‘She’s waiting to love you… to death’
The Velvet Vampire – aka Cemetery Girls and The Waking Hour – is a 1971 American vampire horror feature film directed by Stephanie Rothman (Terminal Island; Blood Bath) from a screenplay co-written with Charles S. Swartz, Maurice Jules. It was produced and distributed by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures.
The lead character’s name “Diane Le Fanu” was a reference to author Sheridan Le Fanu, writer of Carmilla.
The movie stars Celeste Yarnall, Michael Blodgett and Sherry Miles.
Sleepy-eyed nice guy Lee Ritter (Michael Blodgett) and his vapid, but pretty wife, Susan (Sherry Miles) accept the invitation of mysterious vixen Diane LeFanu (Celeste Yarnall) to visit her in her secluded desert estate.
Tensions arise when the couple, unaware at first that Diane is, in reality, a centuries-old vampire, realise that they are both objects of the pale temptress’ seductions…
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Roger Corman later claimed he was disappointed with the final product and released it on a double-bill with an Italian horror movie, Scream of the Demon Lover. Director Stephanie Rothman admitted the film’s commercial reception was disappointing.
“The Velvet Vampire is far too lethargic for its own good; aside from the occasional excursion into the desert (in Diane’s dune buggy, no less) and the odd dream sequence (also desert-bound), the 3 main characters spend the bulk of the film talking to one another…” 2,500 Movies Challenge
” … this is a visually inventive film which makes excellent use of strikingly shot Californian locations to lend an air of incongruity to its tale of a lady vampire (Yarnall) stalking her prey among the West Coast culturati. However, apart from being indifferently acted, the film suffers from a rudimentary narrative.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror
“The Velvet Vampire overcomes its anachronistic milieu, and remains a beautifully haunting film, this despite a low budget and occasionally rough production values. Its erotic dream desert sequences, underscored with “dreamy” acoustic strings, evoke a psychedelic LSD trip.” Communist Vampires
“Rothman’s arty direction is at times quite imaginative, including a dream sequence where Diane bursts out of a window to interrupt the couple from their love making (their bed being in the middle of the desert) as well as where Diane lies obsessively on top of the perfectly preserved corpse of her buried husband.” DVD Drive-In
“There’s time wasted with desert dune-buggy footage, but once Yarnall focuses on her targets, male and female, the going gets sensuous. How the vampire is laid to rest belongs to the Flower Child Generation.” John Stanley, Creature Features
“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.” Rock! Shock! Pop!
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“Neither as bracingly revisionist as Martin (1977) nor archly satirical like Count Yorga, Vampire (1970). The desert dream sequences set to folk guitar-led prog rock are often striking and suggest Rothman was drawing upon Michelangelo Antonioni, but the shocks are clumsy and the drama is dull, accompanied by a droning electronic score.” The Spinning Image
“The acting is totally breadbasket in the typical New World house style, but the locations are exploited to unsettling effect. And Diane, riding around in her dune buggy or scoffing raw liver while clad in chic marabou, is a femme fatale and a half.” Anne Bilson, Time Out London
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“The flick doesn’t follow the traditional rules of vampirism as Diane goes out riding around in her dune buggy in the middle of the day. The seduction scenes are also lackluster, although the dune buggy footage is quite breathtaking. ” The Video Vacuum
Cast and characters:
- Celeste Yarnall … Diane LeFanu – Skinwalker: Curse of the Shaman; Midnight Kiss; Beast of Blood; Star Trek TV series
- Michael Blodgett … Lee Ritter
- Sherry Miles … Susan Ritter
- Gene Shane … Carl Stoker
- Jerry Daniels … Juan
- Sandy Ward … Amos
- Paul Prokop … Cliff
- Chris Woodley … Cliff’s Girl
- Robert Tessier … The Biker
- Johnny Shines … The Bluesman
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