Grave of the Vampire (John Hayes / U.S., 1974):

From Salem to Berkeley, the sins of the father. The opening is set in the vague 1940s and pivots on a deadpan reflection on "necking": Boston frat-dude and coed make out in the cemetery, out of the crypt lurches the desiccated ghoul (Michael Pataki) seeking youth to feed on, he’s killed and she’s raped. The potential vampire-hunter (Eric Mason) has his head promptly crushed by a coffin lid, the better to instead follow the Rosemary’s Baby-isms of "the Unwilling Mother" (Kitty Vallacher), who has to prick her own breasts to gorily nourish her gray-skinned infant. Dissolve to a groovy later decade, where the strapping mixed-blood bloke (William Smith) vengefully tracks down his progenitor and finds him teaching "folk mythology and the occult" in California. "The night classes are really much more interesting," purrs the student (Diane Holden) with a yen for the morbidly lyrical (cf. Siodmak’s Son of Dracula). Usually left out of the Sisters-Deathdream-Martin canon of radical ‘70s horror visions, John Hayes’ obscure, potent nightmare has Murnauian oppressions and awakenings, the all-engulfing chiaroscuro of shoestring cinematography, the strangulation of family ties (Sopranos creator David Chase wrote the screenplay). The tragic hero sleeps with the reincarnation of his father’s wife (Lyn Peters) but the undead patriarchal order still has the hissing last word ("Be damned!"), here the blood is not on Oedipus’ eyes but in his fangs. With Lieux Dressler, Jay Adler, Margaret Fairchild, and Jay Scott.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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