It’s hard to believe almost twenty years ago, the height of superhero movies was “Batman & Robin” with studios not really clamoring to adapt any of the beloved superheroes. It took “Blade” to finally bring some tooth and maturity to the entire sub-genre. One of the more interesting precursors to “Blade” is the dreadfully boring vampire adaptation “Vampirella,” which is a tonally confused take on the pulpy pin up character mostly known for being beautiful and sexy, and not so much for her compelling story lines. “Vampirella” is never sure if it’s campy horror schlock, exploitative vampire softcore, or a stern horror epic. So director Jim Wynorski pretty much lunges for all three on the table, and comes out with this pretty gloomy and dull film.
Talisa Soto plays Vampirella who is obviously playing her role as this noble heroine with dark capabilities and a slinky outfit. Roger Daltrey plays the film’s villain Vlad, obviously playing his role for all the cheesiness and camp value it’s worth. He even dons a puffy shirt when we first meet him, and delights in popping up on people with a cliché vampire hiss. Vampirella comes from the planet Drakulon, where she’s one of many vampire residents on her planet. They retain their life by drinking from the lakes and rivers of blood available to them. I’ve always wondered: If Vampirella is from Drakulon, is there such a thing called Drakulite? Either way, after Vlad and his cult of vampire followers murder the planet’s council they escape Drakulon ending up on Earth.
Meanwhile Vampirella follows on her own ship, and lands on Earth thanks to stowing away on a space expedition. Here on Earth she dons her trademark skimpy red outfit, all the while reveling in her Romanian accent that makes her sound like a Bela Lugosi fan girl. Vlad, of course masquerades as a rock star to keep his ego boosted, allowing him a chance to fulfill world domination, as Vampirella tracks him down to avenge her murdered father. While her mission ensues, she teams up with a vampire hunting clan named “Purge,” and a computer nerd named Forry Ackerman. No, seriously. Wynorski is at his best when he’s being exploitative and it sadly works against Talisa Soto, who’s usually a very conservative albeit gorgeous actress.
All of the female vampires in the film undress or reveal their breasts at one or two points, while Vampirella herself never actually bares full flesh. In fact much of her sexuality is dialed down in favor of a character that’s less vixen and more superhero. However, there is enough consolation with nude shots of Corrina Harney and the bombshell Peggy Trentini. “Vampirella” really needed a bigger budget, and a director who understood the sensibilities to deliver a pulpy horror action film. Its 1996 incarnation is a brutally boring, and terrible film that promises a sequel that, thankfully, never happened. We can always hope a reboot, though.