sex and violence, and Rothman doesn't skimp there. While it's too easy to say that a woman behind the camera minimizes the sexploitation angle, her more sensitive presence is still felt.

      Michael Blodgett is mostly there as a hunk, but he does a credible job. Celeste Yarnall, besides, being physically alluring, also gives the title role (as Diane LeFanu) a palatable ethereal sensual quality. Yarnall may not have had great range, but one believes her here. Where Rothman and the casting department failed is with Sherry DeBoer (credited here as Sherry Miles) as Susan. In many ways Susan is the main character, and DeBoer is flat and uninteresting throughout. To be fair, her part is poorly written. For instance, after Susan is attacked by a bat AND a rattlesnake AND has sees her husband cavorting with the Vampire -- she suddenly expresses a strong desire to remain! At first, it seems as if the Vampire's bite to take out the snake venom may have put her under Diane's spell, but, DeBoer's performance leaves one scratching their head. In the end, you just assume the Susan is just plain stupid. It's also inexplicable why the Vampire would kill a certain character. It just seems thrown in there to fill the time with another violent incident (same goes with the prologue).

      The movie has a certain kinship with VAMPYRES released a couple of years later, although the Jose Larraz film is much stronger overall. They share that same locked in to a house with an unworldly figure concept. A sunlit western setting isn't completely unique to the Vampire film, but Rothman uses it very well here. Putting Yarnall in full clothing in the daytime hours makes more sense than the bloodsucker running home every night at crack of dawn cliche (and there's a clever take on sleeping with a coffin to boot). The climax in Los Angeles is more silly than anything, but, THE VELVET VAMPIRE is a curiosity worth seeking out for the fans of the genre.
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