‘She’s waiting to love you… to death’
The Velvet Vampire – also known as Cemetery Girls and The Waking Hour – is a low-budget American vampire horror film from 1971, directed by Stephanie Rothman from a screenplay by Charles S. Swartz, Maurice Jules and herself. It was produced and distributed by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures.
The lead character’s name “Diane Le Fanu” was a reference to author Sheridan Le Fanu, writer of Carmilla.
The film stars Celeste Yarnall (Beast of Blood), Michael Blodgett and Sherry Miles.
Sleepy-eyed nice guy Lee Ritter (Michael Blodgett) and his vapid, but pretty wife, Susan (Sherry Miles) accept the invitation of mysterious vixen Diane LeFanu (Celeste Yarnall) to visit her in her secluded desert estate.
Tensions arise when the couple, unaware at first that Diane is in reality a centuries-old vampire, realise that they are both objects of the pale temptress’ seductions…
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Roger Corman later claimed he was disappointed with the final product and released it on a double-bill with an Italian horror movie, Scream of the Demon Lover.
Director Stephanie Rothman admitted the film’s commercial reception was disappointing. She thought the problem may have been the movie “fell between two stools. It’s not a traditional horror film nor a hard-core exploitation movie. In some places it was booked into art theatres.”
” … this is a visually inventive film which makes excellent use of strikingly shot Californian locations to lend an air of incongruity to its tale of a lady vampire (Yarnall) stalking her prey among the West Coast culturati. However, apart from being indifferently acted, the film suffers from a rudimentary narrative.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror
“Rothman’s arty direction is at times quite imaginative, including a dream sequence where Diane bursts out of a window to interrupt the couple from their love making (their bed being in the middle of the desert) as well as where Diane lies obsessively on top of the perfectly preserved corpse of her buried husband.” George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In
“… has strong sexual overtones that heighten the suspense … There’s time wasted with desert dune-buggy footage, but once Yarnall focuses on her targets, male and female, the going gets sensuous. How the vampire is laid to rest belongs to the Flower Child Generation.” John Stanley, Creature Features
“Likely to disappoint on all fronts, The Velvet Vampire‘s basically a poor man’s rehashing of Daughters of Darkness and Vampyros Lesbos … The characters are exceedingly annoying … Little in the film is surprising except, perhaps, the lack of a lesbian love scene.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
“The acting is totally breadbasket in the typical New World house style, but the locations are exploited to unsettling effect. And Diane, riding around in her dune buggy or scoffing raw liver while clad in chic marabou, is a femme fatale and a half.” Anne Bilson, Time Out London
Cast and characters:
- Celeste Yarnall as Diane LeFanu
- Michael Blodgett as Lee Ritter
- Sherry Miles as Susan Ritter
- Gene Shane as Carl Stoker
- Jerry Daniels as Juan
- Sandy Ward as Amos
- Paul Prokop as Cliff
- Chris Woodley as Cliff’s Girl
- Robert Tessier as The Biker
- Johnny Shines as The Bluesman
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