Thursday, October 13, 2016

VAMP (1986) (Arrow Video Blu-ray Review)

VAMP (1986)
Label: Arrow Video
Region Code: A/B
Duration: 94 Minutes
Rating: Unrated 
Audio: English LPCM 1.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Richard Wenk
Cast:  Grace Jones, Robert Rusler, Dedee Pfeiffer, Sandy Baron

Synopsis:  Two fraternity pledges head to a seedy part of town to find some entertainment for their college friends but are faced with bloodthirsty vampires! Keith (Chris Makepeace, Meatballs) and AJ (Robert Rusler, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge) want to make the right impression at college and so they devise a plan to get them into the best frat house on campus. They head to the After Dark Club where they want to find a stripper for a party their friends won’t forget, instead they find themselves among vampires led by Kinky Katrina (Grace Jones, A View to a Kill)!

Two fun-loving and very 80's fraternity pledges Keith (Chris Makepeace) and A.J. (Robert Rusler, A Nightmare on elm Street 2) are taking part in a ridiculously over-the-top Gothic-themed college fraternity initiation when things go awry in a very silly sort of way. The frat seems lame but what better way to meet girls and have a blast than in a frat house. I guess it beats living in a dorm.  To gain admittance into the hallowed halls of keggers A.J. promises to procure the frat strippers for an upcoming  party. The problem is that the campus is located quite a distance from New York City and our duo have no wheels. They hit up young college entrepreneur Duncan (Gedde Watanabe, Sixteen Candles) who will let them borrow a car but only if they pretend to be his friend for a week, which is such an 80's conceit, but I love it. The trio hit the road headed for the Big Apple and find themselves at a diner where they run into a strange gang of creeps led by an albino Billy Drago. After a brief confrontation the trio arrive at the After Dark Club where Vic (Sandy Baron) the doorman/MC makes sure they have the proper credential - cash and credit cards. Meeting his stringent criteria they are allowed in, once inside they meet a cocktail waitress named Amaretto (Dedee Pfeiffer) and then witness a very avant garde striptease by stripper Queen Katrina (Grace Jones), her dance is certainly not your usual titty jiggle. Katrina comes out decked in a bright-orange fright wig, chrome brassier, piercing blue eyes, her entire face painted ghostly white and her body is painted with intricate tribal markings. I can't say I was turned on but I was definitely weirded-out by it. After the stunning performance A.J. goes backstage to approach Katrina about stripping at the college kegger. This is when we discover that the strip club is a cover for a coven of vampires and Vic the MC is really a Vegas-style Renfield who loves to eat bugs. Katrina seduces and drinks the blood of A.J. leaving  Keith and his new found friend Amaretto to try escape the vampires or survive until dawn, whichever happens comes first.

Vamp is a really enjoyable 80's horror comedy. Keith and A.J. exemplify the wise cracking bosom buddies of the 80's, they have great chemistry particularly Robert Rusler as Keith, he's the 80s asshole you hate to love, the essence of every likable asshole from every eighties film ever. Dedee Pfeiffer as the cutesy Amaretto is an adequate love interest and Grace Jones as the exotic Queen Katrina is a frightening fanged sexual predator. I loved Sandy Baron as the creepy Renfield character but I think the film could have done without the character of Duncan as portrayed by Gedde Watanabe who displays none of the charm of his Long Duk Dong character from 80s coming of age classic Sixteen Candles (1984). Here he is pretty much relegated to third-wheel Asian sidekick in a comedy, his character simply didn't work for me. The humor is pure 80s goofy, bordering on satire. The film definitely screams 80's with loads of synthetic eighties music and over-bright 80's fashions. The atmosphere is enhanced by the some garish 80's neon lighting that swaths nearly every scene green and magenta. Not sure if they were going for Italian giallo feel or an EC Comics inspired visual here but it worked for me, a very striking look. I think the tone of the film is a totally uneven, teetering from camp to goofy horror-comedy from one scene to the next. It could have used a more even-handed approach but the flick is still a damn fun 80s watch. 

Audio/Video: Vamp arrives on Blu-ray from Arrow Video in the U.S. with a nice looking transfer framed in 1.85 widescreen. The HD image looks very good, nice and decently crisp with loads of neon color dripping off the screen, the movie is just drenched in green and magenta lighting and it looks great in HD. The image can appear somewhat soft at times though, but it shows a nice nice layer of film grain and an abundance of fine detail. The LPCM mono audio stays true to the original theatrical presentation, the dialogue, score and sound effect come through nicely balanced, optional English subtitles are included. . 

Special Features

- One of Those Nights (44 Mins) HD 
- Rehearsal Footage (7 Mins) 
- Dracula Bites the Big Apple (22 Mins) - A short film by Richard Wenk
- Blooper Reel (6 Mins) 
- TV Spots 
- Trailer 1 (1 Mins) 
- Trailer 2 (2 Mins) 
- Image Gallery (59 Images) 
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
- Collectible Booklet with new writing on the film by critic Cullen Gallagher

This is not the first time that Arrow have released this 80s bloodsucker, they released a region 2 locked DVD back in 2013 but not all the extras have been carried over for the new HD release. Missing from the Blu-ray are a few cool extras, including separate interviews with actress Dedee Pfeiffer (27 Mins), director Richard Wenk (17 Mins), producer Donald P. Borchers, plus an 8-minute piece with director Wenk looking through vintage Vamp memorabilia. The disc also does not carry over the Robert Rustler intro or audio commentary from the DVD, which was moderated by Calum Waddell from High Rising Productions, whom no longer produce extras for Arrow. These missing extras make it worth hanging onto that old Arrow DVD. 

With that content absent Arrow have included a few new extras, beginning with a new making of doc titled One of Those Nights, a fun watch at 44 minutes with new interviews from director Richard Wenk, director of photography Elliot David and actors Robert Rustler, Dedee Pfeiffer, Gedde Watanabe and Billy Drago. They all have fond memories of making the movie, including some lively memories of Grace Jones and her vibrator, a lot of the same ground from the DVD extras is covered throughout, we don't have a new interview with Donald P. Borchers, but they've added new insights from actors Gedde Watanabe and Billy Drago, which are awesome. Also on the Blu-ray seven-minutes of rehearsal footage, a fun reel of bloopers, Richard Wenk's short film Dracula Bites the Big Apple, TV spots and trailers, an image gallery plus a sleeve of reversible artwork and a collector's booklet. 

Vamp is a totally campy 80's bloodsucker movie, an uneven mix of goofy teen comedy and weirdo vampire movie, with some decent special effects. Not a great movie but a fun watch with a few ice cold beers and a bowl of buttery popcorn. The new Blu-ray from Arrow looks and sounds great, this is the version to own if you're a fan.