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Terminal Island  /  The Velvet Vampire

The Velvet Vampire
February 22, 2019 - 7:30 pm
writer-director Stephanie Rothman.

Terminal Island  (1973)

A group of female convicts band together to fight the most abusive male prisoners in this action-drama-thriller. Pooling their collective talents and building on their female solidarity, they form an unstoppable army: Carmen’s (Ena Hartman) grandmother taught her about poisonous plants, knowledge she then uses to make lethal darts; Lee (Marta Kristen), who is incarcerated for blowing up banks as a means of political protest, and was working on a Ph.D. before getting arrested, is an ingenious chemist who configures makeshift bombs from minerals she finds on the island. Director Stephanie Rothman’s identifiable style conveys her feminist sensibility in every film, but especially in this whip-smart exploitation classic.

35mm, color, 88 min. Director: Stephanie Rothman. Screenwriter: Jim Barnett, Stephanie Rothman, Charles S. Swartz. Cast: Don Marshall, Phyllis Davis, Ena Hartman, Marta Kristen, Barbara Leigh.

The Velvet Vampire  (1971)

New 35mm print!

“I’ve always wanted to make every kind of film I could, at least once,” Rothman told an interviewer in 1981. This film provided her with the chance to momentarily escape the sexy girl-group genre that was taking hold of the decade, The Velvet Vampire (known alternately as Blood Lover) also transforms the traditional vampire narrative. Rothman’s version is set in contemporary Los Angeles and the surrounding desert areas, where vampire Diane LeFanu (Celeste Yarnall) rides her dune buggy in the sunlight, inviting her victims to her elegant desert ranch house, where, as a genial host, she seduces them. In contrast to the traditional vampire, this blood-sucking predator is an assertive, tantalizing, modern-day female, further emphasizing Rothman’s career-long feminist leanings, her protagonists always marked by a sense of empowerment that is individually defined and yet always serves the community of characters.

Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive. 35mm, color, 80 min. Director: Stephanie Rothman. Screenwriter: Maurice Jules, Stephanie Rothman, Charles S. Swartz. Cast: Michael Blodgett, Sherry Miles, Celeste Yarnall, Gene Shane.