Despite good performances, a surfeit of style over substance transforms this ambitious movie into just one more anemic vampire picture.
The setting is present-day London. Still trying to deal with her boyfriend's death in a car explosion, Anne (Suzanna Hamilton) takes a job as a librarian in a "Library of Mysticism and the Occult," run by Denise (Marian Diamond). Anne immediately catches the tortured eye of regular researcher Alex
(Julian Sands), an ageless vampire, who preys for sustenance on the homeless and street criminals. Alex begins shyly following Anne, who is the perfect embodiment of Virginia (Hamilton), the true love of his life, who was killed in the late 1800s. Sensing a soulmate, Anne begins to open up to his
hesitant advances, but she is dogged by another mysterious, and more menacing figure, Edgar (Kenneth Cranham), who is also trailing Alex. Edgar finally warns Anne that Alex is a vampire and gives her some of his letters to Virginia as proof. Edgar's agenda finally becomes clear; he is actually
Virginia's husband, a vampire himself; grieving her loss, he seeks revenge on Alex.
It is shortly revealed that Edgar killed Anne's boyfriend as well as a library patron (Michael Kenton) who figured out his identity. Anne confronts Alex and tries to kill him; then later, in pity and love, offers herself to him as a vampiric mate, but Alex cannot do the deed. Edgar kidnaps Anne
and, with her unconscious body wrapped in ribbons like a gift, draws Alex into a trap. The pair fight; Alex impales Edgar and tosses him into the Thames. However, Anne is dead, and Alex, too late to revive her with his blood, realizes he has now lost a second great love.
Co-written by Shimako Sato, who also directed, Carolyn McLeod, and Jane Corbett, TALE OF A VAMPIRE presents one of the gentlest bloodsuckers in screen history. As effectively played by Julian Sands, the daylight-wandering scholar Alex is alone, tortured, and sensitive, like an undead New Age camp
follower. Like its antihero, the film is mournfully existential to a fault--if Sartre had written a Dracula story, this would be it--and first-time director Sato has helmed with skill and remarkable self-assurance, although her end-product is ultimately unsatisfying. The narrative is slow and
stately, with Zubin Mistry's camera sinuously prowling, often dazzlingly, around the sets (beautifully designed by Alice Normington) and characters. Lyrical to a fault, the film's fore-and-aft quotations from Poe's "Annabel Lee" perfectly set the tone of fairy tale or legend and, along with the
flashback sequences filling in Alex and Virginia's grandly tragic love, reveals an interesting element of the vampire's emotional needs and sexual passion, elements mostly missing in genre horror.
The performances by Sands, Hamilton (a fan of hers, Sato wrote the part for her), and Cranham are excellent, although the latter's last-reel character revelation and behavior (including attempted necrophilia) are stopgap ludicrous. Produced, quite amazingly, for about $1 million and shot in the
surprisingly spooky-looking Deptford dock areas of South London, the movie premiered at the 1992 London Festival but went straight-to-video in the US in 1994. (Violence, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: R
- Review: Despite good performances, a surfeit of style over substance transforms this ambitious movie into just one more anemic vampire picture. The setting is present-day London. Still trying to deal with her boyfriend's death in a car explosion, Anne (Suzanna Ha… (more)