Wicked Wednesday: The Velvet Vampire (1971)

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It’s getting to the final days of Women in Horror Month, and this is the final film I will be highlighting. But isn’t every day a day worth celebrating the great work ladies do in film?

And what better way to close out the month than with Stephanie Rothman’s The Velvet Vampire. Actually, there are probably a number of better films to pick from directed or written by women, but this one is what we’re stuck with.

 

After a woman, Diane, stabs the man who is trying to sexually assault her she goes to an art show run by her friend Carl’s space. There she meets a young, rather unappealing couple.

Susan is a bit of an idiot, but she’s miles more tolerable than her husband Lee. As soon as the man lays eyes on Diane, he’s immediately smitten with her. She invites the couple out to her place in the desert (and you’ll be hearing a lot about The Desert in this film). Since Lee is an utter fool, he agrees.

The young couple head out into the desert in their car, and have plenty of problems on their way. They get lost. They get shit from the men at the gas station. And their car breaks down, which isn’t super great when you’re in the desert.

Lee and Susan are eventually saved by Diane, who arrives in a dune buggy. How’d she find them? Well, people in the desert just know how to find each other (or something – Diane makes up a bunch of crap about the desert that I’m not convinced is true).

Diane lives alone with her servant Juan. She has a home filled with various “quirks” like a two-way mirror in the guest bedroom. Also, she enjoys some not-so-subtle sexy talk with a married man over dinner (“Diane, I’d like to drive your… buggy.”) – all while Susan watches on.

The first night Lee and Susan spend the night out in The Desert, they each have a dream that they are in bed in the middle of the desert. Diane is seen approaching Lee and pulling him away. But when they wake up, Lee says he had a different dream. That Susan was pushing him away.velvetvamp3

During their visit, Diane takes her guests around to see the sight, including an abandoned mine shaft. Diane tells them a delightful little story about how many of the miners had disappeared back in the day. They’d later be found with gashes on their throats.

For some reason, this story doesn’t deter the couple from going into the mine with Diane. They are promptly separated from their leader and Susan is attacked by a bat. Susan is also bit by a snake at a ghost town, but at least she has Diane there to suck the poison out?

It’s the latter incident that seems to have worked on Susan. She becomes immediately less suspicious of her host and more infatuated. Which means she’s completely fine being left behind while her husbands waltzes around the desert with Diane.

Diane takes Lee to visit her husband’s grave. This is the first of her major mistakes. Her story quickly falls apart (examples include “Why is your husband in a grave marked 1875?” “He’s in his grandfather’s robbed grave so I can preserve him like some desert mummy!”*)

While at the cemetery, a young girl confronts Diane about her missing boyfriend. The man, Cliff, was a worker at the shop Lee and Susan had visited on their journey. He’s also one of the victims Diane picks off to keep herself well-fed. But the young girl is hardly a problem for long as Juan helps Diane kill her.

After having the sultry desert dream again, Lee wakes up and goes into one of the living rooms where he finds Diane feasting on raw chicken. He’s initially grossed out by her, but goes ahead and gets busy with the lady on the floor anyway… while Susan watches.

One of the most delightful parts of the film is watching Lee be a total dick. Part of me feels bad for Susan, but she’s so… lame it’s hard to really feel sorry for her. I mean, their banter:

“It’s not polite to hit and run.” – Top bitch Susan to Lee, who wants to leave after getting laid.

“Alright! I got laid last night!” – Loser Lee

“How could I put you down for something I could do myself?” – Sassy-ass Susan

“She’s a desert freak and I’m a Suzy freak.” – Loser Lee strikes again

Meanwhile, Diane is getting all weird again. It’s hardly surprising to learn that Diane is a vampire. Though, the rules of the sun are a bit more flexible here. Why would a vampire live in the desert? Why – her husband! Nothing a sunhat and some bell bottoms won’t fix.

The strange lady enjoys lounging on her husband’s casket, upon which she leaves an easy in and out option for opening the grave. She drinks Juan’s blood after she admits to him that she can feel “something speeding up inside” her.

Once the couple find dead Juan, it’s pretty much game over. Diane seduces Lee one last time before killing him, and attempts to lure in Suzy to stay in a promise to live a better life that’s not ruined by men. But as soon as Susan discovers Lee’s corpse (which is only hidden behind a curtain), she makes a run for it. And really, the chase that ensues is so silly and pathetic, it’s actually incredibly amusing.

The Velvet Vampire probably isn’t going to crack anyone’s top favourite vampire flicks, but it is pretty good in its own way. For one, the main ladies are great characters to watch. The film looks absolutely incredible, too. It might not make much sense to have a vampire in The Desert, but it certainly makes for one damn good-looking film.

*Not actual dialogue.

 

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