This is one of those stories where a studio head says “What the heck. Let’s make a movie.”
Scriptwriter Tom Holland was a successful writer and wanted to direct his next script, a horror film. Horror was in during the 80s, but vampire films were in short supply (this was two years before “The Lost Boys”, and vampires were the topic of this script.
Roddy McDowell makes the movie for me. He plays Peter Vincent, a combination of Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. In fact, Vincent Price was the first choice to play the part but couldn’t do it. McDowell has a blast. Peter Vincent had a career in old, cheap vampire movies, overacting and killing vampires. Now he plays late night UHF horror movie host on local tv.
Chris Sarandon plays the evil vampire. Well, that’s what his teenage neighbor thinks. The teen, played by William Ragsdale, is sure he saw the vampire kill someone through his window. No one believes him.
His friends coerce ($$) Peter Vincent to verify if this neighbor is indeed a vampire, as if Peter Vincent knows anything.
It’s a simple script, but some pretty good drama. I’m a sucker for “no one believes the kid” movies, and Sarandon is actually a threatening villain. It becomes quite the battle by the end, but through it all, it’s McDowell who has the crisis of faith that he must overcome to have any success, in life or in saving lives.
It wasn’t supposed to be a hit or make money, but it sure was successful. It tripled its budget in box office, being the highest grossing horror film of the year without a Freddy Krueger in it.
It’s just plain fun. The teens act like teens, and they each have their “coming of age” moments in the film. Peter Vincent gets his chance to be the hero he always played. And being a vampire looked cool.
Skip the 21st century remake, and give the original film another take.
Watch Roddy McDowell chew the scenery after killing one vampire-turned-wolf before he heads to the house of the real vampire. His empathy shows the reluctant hero who almost regrets what he had to do to survive. Gets me every time.