Vampire – TV movie, USA, 1979

Vampire is a 1979 American horror made-for-television feature film directed by E.W. Swackhamer (Terror at London Bridge) from a screenplay by Steven Bochco and Michael Kozoll. It stars Richard Lynch, E.G. Marshall, Jason Miller and Jessica Walter.

Plot:

Leading San Francisco architect John Rawlins is hired by the mysterious Anton Voytek to excavate the old ruined Heidecker Estate. A vast treasure trove of artworks worth more than $25 million is uncovered. Rawlins’s wife Leslie discovers that all of the artworks have been stolen over the centuries.

Arrested, Voytek swears vengeance. Bailed out, he turns up at Rawlins’ home and seduces Leslie. Rawlins returns home to find her dead. He becomes obsessed with revenge against Voytek. Breaking into Voytek’s apartment, he flees after discovering him sleeping in a coffin. After being placed in a psychiatric institution, he is freed by former police detective Harry Kilcoyne who believes his story because of a similar experience on the force. Together the two of them team up to eliminate the vampire Voytek…

Review:

ABC’s Vampire is essentially a modern-day (1979) reworking of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Splendidly directed by E.W. Swackhamer, it’s a solid production with just enough tweak to make the centenarian plot a fresh one. Steven Bochco, who also executive produced, and Michael Kozoll deliver a nearly impeccable script that intelligently and subtly updates the desired Gothic tropes, perfectly mingling traditional vampire lore with 20th century sensibilities.

Fred Karlin provides an excellent score, with touches of tinkling harpsicord and gloomy oboe in order to evoke regal mystery. Cinematographer Dennis Dalzell negotiates the maze of established shadowy symbolism and modern expectations beautifully, enhancing the venerable mythology while simultaneously respecting it.

The cast is exemplary, each playing their warmly familiar characters: Richard Lynch as the menacingly elegant vampire, Prince Anton Voytek; Jason Miller as the Jonathan Harkeresque John Rawlins; E. G. Marshall as the police detective equivalent of Professor Van Helsing, Harry Kilcoyne; the female co-stars – Kathryn Harrold as Leslie Rawlins, Jessica Walter as Nicole DeCamp, and Barrie Youngfellow as Andrea Parker – offer-up fine performances, with their characters intermingling traits from the original counterparts from Stoker’s Dracula as well as taking on some of the aspects of the male characters from the book. Harrold’s Leslie Rawlins is essentially a mix of both Mina Harker and Lucy Westenra; Walter’s DeCamp takes on the role of estate agent performed by Jonathan Harker in the original novel; and Youngfellow’s Andrea Parker inherits the position of Mina Harker from Kathryn Harrold.

Presumably, this mish-mashing is done to streamline the story, move things along, and set things up for a TV series spin-off which is hinted at as this was apparently a pilot. Regardless of the changes, ABC’s Vampire is an agreeable mix of late-70s police procedural and monster hunt, similar in vein to ABC’s earlier success, The Night Stalker (1972).

A brief, but welcome, cameo by Joe Spinell (Maniac) as Captain Desher doesn’t hurt, either. Vampire (1979) is a distinguished yet rarely seen gem well worth any serious horror fan’s time.

Ben Spurling, HORRORPEDIA

Other reviews:

“Richard Lynch’s Voytek has more personality than Barry Atwater in The Night Stalker and is certainly a more engaged modern vampire than say Dracula was in Dracula A.D. 1972 – but not that much. We never see him drinking blood, for one. The other flaw of the show is E.W. Swackhamer’s workmanlike and dull direction…” Richard Scheib, Moria

Cast and characters:

  • Richard Lynch … Anton Voytek
  • Jason Miller … John Rawlins –The Exorcist
  • E.G. Marshall … Harry Kilcoyne – Creepshow
  • Kathryn Harrold … Leslie Rawlins
  • Jessica Walter … Nicole DeCamp
  • Barrie Youngfellow … Andrea Parker
  • Michael Tucker … Christopher Bell
  • Jonelle Allen … Brandy
  • Scott Paulin … Father Hanley
  • Joe Spinell … Captain Desher

Thanks to Moria for the synopsis

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