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Alex (Julian Sands) is a young vampire condemned to roam the streets of London, eternally seeking his lost love. Forced to satiate his lust for blood, Alex finds himself becoming obsessed with a mortal woman called Anna (Suzanna Hamilton), but at the same time is perturbed by the constant presence of the sinister Edgar (Kenneth Cranham).
A cross-cultural oddity, Tale of a Vampire feels like a 1970s British horror movie retranslated from the Japanese and mounted as a vehicle for Julian Sands. Director-writer Shimako Sato takes a gloom-haunted approach to the undead, allegedly influenced by the necrophile romanticism of Edgar Allan Poe (it claims to be based on Poe's poem "Annabel Lee") but also draws on the popular blood-sucking posiness of Anne Rice's bestselling novels. Alex (Sands), is a style-conscious vampire whose white shirts are always immaculate although he spends most of his nights messily pouring gore over his face. Living in a spartan docklands pad, Alex haunts a library of long-forgotten lore where he sets his cap at a young woman (Suzanna Hamilton) who may be the reincarnation of his lost love. Unfortunately, a hat-wearing rival vampire (Kenneth Cranham) has been nurturing a grudge against Alex for lifetimes and sticks his oar in, complicating the relationship between vampire and willing victim, setting up for a big stake-shoving climax.
For all its vampire feuds and dodgily S&M-flavoured blood-drinking scenes, this is somewhat staid and solemn, with few locations and a low budget abstraction reminiscent of those old episodes of The Avengers where they could only afford to build a corner of a set and there wasn't any money left to hire actors. While Sands, with aptly vampirish poise, and Cranham, with a sinister Southern accent, are interesting and poised antagonists, making the most of Sato's allusive dialogue, heroine Hamilton lets the side down with an awkward performance that hardly suggests anyone worth giving up immortality for. Cranham's character is supposed to be Poe himself, oddly transformed from his historical stature: he seems to have put on a bit of weight since his death in 1849, but Cranham's sly nasty way of ordering gruesome nouvelle cuisine and tormenting a harmless crackpot is aptly Poeish. The slow-paced film takes a long time to confirm what is obvious from the outset (even from the title) and then shudders to a halt with all the characters' fates left vague. However, it has a unique and disturbing atmosphere--the few familiar vampire images of a bloody Sands are outweighed by weirder moments like Cranham's presentation of a pale Hamilton, tied to a bed with red ribbons, as an offering to his nemesis--that makes it more insidiously memorable than many of its higher-budgeted, splashier cousins.
On the DVD: A no-frills (no trailer, no cast notes, no nothing), full-screen presentation, which sometimes cramps Sato's careful compositions, this also has a mixed blessing transfer which lends a mouldy or rusty fuzz to some of the blacks in the many night scenes. There is, however, a nice animated menu. --Kim NewmanSee all Product Description