Ted Nicolaou’s Vampire series comes to blu-ray. John takes a bite of parts one and two
If you’re like me, and dear God I hope you’re not, Charles Band will have his own secret place in your heart. As the producer behind all manner of schlock, B-movies and basic exploitation, Mr Band has ensured that the likes of Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, Dr Alien, Re-Animator, Creepozoids and Leapin’ Leprechauns reached the wide world of us normals. Whenever I have punched my card or filled my time-sheet in, I have thought about how marvelous it must be to be responsible for such a legacy as his and then to wonder which one of these beauties I will watch next.Not content with producing fun, sensibly budgeted American tosh, Band even pioneered the use of former Communist Bloc countries as production locales where costs can be kept down and the natural beauty of Eastern Europe exploited. Exhibit A is the Subspecies films, directed, and mostly written, by Ted “TerrorVision” Nicolaou and located in post Ceausescu Romania.
The series begins by introducing the long fingered whey faced vein botherer Radu, as his father attempts to keep him in line. Papa fails abysmally and Radu is soon licking his lips as comely American students come for a cultural exchange, chock full of lovely rhesus negative. Despite the best efforts of his brother, looking like a refugee from A Flock of Seagulls, Bad Radu is soon harvesting lovelies and drinking his fill.Now I have to admit that I fell in love with Laura Tate during Subspecies and this may have coloured my perception somewhat. Yet, ignoring some theatrical flourishes and the limits of the screenplay, I found myself really enjoying a warm, intelligent love letter to the Vampire myth in cinema. Radu is part Max Schreck, part angry teenager and the fun the director has with long shadows nods to his expressionistic forefathers.
In addition, some stop-motion animation that put me in mind of Harryhausen and the clever use of Romanian traditions and culture, means that Subspecies is actually much better than it should be. Joyfully vile, gooily violent and passionately Gothic, this is a lot of bad dirty fun.The second installment is actually an improvement upon the first, with cinematography capturing the expressionistic intention more successfully and props and effects more convincing within the action. With part 2, Radu travels to Bucharest chasing the somewhat undead Deniece Duff (replacing, sadly, the lovely Ms Tate). With the police on their trail too, and staking help from a native professor, Radu is once more under threat due to his nocturnal neck noodling.
A better script, allegedly a more sober crew and leading actor, and a more confident take on the material, Subspecies 2 impresses with the romance and sweep of the story. Duff’s character becomes a sad hostage of the hemoglobin hoarder and a nice tragic air is introduced as she succumbs to her new nature.To be honest, I was hungry for more when I completed part 2 of this four part series. You may be happy with the likes of Trueblood or Twilight instead, but I enjoyed these b-movie wonders far more. These two entries are well worth catching for those who like their Vampires Gothic and lusty.
Released individually, I am reviewing the discs together to save your time, and mine. Both films come with goodish transfers and lossless audio. I wouldn’t say that detail in part one is perfect, and colours seem a little too muted as well but this could be because of worn materials I suppose. Part two is much more impressive, with better black levels and more vibrant colours. Both discs seem to be region free and the sound options include lossless tracks on both. For the first film, this is a strong mono 2.0 track and there is a choice of 5.1 and stereo tracks both in master audio format. The 5.1 mix does provide good coverage with music and rare effects used in the rear.
Extras wise, the same interviews appear on both discs with Nicolau, Duff and Hove discussing making both films. Hove is a rather gnarly character who I enjoyed as he explains the hell of being in make up for hours with someone you detest – “they are touching your face”!. Each film’s trailer is included along with HD trailers for many other Band majesties like The Puppet Master.
There are two commentaries with Band being interviewed on the first film and laying bare a lot of the production tricks, and a three hander between director, Hove and Duff on the second film. The latter is jollier with Duff’s energy balancing the darker toned Hove and the laconic Nicolaou.
The final extras are two Videozone features shot for the video releases of the films during their filming, both with interviews and insights into effects.
Real schlocky treats made with some love and offered in HD for bums like you and me. Suspecies and its sequel are really worth catching
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
Continue the conversation over on The Digital Fix Forum