Odd, grim, grisly and scary! All these adjectives have been used to describe Grave of the Vampire starring William Smith and Michael Pataki. Emerging in the wake of Count Yorga and Blacula, Pataki’s Caleb Croft is a different kind of bloodsucker than audiences were used to in the early 1970s. Dracula had been booed off the screen in Brian Clemen’s misunderstood modern incantations – Dracula AD1972 and The Satanic Rites of Dracula – and Yorga, Blacula and Mr Croft were children of the recent zombiemania inaugurated by George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead 1968.
Of the three, Caleb Croft is the worst. Before death, a black magician, serial rapist and mass murderer. A man who has no redeeming features to his character at all. As a vampire, he takes the myth into new territory as he is awakened from his 400 years sleep by a lovemaking couple. Indiscriminately, he kills the man and then drags the girl – Kitty Vallacher, billed as ‘The unwilling Mother’ – into a freshly dug grave to indulge his sexual fantasies. Still potent after death he sires a son, William Smith, a half-breed vampire who misunderstands his own aversion to sunlight and his inadequacies in the procedure of falling in love.
Eventually realising his true nature, the son seeks out the father who is now moonlighting as a college lecturer, but still taking time out for the odd rape and fang-flashing when the mood takes him. A final confrontation in an old mansion has the son triumphing over his undead parent but, unfortunately, not before his own feral nature has taken command of him! At the fade out we see that the destiny of Caleb Croft will continue.
Touted as a classic on DVD and Video packaging, Grave of the Vampire is far from it. But one cannot deny the incredible number of ideas that filter into Screenwriter David Chase and director John Haye’s storyline, which have still to be elaborated on and taken up by todays scribes of vampiremania. The mother crooning to her child as the infant suckles more than milk from her breast; the ageing of the son taking the matter of a few months to reach manhood and Croft’s own method of dispatching his enemies using the stone lids of tombstones to drop almost offhand onto the head of a prying police chief.
Michael Pataki gives a great turn as the undead killer and would play Count Igor Dracula in Dracula’s Dog aka Zoltan – Hound of Dracula 1977. Grave of the Vampire is still absorbing viewing for people who enjoy their vampire movies. A truly macabre and original tale that resonates in the sub-concious long after the film has ejected from the DVD player.