Embrace of the Vampire

Film review by Thomas M. Sipos




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Embrace of the Vampire  (1987, dir: Anne Goursaud, cast: Alyssa Milano, Martin Kemp, Charlotte Lewis, Rachel True, Jennifer Tilly, Harrison Pruett, Jordan Ladd)




Alyssa Milano's mother (who is also her manager) has made a crusade of tracking down nudie pics of her daughter on the internet. She's denounced such websites' "exploitation" on national TV, and has even developed a side business as a cybercop, lending her web-busting skills to other stars. Milano's mother/manager could have saved herself the trouble had she instead steered her daughter away from doing this film.

Embrace of the Vampire is softcore horror porn, and the source for many of those Milano skin pics. Maybe it seemed a good idea at the time. After TV's Who's the Boss was canceled (but before Charmed returned Milano to star status) Milano was just another unemployed former child actress. I dunno, maybe it seemed like a good career move at the time.

Milano stated in interviews that she wanted to demonstrate that she was not the goody-two-shoes girl she'd played in Who's the Boss. In other words, she wanted to "grow" as an actress. So she did Embrace of the Vampire, in which she goes topless in several scenes, engages in a lesbian romp with Charlotte Lewis, and participates in orgies with characters tonguing various parts of her nude body.

Mission accomplished.

Actually, Embrace of the Vampire uses Milano's virginal image from Who's the Boss by casting her as ... a virgin. A virgin whose boobs are straining against her too-tight blouse and who undresses before her boyfriend (albeit asking him not to look), but still, a virgin. A virgin who dreams of orgies and fondles lesbians and doesn't know why.

Here's why: Milano is the reincarnation of Martin Kemp's true love. Some 300 years ago, a pack of scantily clad vampresses turned Kemp into a vampire during a blood orgy. Now that he's rediscovered Milano, he has three nights to rekindle her love for him. If so, they will live forever as vampires. If not, he dies and loses her forever.

Why the sudden three-night deadline? Why not.

The plot and motivations are paper thin, as is typical of porn. Milano wanders around campus, wondering why she's having so many sexual dreams, even daydreams. Her boyfriend wanders about, wondering if she's so pure. Kemp wanders about, seen by Milano but often not by others.  Lewis wanders about for some bisexual action. Other collegiates wander about their parties and campus back alleys for some hetero action. Amid all this wandering there's much carnal action, and more carnal dreaming. Occasionally, Kemp kills someone for dissing Milano.

John Stanley (in his Creature Features movie guide) correctly refers to it as a "meandering, almost formless script."

Kemp has the best lines. Like many vampires, he agonizes and suffers a hyper-romantic vampire angst over a lost love. His appearance is a touch effeminate (too much eyeliner), but it lends an appropriate sinister element to his character. He is part romantic vampire, part bloodthirsty beast.  Lewis's small part is pointless to the "story." All that's required is that she undress, and when she does, it was worth the wait. Rachel True (The Craft) has an even smaller role, the fate of all the characters who keep their clothes on.

All of the above three are more interesting, more charismatic, than Milano or her boyfriend. At film's end, Kemp's tearful bloodthirsty angst, and Milano's tearful rediscovery of her love, the "tragic" star-crossed ending, and the Christian iconography, all mirror Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992). One senses that director Goursaud was trying to rise above her porn material.

However, this is no poor woman's Bram Stoker's Dracula. Milano is no Winona Ryder and Kemp is no Gary Oldman. For that matter, none of the other talent on this film compare to their counterparts. And the budget just isn't there. The strength of low-budget horror is a gritty authenticity, which this film tries to hide rather than utilize.



How low was the budget? Listen, I was an extra on both Bram Stoker's Dracula and Embrace of the Vampire. (In both instances, I kept my clothes on.)

I worked one day on Embrace of the Vampire. Don't look for me, I ended up on the cutting room floor, and extras are rarely mentioned in credits. But let me tell you an "inside story" on the making of this film:

We were shooting in a nightclub on the Sunset Strip. The extras were divided into three camps: union, nonunion, and Modesto extras. Union extras earn the most, especially once overtime kicks in, so they were wrapped after eight hours (they were only hired in the first place to fill a union quota). This was during my nonunion days (I'm in SAG now), so I put in a full 14 hours, after which we were paid in cash and wrapped. The Modesto extras were still working when we left.

Now what, you may ask, is a Modesto extra? I also wondered, and so I asked one. I was told they were from an acting class in Modesto, California. They had been bussed in to work on the film as part of a "class assignment." In other words, they were PAYING to come to work.

There's not a whole lot to learn about being an extra. It's neither glamourous nor difficult. And nonunion extra jobs for twentysomethings are VERY EASY to come by. The lampposts in Los Angeles are covered with flyers seeking cattle, ehr, extras. I did it for the cash, and because if you do it often enough, you increase your chances of getting into the union (which I did, after some 13 grueling months).

NEVER PAY for the "chance" to be an extra, not in Los Angeles. I made the mistake of volunteering to be an extra a few times, but wised up after a few months. My guess is the producers of Embrace of the Vampire paid this acting teacher to bus down some cattle, and paid far less than even nonunion extras cost. I know this teacher was getting paid by the students, and that they were not getting paid to be on the film.

Another inside story: Someone stole a silver pin belonging to a crew member. She was near tears because it had sentimental value. Never leave anything of value lying around on a set.

And some trivia: John Stanley says this film was "originally conceived as The Nosferatu Diaries," but on the set, we were told the working title was The Collector.

Embrace of the Vampire is a decent time-killer ... barely. If you're looking for horror, there are hundreds of better films. Dozens of better vampire films. Even many superior erotic vampire films -- Vampyres (British, 1975) comes to mind.

But if you're looking for Milano nudies, this is the film to see.

Review copyright by Thomas M. Sipos


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