"Thirsty for justice, she'll settle for blood."
Over the years Vampirella has become known as a venerable sex symbol for all things red and sticky (namely as the patron saint for fans of skin tight red bikini costumes and blood-sucking fiends everywhere). Her fame comes mostly from her long-standing background as the creation of über-fanboy Forrest J. Akcerman, not to mention her decades long histories with both Warren Publishing and Harris Comics which have likely aided more than a few fanboys through puberty. On the other Vampirella's film adaptations have been less than kind.
In the first attempt to bring the busty vixen to theaters in the mid-70's (for more information visit The Unofficial Hammer Films), both Hammer and Vampirella saw their fair share of setbacks (Hammer Films was shut down shortly after abandoning the project). That story reportedly featured Peter Cushing as a wizard named Pendragon, model/actress Barbara Leigh as Vampirella and plenty of risqué, karate-fueled female action. To think, what an obscure Hammer Horror treasure that would have been.
What we got instead is 1996's direct-to-video effort by director Jim Wynorski (976-EVIL 2: The Astral Factor, Ghoulies IV) who has apparently since gone on to direct a string of rather lackluster, "Skinemax-inspired" films such as The Bare Wench Project and House on Hooter Hill. Looking back then, one might see how Wynorski first cut his teeth, so to speak, with this sci-fi, softcore porn adaptation of Vampirella. I might further preference that schlockmiester Roger Corman is also attached as Executive Producer, so... yeah.
"Vampirella, where the hell are your boobs?!" says a young Forest J. Ackerman.
The film stars a cast of C-listers including The Who frontman Roger Daltrey who's performance is on the verge of cartoonish as main baddie Vlad and Talisa Soto as Vampirella who proves to be neither voluptuous nor edgy enough to fill Vampi's knee high boots. Guest appearance by Angus Scrimm as the High Elder and John Landis as "Astronaut #1 (Beard)" provide a few in-genre winks, but surprisingly enough the best performance was by Brian Bloom as right hand baddie Demos.
The plot, while not as fantastical as Hammer's iteration, is campy enough to warrant a few laughs ad basically follows Vampirella on her mission of vengeance against the coven of space vampires that killed her father. She follows them to Earth (30 some-odd years later) where they have since gone viral and formed a worldwide cult of fanged, power hungry bad guys. Organized to stop this vampire menace, paramilitary group PURGE (led by Adam Van Helsing) has made it their mission to eradicate the vampire menace from the face of the Earth... but ever so politely I might add.
Daltry looks like a cross between Batman villain, The Joker, and a new wave Dee Snider from Twisted Sister. At least he can sing.
After hitching a ride on a space shuttle that has so conveniently decided to return to Earth around the very same time that Vlad is planning to take over the world, our first glance of Vampirella is in an alleyway as she emerges from a waft of fog and moonlight like Kristanna Loken from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines only, you know, with a far less flattering costume and comic book karate chops instead of super cool laser-guns for arms.
Anyway, she saves a young Forrest J. Ackerman (played by David B. Katz) from some thugs and decides to inexplicably follow him home where she proceeds to tell him her complicated origin story before using the advances technology of his home computer (wowy-zowy!) to find the location of Vlad's evil henchmen #1. She then lays a wet one of Forry and leaves, but not before Forry grants her the title of Vampirella by combining her name (Ella) with "the vampire girl" even though she never once bore her fangs or remotely mentioned being a vampire in front of him. It was a nice enough sentiment, though, I suppose.
A naked chick with fangs?! This might be so hot... if it made any sense in the film AT ALL.
Special effects and costume design border of the edge of no-budget with scenes of vampires burning in the sun consisting of nothing more than sizzling sound effects and spotlights, relatively minimal sets, and inexcusable transformation sequences that hearken back to John Carradine's silhouetted transformation into a bat in House of Dracula. Random bits of topless women only add to the bizarre spectacle rather than coming across as much welcomed scenes of gratuitous nudity. Likewise the rest of the film sort of devolves into some convoluted plan by Vlad to block out the entire sun, super-macho slugfests between a horde of extras, and an anti-climatic battle between Vampirella and Vlad. (Note: vampires look much less scary when they run.)
In the end, it all manages to be rather entertaining in spite of itself. It's not much worse than other guilty pleasures like Howard the Duck or Masters of the Universe and even manages to eek past Bloodrayne in terms of being the second worst film with a female vampire lead. Strangely enough, there did seem to be plans for a sequel entitled Death's Dark Avenger that was promoted at after the credits even though the ending to the film didn't insinuate a need for another entry into the series. Here's hoping with interest in the character rising due to Dynamite Entertainment's recent purchase of the property and subsequent publication of a new Vampirella series the time might be right for a proper big screen remake. Just saying.
The second Vampirella film that never was and never will be.