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Grave of the Vampire


‘…while David Chase would probably rather forget this project, adopted from his own novel The Still Life, it’s a cut above most 1970’s horror fodder…’

Yikes! Back when I was eleven, my school had a film club; in the early days of VHS, it was still a thing to hire a film print and screen a film on the big screen in the school hall for us kiddies to enjoy. I saw a few crackers like Airport 77 and Grease in this fashion, and would have been happy to blood myself with some fashionable horror a la John Carpenter’s The Fog. But instead we got Grave of the Vampire, a rather strange and decidedly adult horror film that somehow came from the pen of David Chase, who went on to mainstream success as creator of The Sopranos. Chase had been beavering away on supernaturally-themed tv shows like Kolchak; the Night Stalker, and Grave of the Vampire feels like a similarly dank genre entry, with added sex and violence to put bums on seats.

After an establishing shot depicting the Grave of the Vampire itself, we kick off with a canoodling couple that seem to feel that amongst the gravestones is the ideal place to get it on. The boy is ‘murdered in some freaky way’ according to a local cop, but the girl is ‘impregnated by a vampire’. The mutant baby, a doctor sternly warns, is a parasite and needs blood to survive; after unsuccessfully trying to breast feed it, the ‘unwilling mother’ as the credits describe her, ends up cutting her breast open to allow the baby to feed on her own blood.

As that description of the first 30 minutes suggests, Grave of the Vampire is strong meat, and even with a wild plot twist, things don’t get much jollier. Fast forward and the baby is a man called Charles Croydon, played by Michael Pataki, and he’s tracking down his father; the vampire (Caleb Croft) is now calling himself Professor Lockwood and is a university lecturer; it’s a nice bit of Chase logic that the undead would focus on environments where there are plentiful supplies of young people to feed off. So Lockwood gets off on flirting with librarians, and the female members of the student body ‘You didn’t come here to talk about your students, did you?…Make me a vampire!’ one potential conquest squeals. Chase delivers all of this with a straight face, although the mask slips when some truly loquacious dialogue emerges; ‘I’m sure the next logical question is; why aren’t we twenty years old and playing the bongos downstairs?’

With claw-hammer to the head murders and sexual violence, I’d have to admit that this film was something of a trauma to me when I was a kid, and it’s still some nasty-ass stuff now. But it is clearly the work of a skilled writer prepared to work his ticket, and while David Chase would probably rather forget this project, adopted from his own novel The Still Life, it’s a cut above most 1970’s horror fodder if you dare to disturb this particular Grave of the Vampire. Do you dare?


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  1. Like to know who did the booking for the Film Club. When I was involved in the Glasgow Uni Film Club as long as we booked a Marx Bros to guarantee a full house every season we could pretty much book what we wanted the rest of the time.

    • The Marx Bros would be ideal for Glasgow Uni, and I say that as a graduate. Of the university, not Groucho and co.

  2. I’m glad that trailer was in HD. Really shows up the remarkable job they did of restoring the film. Looks like they might have been using the same print you watched in your A/V club.

    Might be interesting to watch if Chase did a commentary. Otherwise it’s a hard sell. To think you might have watched Punkinhead instead.

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