13 April 2024
Grave of the Vampire (1974)
89 min.
Directed by John Hayes.
With Michael Pataki, William Smith, Lyn Peters, Diane Holden, Kitty Vallacher, Lieux Dressler, Eric Mason.
Jose Cruz
An undead popcorn flick, but not much else, Grave of the Vampire should keep horror fans on the whole pleased with its grainy spooks and shudders.

In the 1930s, a young college couple decide to spend their romantic evening in a nearby cemetery but find their date ruined by Caleb Croft (Pataki), a notorious criminal and rapist who also happens to have just risen from his grave as one of the bloodsucking undead!

Having his way with the woman and slaughtering her boyfriend, Croft makes a hasty retreat before sunrise leaving his partner pregnant with child. (Men!) The girl goes on to give birth to a healthy baby boy...but soon finds out that the tyke prefers his formula thick and red.

Growing up with his blood curse, James (Smith) resolves to track the ancient Croft down and end his murderous reign once and for all. Discovering that the vampire is teaching occult studies at a local college, James prepares to confront his dark father before he can sink his fangs into the flesh of the campus ladies.

Grave of the Vampire doesn’t aspire to be anything greater than it is, and that’s just perfectly fine. Competently shot by Hayes, static moments and bits of wooden acting are given a little juice with some creepy set pieces such as the fog-choked graveyard and Pataki’s snarling, fanged attacks. There are a few genuinely shocking and lurid elements in the film to boot that are sure to keep viewers on their toes.

Pataki himself is one of the highlights in the picture. He retains a regal air as the age-old monster and stands above the rest of the cast, reveling in the evil of his character. He plays the vampire master well and is equally menacing stalking about for prey and coldly giving class lectures on ghouls and ghosts.

Though it does lag in some spots, the film wins us back with a spirited wrestling match between vampire father and son and a bleak ending capped off with a teasing “The End—Or Is It?” title card. Not a bad choice for the casual fan looking for a movie to simply deliver the bloody goods. Trivia: both writer David Chase and star William Smith were involved in episodes from the classic 70’s TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

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