By the late 1970s, you could say that the vampire had made the adjustment. 1979 was a year that the vampire film hit a peak for the decade and screens were deluged with a series of new takes. These included the lush Frank Langella remake of Dracula (1979), Werner Herzogs remake of Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), the tv mini-series of Stephen Kings Salems Lot (1979), the Australian medical vampire film Thirst (1979) and the comedic likes of Dracula Blows His Cool (1979), Love at First Bite and Nocturna: Draculas Granddaughter (1979).
Looking at the credits for Vampire makes your mind boggle a vampire film from Steven Bochco and Michael Kozoll!!! none other than the creators of Hill Street Blues (1981-7), which I would argue is the greatest tv cop show ever made. At the time that he made Vampire, Steven Bochco was working as a writer for hire, including turning in the screenplay for Silent Running (1971) and creating the David McCallum tv series The Invisible Man (1975-6). Ahead would be his creating/producing classic shows such as L.A. Law (1986-94), Hooperman (1987-9), Doogie Howser M.D. (1989-93), NYPD Blue (1993-2005) and Murder One (1995-7). The credits for Vampire read like a checklist of some of the essential people behind Hill Street Blues Bochco, Kozoll, Gregory Hoblit and David Anspaugh. The show is even produced by MTM Enterprises, the production company set up by Mary Tyler Moore, which was behind Hill Street and numerous classic shows of the era such as The Bob Newhart Show (1972-8), Lou Grant (1977-82), WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-82), Remington Steele (1982-7) and St Elsewhere (1982-8) although unlike the other MTM shows, the companys cat logo at the end, which would sprout a surgical mask or police cap depending on the show, fails to develop a pair of fangs as you half expected it to.
With many of the essential creative figures behind Hill Street Blues present, you expected Steven Bochco and co to do something amazing with the vampire genre. As mentioned, the vampire films of the early 1970s were always vexed with the problem of how to modernise the vampire. Vampire is one of these that simply fails to address the question at all. Richard Lynch just looks aristocratic and wealthy, while dressing in a red-lined cape in other words, the films conception of the vampire still draws on Bela Lugosi and shows the vampire doing little to move beyond this to embrace the modern day. This is largely Vampires problem and almost certainly one of the reasons that it failed to go to series it stays with the tried and true, never does anything clever to show the vampire coming up against the modern day as The Night Stalker did.
Indeed, there is nothing exceptional to Vampire as a film. Richard Lynchs Voytek has more personality than Barry Atwater in The Night Stalker and is certainly a more engaged modern vampire than say Dracula was in Dracula A.D. 1972 but not that much. We never see him drinking blood, for one. The other flaw of the show is that E.W. Swackhamers workmanlike and dull direction he fails to give much excitement to the proceedings. The story is also frustratingly open-ended, clearly left so for a series that never emerged, thus there is no big confrontation with Richard Lynch who escapes before they can stake him. Even then, the vampire seems such a cutout menace that it is hard to imagine it would have ever been a very interesting series.
Certainly, the casting of Jason Miller and E.G. Marshall as the vampire hunters propels Vampire out of B movie stakes. Miller, none other than the priest from The Exorcist (1973), seems to radiate a moral determination and beagle-like sorrow from his every pore, while Marshall gives a fine airing to the role of a old school detective. The vampire is cast with Richard Lynch, who developed a substantial career playing villains in tv series and B movies from the 1960s through to his death in 2012. Cast here just before he started to gain a name for himself in the 1980s, Lynch looks handsome, is very sharply dressed and creates great presence the films failing is to ever give him much to do. There is also Kathryn Harrold, another actress who was cast just before she was coming to be known. You get to see her looking young, gorgeous and for added bonus staked as a vampire. (Although the odd thing that is never shown is her initial death we see Richard Lynch entering the house and seducing her and then cut to husband Jason Millers shocked and upset reaction after he returns but exactly what happened to her is not clear. Given the psychic weight this adds in terms of providing his motivation, it seems an odd omission). Playing a detective, you can also spot Michael Tucker, later one of the regulars on Bochcos L.A. Law.
E.W. Swackhamer was a director who worked almost entirely in television between the 1960s and his death in 1994, directing many episodes of classic series. His other genre works include the Hollywood ghost story tv movie Death at Love House (1976); Spider-Man (1977), the pilot for the Nicholas Hammond tv series that was theatrically released outside the US; The Death of Ocean View Park (1979) about a haunted amusement park; and the tv movie Bridge Across Time (1985) featuring a resurrected Jack the Ripper.
Clip from the film here:-