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Embrace of the Vampire Blu-ray Review

Embrace of the Vampire (1995) Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Embrace of the Vampire

Video Debut: May 30, 1995 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: Unrated (Original Cut: R)

Director: Anne Goursaud / Writers: Halle Eaton, Nicole Coady, Rick Bitzelberger

Cast: Alyssa Milano (Charlotte Wells), Martin Kemp (Vampire), Harrison Pruett (Chris), Jordan Ladd (Eliza), Rachel True (Nicole), Charlotte Lewis (Sarah), Jennifer Tilly (Martika), Rebecca Ferratti (Princess), Glori Gold (Nymph I), Shawna Ryan (Nymph II), Sarina Allen (Nymph III), Robbin Julien (Rob)

1.85:1 Widescreen / Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish / Not Closed Captioned
Blu-ray Release Date: October 15, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25) / Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($14.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video
Previously released by New Line Home Video as R-Rated & Unrated DVD (November 2, 1999)
and Sell-Through R-Rated VHS (August 5, 1997)

Buy Embrace of the Vampire (1995) from Amazon.com: Blu-ray • 2013 DVD • 1999 DVD • Instant Video • VHS

Alyssa Milano grew up on television, spending sixteen of her first thirty-two years as a primetime series regular.
In the six years between the end of "Who's the Boss?" and the beginning of "Charmed", Milano did what any seasoned starlet would do: attempt a movie career. Not all that surprisingly, the 19-year-old Milano landed roles in then commonplace television movies. She became the second of three actresses to portray Amy Fisher, doing so in CBS' Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story (1993). She also took second billing in Confessions of a Sorority Girl, part of Showtime's 1994 Rebel Highway series of 1950s B-movie tributes.

Theatrical credits were hard to come by. The actress found work in a variety of efforts that all seem ill-advised today, from the college comedy Little Sister to the independent action thriller Conflict of Interest to the all-around feeble video game adaptation Double Dragon. By the mid-'90s, Milano seemed determined to shed her image as Samantha Micelli, the sweet, educated sitcom daughter of Tony Danza's housekeeper. To do that, Milano wound up shedding her clothes in a number of trashy-looking, direct-to-video B-movies. They didn't do much to advance her film career, but they at least established her as an adult actress. A recurring role on "Melrose Place" soon followed, which she would leave to play one of the three good witch sisters in another long-running Aaron Spelling drama, "Charmed."

Now 40, Milano is one of those child actors whom young stardom did not screw up. In addition to the occasional film and television role, including the lead in ABC's off-season drama "Mistresses", Milano is the new host of Lifetime's latest season of "Project Runway: All Stars", premiering tonight. She's still famous and likable enough to have picked up over 2.5 million followers for her very active Twitter feed. And though she has a husband and a young child, she doesn't seem to have any plans to let her celebrity expire in favor of family life.

Seemingly the best-remembered product of Milano's short-lived Drew Barrymore-esque bad girl phase, the 1995 movie Embrace of the Vampire is getting newfound attention this month because it has inspired an unlikely remake of the same name. The remake's direct-to-video release has also prompted distributor Anchor Bay Entertainment to give the Milano original a new DVD and its very first Blu-ray.

The 1995 film "Embrace of the Vampire" finds college freshman Charlotte Wells (Alyssa Milano) being stalked by a vampire (Martin Kemp) with three days to avoid eternal rest.

Embrace (whose title screen officially calls it The Nosferatu Diaries: Embrace of the Vampire) casts Milano as a good girl. College freshman Charlotte Wells was raised by nuns and only allowed to visit her mother one weekend a month. That Catholic boarding school upbringing is reflected in the crucifix on her dorm wall, the cross she wears around her neck, and her reluctance to have sex with Chris (the late Harold Pruett), her mildly impatient boyfriend of fourteen months.

Before meeting Charlotte, we are introduced to an unnamed British-accented vampire (Martin Kemp, who is no Nicolas Cage despite a slight physical resemblance), who explains via absurd narration that he is lonely, having lost the love of his life (to silicone-enhanced nymphs). Somehow, he's found her soul inside Charlotte and he has just three days to make her desire him or else he will fall into eternal sleep. Charlotte is turning 18 in three days, though the two events are not explicitly linked.

Not much of anything is made very clear in the screenplay attributed to three novice writers. Of them, only Rick Bitzelberger continued his career beyond a couple of movies. His résumé, which begins with producing credits on early '90s Penthouse videos and proceeds to include episodes of the Cinemax series "Erotic Confessions", gives you a good idea of what to expect from this film. It's softcore, late-night cable fodder with only the slightest semblance of a plot.

1990s college girls (Alyssa Milano, Rachel True, and Jordan Ladd) watch and comment upon the mating habits of their dormmate. Jennifer Tilly appears briefly as Martika, a vampiress who tempts and delays Charlotte's boyfriend Chris (Harold Pruett).

Milano is game for the ride, which finds her posing topless for a promiscuous English hobby photographer in her dorm (the long-retired Charlotte Lewis, The Golden Child) and then being drugged with "X" by a catty rival (Jordan Ladd), prompting a vision of a random vampiric orgy. Such sequences are decidedly lacking titillation in the hands of first-time feature director Anne Goursaud, a longtime editor for Francis Ford Coppola who soon returned to that profession, but not for Coppola.

Still, they seem of greater importance to the film than whatever is going on with the creepy, dramatic vampire/stalker who snatches one of Charlotte's crosses, burns it into oblivion in his hand and replaces it with an ankh that sometimes glows. He also makes her look crazy during an art history lecture.

With modest production value and limited genre appeal, Embrace lends itself to "Mystery Science Theater 3000" treatment, only its content prevents it from translating to basic cable standards and practices.

New Line Home Video's DVD of the film, released all the way back in the fall of 1999, presented Embrace in both unrated and R-rated versions. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray and DVD don't even bother with the latter, presenting only the unrated cut, with its one extra minute of sexual content.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The picture quality on Embrace of the Vampire's Blu-ray is better than expected for a low-budget, straight-to-video '90s movie. The 1.85:1 presentation does not compare to those of modern films, lacking the sharpness and definition. But the element stays clean and consistently fine. Likewise, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is fairly solid. You can tell it's a little limited and, for some reason, much of the dialogue seems to have been looped in post-production. Nonetheless, the dialogue is mostly intelligible, crisp, and complemented by competently distributed score (which mostly sounds like the generic accompaniment to cheesy syndicated action fantasy television). English SDH and Spanish subtitles are kindly included, while the presumably open matte 1.33:1 alternate "fullscreen" presentation of New Line's DVD obviously is not.

Charlotte's (Alyssa Milano) ankh amulet glows at a party where she is uncomfortable. The vampire (Martin Kemp) gets real weird with it.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The disc opens with trailers for the 2010 I Spit on Your Grave remake and Lovelace. That's right, counterintuitively, the platter avoids any mention of the remake concurrently released to DVD and Blu-ray combo pack.
And that's it in the way of bonus features. Not that Embrace '95 loses anything of note from New Line's DVD (which was still enough of a novelty to tout "Interactive Menus!" as a selling point), just the abbreviated R-rated cut and cast & crew biographies and filmographies.

Speaking of interactive menus, Embrace surprisingly gets a creative animated one on Blu-ray, which plays clips in a pool that shimmers with moonlight. I'm not sure what it has to do with the movie, but it took effort. Per Anchor Bay's standard authoring, though the disc supports bookmarks (a useful feature for those wanting to skip straight to the nude scenes), it sadly does not resume unfinished playback.

The eco-friendly keepcase is not joined by any slipcover or insert, but the disc at least features a label adapted from the recycled cover art.

Charlotte (Alyssa Milano) finds herself in the middle of a vampiric orgy.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I'm so nostalgic for the 1990s and admiring of its cinema that I figured the original Embrace of the Vampire would hold some appeal simply as a product of its time. But, although this strikes me as one of the few feature films to center on '90s college life, it's dead on arrival as a piece of storytelling. While not camp enough to enjoy ridiculing, it's nowhere near satisfaction to appreciate in whatever way intended. That the movie has endured at all, enough to hit Blu-ray before many a classic (including the hilarious The Vampire's Kiss) and with an impressive under-2,000 Amazon sales rank far better than its remake's, seems purely a testament to its oft-cited nudity. It's that content that seems to inspire the rear cover's two amusing endorsements, from MrSkin.com (which dubs it "the #1 sexiest horror film of all time!") and the more respectable Entertainment Weekly (which claims it "packs a substantial erotic punch!" in a C- review).

Anchor Bay's Blu-ray treats the unrated cut of the film to adequate high definition picture and sound. It's tough to imagine what part of that inspires a purchase of this basic presentation from anything but nude scene connoisseurs. Still, that impressive sales rank with minimal promotion suggests there are a lot of those out there.

Buy Embrace of the Vampire (1995) from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray / 2013 DVD / 1999 DVD / Instant Video / VHS

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Related Reviews:
New: Embrace of the Vampire (2013) • Plush • Halloween • I Married a Witch • The Conjuring
Alyssa Milano: Glory Daze • Hall Pass • Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure • Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2
Vamps • Bram Stoker's Dracula • The Twilight Saga: Eclipse • Fright Night (2011) • Let Me In • Dark Shadows • Teen Wolf
Jennifer Tilly: The Haunted Mansion • Monsters, Inc.
1990s on Blu-ray: Clueless • Senseless • RoadRacers • The Faculty • The Usual Suspects • Heavyweights • Ransom

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Reviewed October 24, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1995 New Line Home Video, The Ministry of Film,General Media Entertainment, Moving Pictures I, Twelve One Entertainment,
and 2013 Anchor Bay Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.