In the mid-1980s, the great filmmaker Ted Kotcheff left the limelight to make a name for himself as a documentary filmmaker. His first feature-length documentary, Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1990), was a modest success, and won a couple of awards from various film organizations. Two decades later, Vestron Video released a new Blu-ray version of the film, making use of a brand-new hi-definition transfer. Is it worth your time and money?
In a world in which vampires are a staple in pop culture, it’s nice when you can find a vampire movie that’s different from the others. Sundown is one of those. Sure, it’s a vampire movie, but it’s a serious one. Today, it would be a difficult movie to find this well shot, well written, and well acted, all of which shouldn’t come as a surprise, since it was directed by the always talented Larry Cohen (I Wanna Hold Your Hand, It’s Alive, Tromeo And Juliet).
A strange thing happens after sundown. This is the time when vampires go to their crypts to rest. The only problem is that they don’t rest. They wait for the night to end before coming out of their coffins to enjoy the nightlife. And this movie is about the one vampire who wants to change this game.
Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat is an unique and enjoyable genre picture that perfectly mixes horror and humor, and it’s constantly fascinating thanks to some amusing performances from some excellent character performers.
In Purgatory, a small little hamlet in the desert where vampires have lived relatively tranquil lives for many years, two competing vampire clans battle for dominance.
The copper mill in Purgatory, a little desert hamlet off the main road, has been taken over by a synthetic blood factory. The village has no human inhabitants, and the place is owned by Count Mardulak (David Carradine), an apparently benign vampire who envisions a happy future for vampires in which they would never have to murder another human for sustenance. The vampires in town put on a good old-fashioned human front for the occasional passerby (some vampires hang out all day at the diner, staring down at rotting hamburgers), which has gotten on the last nerve of Mardulak’s second-in-command, an ancient creature named Jefferson (John Ireland), who has been secretly forming a vast army of the undead in a cave, wait for it… A human scientist called David (Jim Metzler) and his wife (Morgan Brittany) and two children are thrown into the mix when he is given a position at the blood factory to develop the synthetic blood formula. When David’s old enemy (and local vampire), Shane (Maxwell Caulfield), spots David’s wife, he makes it his goal to actually kidnap, rape, and/or convert her into a vampire. The last descendant of Van Helsing (hilariously portrayed by Bruce Campbell) and the beautiful vampire he kind of falls in love with in town are also on the periphery (played by Deborah Foreman). The greatest battle Purgatory has ever seen will begin as Jefferson seizes his opportunity to lay siege to Mardulak’s compound!
Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat is a unique and enjoyable genre picture that perfectly mixes horror and humor, and it’s constantly fascinating thanks to some amusing performances from some excellent character performers. The picture is a definite thing for horror lovers, with a fantastic soundtrack by Christopher Stone and excellent monster effects, and it’s precisely the kind of film that Fangoria magazine was created for. The film, which was released at the height of the VHS era (and from Vestron, no less), is so much fun that it’s well worth revisiting. Anthony Hickox, a veteran in the genre, directs this film (who also co-wrote with John Burgess).
Sundown has recently been released on Blu-ray for the first time as part of Lionsgate’s “Vestron Video Collector’s Series” (#21 on the spine), and it looks better than ever. The disc includes a trailer and a still gallery, as well as a commentary by Hickox and the DOP, as well as the isolated score with audio interviews and on-camera interviews (all from the previous DVD release) with Carradine, Campbell, and others.
In the mid-1990s, the word “vampire” was a hot one. In fact, it was a hot six ways to Sunday. Countless films had been made about these blood-thirsty creatures, and they were everywhere on TV and in the movies. It was a time when real vampires were a reality, and for a lot of people, the concept of a vampire “trapped” in a human body was a legitimate story line.. Read more about legend arrow video blu-ray and let us know what you think.
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