By WALLACE McBRIDE
In 2007, David Chase decided to end THE SOPRANOS on a note of ambiguity. It created such uproar that people who never watched the series even felt compelled to develop an opinion about it.
Here’s a rough version of how THE SOPRANOS ended: A stranger approaches a restaurant table where mobster Tony Soprano is sitting with his family. Until this moment, the scene has been composed to create a feeling of vague menace. We never find out who the stranger is, though, because the scene cuts to a black screen before the credits roll, denying us a firm resolution to the episode, the season and the entire series.
Except, it really didn't. We know how Tony Soprano’s story ends. He might not have met his fate at the end of that particular episode, but it’s only a matter of time before his number comes up. People who wanted a more concrete ending probably had no real appreciation for the show beyond its pageantry of violence.
But I’m not here to talk about THE SOPRANOS. Instead, let’s consider the ending of 1972’s GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE, a horror film that also doubled as Chase’s first credited screenwriting gig. Where THE SOPRANOS ended on a note of subtlety, GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE has the kind of ending so corny it would make even R.L. Stine groan. As the final scene fades to black, the following words hover into view in a bold sans serif font: “THE END OR IS IT?”
|Subtlety, thy name is GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE.|
Well, it’s not the only difference. GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE is a vile piece of shit, falling somewhere on the spectrum between Bosnian pornography and a snuff film. It’s a movie that manages to wring terrible performances from otherwise decent actors, bringing the median cast performance level down to that of a high school play stocked entirely with understudies. GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE is mean, gross, and offensively stupid, and is better suited for the trenchcoat-and-sunglasses crowd found sitting in the back rows of a stroke house.
|It was also the first movie shot in Rape-O-Vision.|
The survivor later gives birth to Croft’s child, who turns his nose up at breast milk and formula, preferring to drink his mother’s blood. Despite the nutritional deficiency that surely accompanied such a diet, the baby grows up to become burly B-movie icon William Smith.
|The '70s just happened.|
“Can I make you some spaghetti?”These lines are traded as the actors face each other, standing as woodenly as is they were worried about setting off a motion detector. I’d love to have heard what the cast had to say about the script on the set. Did they know how terrible it was? Was this delivery some kind of revenge against the director? Was someone standing off-camera, forcing them to make this movie at gunpoint?
“Some Chianti, then?”
“Do you have a corkscrew?”
“Cake is so delicious, I can’t believe dead people haven’t found a way to eat it.” An actor actually had to say that.
|Food before one is just for fun.|
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It’s worth mentioning that his victims don’t become vampires, as is the traditional method of undead reproduction since Bram Stoker’s novel was published. There’s nothing in the film that suggests there’s any other way to make a vampire than traditional pregnancy. Perhaps Croft is just cautious. Until the film’s final scene, where Smith sprouts some surprisingly silly dental work, Croft is the only vampire we meet in the film.
Which, given film’s utter lack of charm, is probably for the best.
(Wallace McBride is the editor of THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY.)