When the Video Warehouse in Chanute, Kansas, was one of the locations I managed in the 1990s, I distinctly remember two movies we could not keep on the shelf. These were not blockbuster titles by any means, so it was always odd for me at the time when someone asked about Embrace of the Vampire (1995) and today’s film, Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural (1973.) I’ve never seen the former and, until recently, I’d never seen the latter.
I’ve since learned the reason for Embrace of the Vampire’s popularity was Alyssa Milano in the nude. Though that doesn’t intrigue me, I guess I understand the fascination for others, especially in sheltered Chanute. I never learned the reason for Lemora’s popularity; however, since the version I recorded on my DVR (called Lemora: the Lady Dracula, one of its many other names) had the image of 18-year old Cheryl Smith “fuzzed out,” I think I sense a theme.
Smith plays Lila Lee, the daughter of a prohibition-era gangster (William Whitton) who’s summoned to see him on his deathbed after a car accident. Really, though, he’s been abducted, for some unexplained reason, by Lemora (Lesley Taplin), a vampire queen ruling over all kinds of supernatural creatures in a remote location in the woods. My best guess, with the Carmilla-like plot, is that Lemora used the father to lure fresh blood into her lair.
It was Count Yorga, Vampire (1970), though, that was supposedly the inspiration for UCLA film students Richard Blackburn and Robert Fern. After a disastrous premiere at Scripps College, the two sold the film to Media Cinema Group, which cut almost 30 minutes out of it and released it in drive-ins and theaters beginning in December 1974. Fern hasn’t worked in the film industry since, and Blackburn directed only an episode of Tales from the Darkside for TV.
For a film made by students fresh out of college, Lemora is no Messiah of Evil. It might have been the print on Comet TV, but it was very dark. Then again, I might be grateful for any seams the lack of proper lighting covers. Technically, nothing is particularly well-made and the best thing I can say is that it was shot on actual film… the production values otherwise look like a movie shot with a camcorder.
Yet, surprisingly, it kind of works! I don’t think there’s much plot missing in the excised footage and what remains is dreamlike and eerie. It offers two types of pace: slow and slower. Again, though, it sets a mood that crept up on me and left me, if not entertained, at least satisfied. This is good because the story is threadbare. If you’re intrigued, and live in Kansas, you might want to find the DVD to confirm it’s sans “fuzzing out.” Just don’t tell me you’re doing that.
Written by Richard Blackburn and Robert Fern
Directed by Richard Blackburn
Starring Lesley Taplin, Cheryl Smith, William Whitton, Richard Blackburn
RT 80 min.
Released April 30, 1973 (Claremont, California)
Recorded on May 30, 2020 on Comet TV
Rating 6 Possessed Children (out of 10)
This review is part of the annual Countdown to Halloween. I invite you to join me as I attempt to gain some space on my DVR. Every day, I'll be watching something from the bottom of the list, thereby reducing the percentage that's full... so I can record more!
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