Vampirella (1996) — Space vampires go to war on earth, as told by Roger Corman

“At the risk of sounding egotistical, I am stronger than anyone.”

Flinthart’s rating: Look, my dad used to read the old Vampirella comics, and I always got them when he was done. I really wanted something to like in this… but it just isn’t there. You can watch it for the stupidity, the cheesiness, and of course for Daltrey’s singularly insane performance, but overall? Two out of seven gratuitous boobs, and that’s being generous.

Flinthart’s review: Stay with me, folks. This one needs some introduction.

Back in the dim, dark ages of the 1960s, a mob called Warren Publishing did a stable of B&W horror comics including titles such as Creepy and Eerie. In 1959, they added a third horror mag to their stable. It was a sort of anthology thing, and the gimmick was that the stories were introduced (and more or less curated) by an uber-babe vampire in an unfeasibly skimpy outfit. The uber-babe may or may not have been created by one Forrest J Ackerman, but he did provide her with her name (after seeing the film Barbarella, apparently). And within a year or so, Vampirella went on to star in her own comic book stories.

Flash forward to 1996, and for some reason there’s a movie. Also, Roger Corman is involved. (Record scratch!)

It’s hard to go much farther, to be honest. For a film from the nineties, Vampirella really looks like one of those desperately tragic TV pilots from the seventies. But I’ve gotta write this farnarkling review, so I guess I’d better take a stab at a synopsis.

Okay, so thirty centuries on the planet Drakulon (yes, really. Please stop interrupting or we’ll never finish this.) there exists a civilisation of humanoids who subsist entirely by drinking the blood that runs in all the rivers of their world. (Look, I told you to stop interrupting, right? I know that the idea of organic, cellular, living blood flowing in rivers without any sort of organism to give it life is insanely stupid. And no, I don’t want to try to imagine an ecology where blood somehow takes the place of water. This was all dreamed up in 1969, and you remember what they were smoking back then, right?) But on this peaceful, advanced planet there’s that one guy — there’s always that one guy, isn’t there? — who wants to be Evil Overlord Count Von Badguy or whatever, and his name is Vlad, and he’s played by (wait for it… waaaait for it…) ROGER FREAKIN’ DALTREY! Yes, that Roger Daltrey — lead singer of seminal Brit Rock band The Who! Amazing, huh?

Oh, if only. But I digress. Let me finish the bloody synopsis before I start in about Daltrey.

So Vlad and a handful of cronies manage to butcher the High Council of Drakulon in a jailbreak (I was gonna call it ‘daring,’ but honestly? Scripted, clunky, and as dumb as fangs on a vampire that evolved on a planet where blood runs in the rivers) and then escape in a convenient spaceship to yes, you guessed it, good old Earth.

Meanwhile, the daughter of the Boss Vamp of the High Council rocks up just in time to get the heart-wrenching-last-words scene in with her dying dad, who has basically been treated as a blood slurpee by evil Vlad. This daughter Ella (played by Talisa Soto) immediately swears vengeance, and shoots off after Vlad & Co, but somehow gets misdirected to Mars where she stays in some kind of lethargic stasis until a human space shuttle expedition finds her and brings her to Los Angeles.

Ella promptly rescues a maxi-nerd by the name of Forry Ackerman (David B Katz, who doesn’t even rate a mugshot on IMDB). Forry brings her up to speed, points her in the direction of a (conveniently nearby!) member of Team Vlad, and then names her ‘Vampirella’ in a horribly clumsy and overplayed nod to the original Forrest J Ackerman. Fortunately for all of us and for the memory of Ackerman himself, the character never reappears in the film. Sighs of relief from all around.

And what’s Vlad been doing all this time? Well, apparently he’s been establishing some kind of drug empire based mostly in Brazil while also moonlighting as a rock star under the name of Jamie Blood. (Okay, fine. I’ll let you take time to puke.) But arrayed against Vlad and his vamps (there’s some sort of arse-wiping technobabble about how Vlad’s people have mutated or something, and as a result their victims rise from the grave as vampires just as the mythology says. But we never see any of them do much, so who really gives a flying fart in a frakstorm?) is a Sekrit Guvvamint Ugganahzayshun with Lots of Gunzz. Chief among their operatives is square-jawed Adam Van Helsing (Richard Joseph Paul. What kind of person needs three first names, anyway?) who quickly comes into contact with Vampirella, and then the two of them set about thwarting Vlad and his Plan.

And what is this plan? Hell if I could work it out exactly. It involved satellites that were going to do something. But honestly, most of the film was really just… blither. Anyway, once Vampirella and Adam Van Helsing are captured by Team Vlad and imprisoned together and Vampirella’s Special Blood Serum is taken away so she has to fang on AVH to survive, she nevertheless displays the strength of character that sets her apart from the Vladniks by not draining AVH dry, thus allowing them to escape together and take part in the Massive Asskicking that follows. Blah blah blah.


So, where to start? Talisa Soto is appropriately attractive, but she’d have been better cast as a wooden stake, to be honest. And even though a thug early in the piece addresses her as “Miss T and A,” thus acknowledging the original Vampirella’s notably callipygian qualities, the iconic red vinyl stripper-suit hangs a little loosely on Soto’s athletic frame. The decision to downsize our heroine from a Frank Frazetta wet dream to a pleasantly human proportion is pretty surprising, given that Roger Corman had fingers in this particular pie. Does it make any real difference? Nahh. The movie’s a catastrophe, and it would have been no better if Soto had been as ludicrously pneumatic as the original comic-book character herself.

Meanwhile… Daltrey.

Dear Cthulhu! Daltrey.

The guy is/was the lead of one of the biggest rock-music phenomena ever. And yet when they show him as Jamie Blood (sporting a side-mounted hair extension that looks like Rainbow Sparkle the Unicorn took a dump on his head and somehow left half her tail entangled in the mess afterwards) doing a song in Vegas… Damn. What does it say about the acting chops of a rock star that he cannot even convince when he’s trying to play a rock star? If you walked into that Vegas show-room during the Jamie Blood performance, you’d have been in danger of lapsing into a coma of purest ennui. The Jamie Blood thing manages to make Daltrey look like a vacant, talentless poseur.

As for the rest of his performance — oh, hells. It’s like he thinks he’s in a completely different movie to everyone else. All the leaping about with his arms raised dramatically! All the gratuitous fang-flashing! And the over-wrought fleering and sneering (‘fleering’ is a real word by the way. It’s great! Look it up!) that he brings to the screen in place of menace, threat, poise, or charisma… Daltrey’s performance is so excruciatingly hammy that you could pair it with the colossal cheesiness of the script and the FX, and make the world’s biggest Flatulence Sandwich.

So, there you have it. A by-the-numbers script worthy of a B-grade comic-book from the early seventies. A lead performer who might as well be undead for all the life she brings to her role. A villain who apparently thinks he’s in a pantomime… and Roger Corman lurking somewhere in the background, threatening a sequel. (It didn’t happen. For which I am grateful.)

Didja notice?

  • Vlad is wearing cuffs, but his patented Jumping Jack And Growl routine is enough to terrify two armed guards in tragic suits left over from David Lynch’s weird-ass attempt at Dune.
  • Oh no. Did Daltrey damage his voice? Because he sounds like he’s gargling sand.
  • Oh look. There go the Arms Up In The Air again
  • “They dared to judge you, the fools?”
  • Is that tomato juice? Oh. Yes. I think it is.
  • Is that Vampirella? Huh. Looking trim and fit, there!
  • I bet that guy’s glad he got to die early in the film…
  • Los Angeles, The Present — and yet somehow, Secret Vampirehunter Adam Van Helsing manages to find a parking spot RIGHT IN FRONT of the shop that acts as a front for his Secret Vampire Hunting Base. Where does everyone else park, anyway?
  • A shooting range in the middle of a hallway? Really?
  • Oh look. A bat flew out of that Space Shuttle…
  • LA thugs are stealing Forry Ackerman’s computer so they can ‘do their graphics’?
  • Oh. There’s the Vampirella suit. That’s… not as titillating as I’d imagined, really. And… vinyl? Good thing it’s small, or she’d slither out of it from sheer sweat
  • And… Forry Ackerman just accepts the whole ‘vampire from another planet in stasis for 3000 years thing’. Actually — that sounds like something the real Ackerman would have been just fine with.
  • “Traxx? Professor Arnold Traxx?” Oh, yeah, he’s just round the corner. Lucky you came here to Los Angeles!
  • Vampires in gimp suits? Vinyl gimp suits? Why? Why? WHHHHYYYY?
  • Ugh. Is there a special school for ‘Generic Tough Guy Dialogue Delivery?’
  • Ooh. Those bat-transformation special effects are… special.
  • Uh-oh. Now they’ve added chains to the vinyl gimp-suit thing. Is this an interrogation or a homo-erotic bondage sequence? Why not both?
  • Aaaannnd… there’s Vlad, cuffed, arms in the air again. Woo!
  • One motorbike crash shot from two angles: hey, that’s TWO stunts, right?
  • Oh look. Vlad’s out of the van and there’s the Famous Jumping Jack and Snarl yet again.
  • Chew that scenery, Roger! Chew it!
  • Oh, right. Backstory. She mind-controlled those astronauts. Yep. That’s how she made it to Earth undetected. Yep. Sure.
  • Huh. Professor Steinmann is played by… Robert Clotworthy? Is that a blood clot pun? Can’t be. Still, it’s the funniest thing in this film aside from Jamie Blood’s hair extension.
  • 45 minutes, and somebody FINALLY gets their hooters out. And is it completely gratuitous? Heh. Is Roger Daltrey throwing his arms in the air unnecessarily?
  • 55 minutes. Suddenly it’s raining boobs! And of course, our hero Van Helsing is distracted long enough to get a concussion.
  • This script hurts me.
  • And there goes the arms again. Is Daltrey wishing he’d been in the Village People for the Y-M-C-A?
  • Oh. Right. The satellites are gonna blow up and block the sun for ‘a significant period of time’. Oh, the villainy.
  • ‘Some things are worth… anything.’ (SCHLRRUP! SCHMACK! MMM! GLOOP! SCHLUP!)
  • There go Vlad’s arms again. And… that’s a seriously pathetic vampire horde.
  • Worst. Motivational speech. Evar.
  • Chomp! Slurrp! Chomp! Oh, and there’s Jamie Blood’s stupid-ass song again.
  • Shoot the computers! The satellites will magically disintegrate!
  • Who gave Vlad a red-lined black silk cape? Seriously? What is this, 1931?
  • Why a hydroelectric dam?
  • Oh good. Lightning. Please let this be over soon.
  • Wow, Flaming corpse slides down the face of the dam. Actually… kind of cool.
  • Vampirella will return in “Death’s Dark Avenger”? Heh. No. She. Frocking. Won’t.


  1. I would argue that the original Vampirella character design (and her costume in particular) is less Frank Frazetta and more Boris Vallejo.

    • Doh! This is what I get for posting off the cuff and not first checking to see that Frazetta had in fact been involved with the original Vampirella comic book. Though I still maintain that she looks like someone from a Boris Vallejo piece.

      • Heh. Let that be a lesson to you. Mistah Flinthart does his research!!

        Truth be told, though, I think you’re right. The comic Vampirella looked a lot more Vallejo than Frazetta. So — peace out, fellow nerd!

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