The Vampire Happening (1974)
Continuing my Vampire Week in a crass attempt to cash in on the hype of New Moon (which I'm sure my wife will make me see a dozen times), today we have a West German vampire-ish movie from the mid 1970s, one of my favorite eras for lousy b-movies. While the title says "vampire", this movie is actually all about "boobs" and the frequent and gratuitous showing of them in every possible situation. In that way, it's everything that Twilight should have been, if it was to made appeal to 14-year old boys instead of 14-year old girls. Thankfully, there is no end to the amount of internet livejournal X-rated fan-fic about Twilight that features boobs and who-whos and gazebos and schlongs, all in gloriously sweaty detail. And furries, lots of furries.
This kid is watching Twilight II: Bite My Wanker.
On to the show...
Our heroine is Betty Williams, a famous Hollywood star whose real name is Baroness von Rabenstein, formerly of Transylvania (dumdumdum!). It took me a whole day to figure out who she looks like, and it has to be Elizabeth Montgomery from Bewitched, but if you can do better let me know. Upon receiving word of her uncle's death, Betty flies out to Romania to the ancestral castle, which is now hers. She travels alone, oddly, and arrives in a spiffy white Mercedes hardtop convertible.
Betty (she's fine).
The caretaker of the castle is an old balding man named Josef, who looks just like Mister Noodle from Sesame Street (I know, I know, I'm going to hell for even using the name Sesame Street in a review of a softcore porn/horror movie). Mister Noodle will provide us with exposition and comedy relief throughout, as well as having my grandmother's voice dubbed over his own.
Upon opening the door, Mister Noodle freaks out, it seems that Betty is a near-twin to her great-grandmother Clarimonde, a noted vampire queen in these parts. Once he's assured that Betty is just plain old Betty, Mister Noodle shows her a huge wall-size painting of a topless Clarimonde, which we see about three dozen times throughout the course of this film. This sets up a series of humorous mis-identifications as no one can seem to figure out who is who. You know, I really don't know how to write a review for a comedy movie. I love bad movies that are unintentionally funny, and can usually put out something worth reading, but not so much bad movies that are intentionally funny, I just don't know how to handle those. I think it's because it's easy to make fun of something that is really trying to be good and accurate, but when they are deliberately trying to be retarded, it takes all the fun out of it for me.
Painting of Clarimonde (not pictured: the pile of skulls she's sitting on).
Anyway, Betty is then shown around the castle, she's curious what it looks like, though she plans on selling it as soon as she can and head back to LA. Mister Noodle shows her the dungeons, stocked with various torture devices (rack, thumbscrews, shackles, Catherine wheel, etc). In a weird bit, whenever Betty looks at a device, she flashes to a scene where a nekkid young girl is being tortured (nothing gory, but she's got no pants!). She also imagines the flaming gay flight steward she met on the plane is being tortured by a skanky (-er) version of herself while wearing a Luftwaffe officer's uniform (not sure what that's all about). These scenes are the first of many, many that seem to exist solely to show boobs. Honestly, once you reach a certain age (both chronologically and in maturity) the sight of boobs on a 2-D screen loses its appeal. Maybe I'm too old? [Editor Pam: Or maybe you've reached adulthood?]
She needs to lay off the Schnaps.
To the "family vaults" (crypts) down in the basement to see the caskets of several generations of Betty's family (mostly reputed vampires). Mister Noodle tells of Clarimonde (who's also down here in a locked casket) and the danger of awaking her from her undead slumber. The name Clarimonde is surely a reference to the influential 1836 short story La Morte Amoureuse, which had a vampiress of the same name and history. Betty doesn't believe in all this vampire nonsense, but that may just be all the hairspray and LSD.
Down in the family vaults, with helpful placards on the caskets.
Later, Betty looks out a window and sees the Girls' School and the Monastery right next door. She sees a chaste, pure young monk named Martin down below, minding his own business. Since he's cute, and Betty is a slutosaurus rex, she flashes her tiny boobs at him from the upstairs window (fairly certain flashing a monk is on Saint Peter's Do-Not-Enter list). She decides to stay here in the castle a while (apparently she has nothing pressing back home in LA).
Confession for you!
Into the woods now with poor Martin, who has not recovered from the sight of nekkid boobies and is wandering around in an unfamiliar aroused state, hallucinating of boobs and coochies everywhere. Whatever nameless, forgotten actor plays Martin, he's mastered the slapstick physical comedy routine, face and body and voice and motion and all (he might be the most enjoyable thing about this movie). Betty sneaks up behind him and ambushes him, flirts outrageously with him, tricks him into grabbing her boob, and tells him to come to her castle later that night for some special one-on-one scripture reading...
Betty with Martin (Betty wears a lot of wigs).
Despite Mister Noodle's repeated warnings of Pandora-like disasters if she does, Betty goes ahead and opens the locked casket holding her great-grandmother Clarimonde the vampire queen. She then gets the willies and leaves, and Clarimonde awakes and gets out and stretches like a kitty cat. She is, of course, played by the same actress that plays Betty, with the main differences being in bloodsucking teeth (Betty none, Clarimonde two), ashen pale skin (Betty pink and healthy, Clarimonde ghastly gray), fingernail color (Betty bright red, Clarimonde onyx black), and plunging necklines (Betty...well, I guess they both like to show their boobs a lot).
Clarimonde (bra optional).
While the canine prosthetics are top notch for the film's budget, less impressive is the mouth full of silver fillings (apparently, vampires have excellent dental plans).
Martin shows up as ordered at the castle (somewhere his bible is surely on fire). However, he meets Clarimonde instead of Betty, and while both women plan to do unspeakable things to poor Martin, at least a night with Betty would only result in him having to say a thousand Hail Marys and recite Thessalonians until sundown. As it is, five minutes with Clarimonde leaves him still sexually frustrated, but dead and drained of blood.
He brought her a rose, she brought him teeth marks.
Even after they find and dispose of Martin's punctured body, Betty still doesn't believe in the vampire legends. She blames Martin's bites on rabid foxes or rats and declares that Clarimonde's empty casket must be the work of prankster kids. Mister Noodle's patience is wearing thin.
Betty goes through about fifty costume changes in this movie (not counting her lacy unmentionables).
Off now to the funeral for Martin, held outside in the courtyard and attended by the all the monks of the Monastery and all the girls of the Girls' School (as well as Betty). The portly middle-aged Abbot can't concentrate on his eulogy because of the short skirts of the underage girls and keeps stuttering about temptation and sin. This movie is rough on organized religion and I wonder if the director had a personal problem with the Church.
Don't feel bad, short skirts tend to distract me also.
Now to meet Jens, an ex-pat American teaching at the Girls' School, who we first see at Martin's funeral. As he's a hunky lunky man, Betty's naughty bits start tingling and she invites him home to her castle for the night. There is an instant chemistry between Jens and Betty and after an evening of non-biting sex in a gothic castle they become a couple for the rest of the movie. If Jens is aware that Betty is a famous Hollywood starlet, he doesn't say so and it really doesn't matter much for the plot (she could really be a janitor at a hospital in Botswana for all that it matters).
Couldn't find a decent screencap of Jens, but I did find this one of a wild grizzly bear...
To the Girls' School now, where the Lesbian Headmistress disciplines the girls when they snicker and gives harrowing lectures on fallopian tubes. She's got the short boy-haircut of all 1970s lesbians, and she is staunchly opposed to her students boinking the (less faithful) boy monks from the Monastery. Boys being boys and girls being girls, however, there are a lot of late night "bible studies" that tend to be clothing optional.
And she's wearing a tie! She must be a lesbian!
We even get the joy (yay...) of seeing two young ladies go upstairs and make out with boyfriends, boobies bouncing. From across the courtyard, the dirty-old-man Abbot watches those very same boobies bounce with a telescope. Wow, those girls don't look that old to me, maybe I shouldn't be watching this. Someone google "age of sexual consent in Germany+1974" for me, ok? I don't want to have to explain to my wife why that phrase showed up in my google search cache.
He needs a holy water bath.
With vampires out and about, and having just about enough of this tomfoolery, Mister Noodle says he's going to toss Clarimonde in her casket into the lake. He puts the casket in a box, then drags the box down to the lake and rows it out in a boat. Splash. The problem is that a workman (who is putting in a sauna for Betty) has his tools in a similar box and that's the one Mister Noodle mistakenly just sunk. Harharhar! That's comedy gold.
Rowing back to shore (dark, I know, sorry).
Clarimonde wakes that night and goes out on a hunt for yummy plasma. She goes to the bedchamber of the Abbot, who seems to be more freaked out that a pretty young girl is by his bed and less that she's a blood-sucking she-demon. There's biting, there's gasping, there's an artful trickle of stage blood, and there's one less soul that's getting into heaven.
Your mom was wrong, hiding under the covers won't keep the monsters away.
Meanwhile, the once-bitten uberhorny monk Martin emerges from his grave (as newly converted vampires are known to do) and is actually quite happy about it. Taking up the fallen standard of comic relief, he skips and dances around like he's an undead Gene Kelly and flashes us a pretty awesome set of vampire teeth. He sneaks into the Girls' School while everyone is asleep and bites the Lesbian Headmistress and two barely-legal school girls (who will themselves turn vamp later).
Martin on the prowl.
Clarimonde comes home, sated from her dinner with the Abbot, followed soon by Betty and Jens returning from a date. Mister Noodle faints when he realizes that he let both of them in unknowingly (a slight nod to the old wives' tale that a vampire can't come in unless invited?). Betty takes a bubble bath (more boobs) while Jens waits in the bed (more fur). Clarimonde changes into her Betty-wig and seduces Jens, who is either clueless enough or horny enough not to notice the difference (or if he does, it doesn't stop him from getting his swerve on). Clarimonde was going to bite Jens while she has him under his spell, but decides to have plain old sex with him instead.
Even coffin-sleeping undead vampires need sweet sweet love sometimes.
Mister Noodle gets a big wooden stake and takes the helmet off a suit of armor to protect his neck from fang-bites. He goes after Betty, who he thinks is Clarimonde, but hilarity ensues as he can't keep the visor up and Betty is just amused by his silliness. One wonders how much more funny Mister Noodle's lines would have been in the original German and with the actor's actual voice (the pitfalls of dubbing).
Sir Bedevere! Anyone get that?
Mister Noodle convinces Jens that vampires are real and that he was lucky to survive being visited by Clarimonde. He takes him to the vault to see Clarimonde sleeping away the daytime in her casket. Mister Noodle gives the stake to Jens and tells him to kill her, but he just can't bring himself to do it (probably because she looks like his lover Betty). Jens says he will wait here until sundown and "talk to her", Mister Noodle thinks this is a horrible idea, one sure to end in suckage and death, but he acquiesces in the end and locks Jens in the vault.
Jens and Mister Noodle discuss the best use for his big pointy stick.
Meanwhile, Betty is all mad and pouty that Jens stood her up for this costume party she wants to go to tonight. She got an invitation to it, written on old school parchment and probably delivered by a bat as it was really for Clarimonde (it's vampires-only, RSVP). Since it's a costume ball, Betty decides to dress as Clarimonde from that big painting, with the black wig and red sheer chiffon frock (sans undies).
No one looks good in chiffon.
Clarimonde wakes up as the sun goes down, but Jens is snoring away, so she gets past him. She's excited to go to the vampire ball, and for some reason decides to put on a brunette wig and a frilly white dress. As such, Betty looks like Clarimonde and Clarimonde looks like Betty, and you can just imagine the giggles that this will cause. She then gets into the trunk of Betty's Mercedes (she somehow knows that Betty is going to the party also). And Betty does drive them both through the dark night to the party.
Check the vanity license plate, ha! Though, registering that plate in Romania must be brutally hard, imagine how many people have already thought of that.
Off to the party at the neighboring castle of Count Ochsenstein, where it doesn't take long for Betty to realize that she's the only guest here who isn't a vampire. The party is more of an orgy with a band (the best kind!) and everyone is dressed like the court of King Louis IVX in frills and lace. There's boobs out everywhere, of course, and before the camera rolled they passed out these horrendously fake Halloween teeth to everyone (you can see numerous people either holding them in or pushing them back in, and in one case a guy in the foreground takes his out and readjusts them before sticking them back in, all on camera).
The guest of honor, the famed Dracula now arrives in a helicopter with a big bat on the side (ha!). Dracula looks like Henry Winkler and for some reason keeps flashing the University of Texas hook'em horns sign to everyone. He's also got all the best lines, asking a guy to call him "Christopher" (a Lee ref), and ordering a "Rosemary's Baby" bloody mary drink from a female bartender with the only really impressive set of hooters in the joint. In a running gag, Dracula gives the host Count Ochsenstein fancy medals to hang on his dress uniform for every little thing he does. In return, Dracula gets from the Count a bed full of topless girls to graze on (clearly this movie isn't for the faint-of-heart or anyone who is under doctor's orders to avoid boobs).
Travel in style, I always say. His bodyguards are dressed like 1920s gangsters, a classy touch.
When he runs out of medals, he takes one from a lieutenant and pins it on the Count.
Jens and Mister Noodle realize they messed up and race to catch Betty on a creaky, smoky motorcycle. They sneak into the castle as the drunken orgy rages, dress in Three Musketeers outfits, and wander around looking for Betty. Their task is made ever-more-difficult by the fact that everyone keeps trying to have sex with them. Jens also has two canines taken out of the skull of a raccoon that he uses to bluff his way out of a situation that a fire extinguisher couldn't handle (none of that makes any sense, I know, but that's what happened).
Jocularity abounds as Clarimonde and Betty are both here, trading places, switching wigs and outfits, confusing people and causing numerous double-takes and gaping mouths like it's the unrated director's cut of The Parent Trap where Hayley Mills shows us her boobs and gets fondled by vampires in Elizabethan costume. Even though she lucks upon another opportunity, Clarimonde won't bite Jens, as Betty is family and she has at least some scruples. She actually helps Betty and the guys escape in the end, which is nice of her. Jens and Mister Noodle hatch a daring plan to reset the big clock in the tower so that the vampires get caught by the rising sun and turn into dust (Mister Noodle speaks for us all when he says, "Why hasn't anyone thought of this before?").
Hot vampire chick eating a banana.
The sun comes up early and everyone freaks out, running every which way in a panic. Clarimonde is taken back to her castle by mistake (Mister Noodle can't tell the difference), while Betty just walks out once everyone flees. Dracula runs to his helo and flies off (up into the sun?) just before the sun comes up and turns most of the vampires into dust and bones. Included in the death (re-death?) toll are Martin and the Abbot in separate humorous scenes involving a sleepy-eyed friar and huffing on a car tire inner tube (just go with it).
Betty is the only survivor.
Unwilling to stake her as they should, Jens and Mister Noodle box up Clarimonde in her casket and ship her off to Los Angeles, posing as Betty. There she will be happy and will surely become a star, adored by the Hollywood crowd. Once there, Clarimonde gets off the plane at night to a throng of cheering fans and promptly bites a man on the neck and smiles devilishly at the camera. The film ends with Betty, Jens and Mister Noodle walking off arm-in-arm as an instrumental Christmas carol plays us out.
At LAX, Clarimonde bites a young Kim Jong-il.
To end this on a better note, let's examine a single shot from earlier in the movie as Betty is flying into Transylvania from LA. The shot shows an airliner landing at an airport, my cup of tea, so I did some research. The jet is a very rare (37 built) Convair 990 Coronado, which were flown by Modern Air, an American Airlines feeder service based out of the USA and Europe (you can see "Modern Air" on the fuselage). The shot also shows a big landing radar set on a flatbed trailer by the side of the runway. Some more research shows this to be Tegel Airport in the French sector of West Berlin. More than you ever wanted to know, eh?
I'm a plane nut, sorry.
Written in September 2009 by Nathan Decker and edited by Pam Burda.
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