Lemora

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Lemora
Lemora dvd cover.jpg
U.S. theatrical poster
Directed by Richard Blackburn
Produced by Robert Fern
Written by Richard Blackburn
Starring
Music by Dan Neufeld
Cinematography Robert Caramico
Edited by Pieter Hubbard
Distributed by Media Cinema Group
Release date
Running time
80 minutes[3]
Language English

Lemora (subtitle: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural; also known as The Legendary Curse of Lemora) is a 1973 American horror film written and directed by Richard Blackburn, and starring Cheryl Smith, Hy Pyke, and Lesley Gilb. It follows a young girl in Prohibition-era America who travels to a mysterious town to visit her father, and uncovers a coterie of vampires.

Conceived Blackburn, a former University of California, Los Angeles film student, Lemora was filmed on location in Pomona and surrounding areas. It had its premiere at Scripps College in April 1973, after which it was sold for distribution to Media Cinema Group, who cut the film by nearly forty minutes and released in theatrically in late 1974. The film was heavily criticized by the Catholic Legion of Decency who deemed it "anti-Catholic."[3]

Plot

During the Prohibition era, 13-year-old Lila Lee is summoned by a letter to visit her injured father, a gangster, before he dies. She runs away from the Reverend, who has raised her and in whose church she has become well known as a singer, though her extraordinary beauty is beginning to attract attention as well. She ends up taking a bus to her father's purported location, the strange town of Astaroth, where people have the "Astaroth Look."

En route, Lila is menaced in a swamp by a band of mindless vampires who haunt the woods and town. She is rescued by a mysterious woman named Lemora, who takes a fancy to her. It seems Lemora is the one who called the girl to her, though whether to protect or to corrupt her remains to be seen. Lemora takes Lila to an old house, where she bathes the girl and tries to soothe her. Exploring, Lila discovers the truth: Lemora is a vampire who feeds upon children and is holding her father captive. She is also the unofficial queen of the Astaroth vampires.

While trying to escape, Lila embarks on a nighttime journey through the town of Astaroth, learning in the process that there are two types of vampires there. The one faction is like Lemora herself, relatively human in behavior and appearance, while the others are mutated or perhaps regressed, far more feral in behavior and monstrous in form; and the two groups are at war. Meanwhile, the Reverend, who is seeking Lila, manages to retrace her steps.

After a climactic battle which leaves most of the vampires dead, Lila is forced to kill her own father, who has become one of the degenerates. As she weeps over his corpse, Lemora approaches her and offers her comfort by her vampire's kiss. When the Reverend shows up not long after, he finds Lila willing, even eager to kiss him. He resists at first, then he gives in. That is when she drives her fangs into his throat and drains his blood, watched over by a smiling Lemora.

The film ends showing Lila singing again in church. Whether this was intended to indicate the story was a dream, a "flash forward" or that Lila returned as a vampire to the Church—or that the ending scene in the church is a flashback—is left ambiguous.

Production

Concept

Lemora was conceived by former University of California, Los Angeles film students Richard Blackburn and Robert Fern.[3] Their main inspiration in making the film was Bob Kelljan's 1970 film Count Yorga, Vampire.[3]

Casting

Cheryl Smith, who was eighteen years old at the time of filming, was cast in the lead role of fourteen-year-old Lila Lee.[3] The film marked Smith's first major role.[3] Lesley Gilb portrays Lemora, the vampire who attempts to recruit Lila into their coterie.[4] Writer-director Blackburn appears in the film as the Reverend.[5] Hy Pyke appears in the film as the bus driver who drives Lila to Astrototh.[4]

Filming

Filming took place in and around locations in Pomona, California including the Phillips Mansion[1] which served as the exteriors of Lemora's house and the Bradbury Chateau Estate, which served as the interiors. Additional photography took place at the San Dimas Hotel.[1] The Reverend's house was at Culver Studios on what was once part of the exterior set for Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show. Several of Richard Blackburn's family and friends had roles in the production.[6]

Release

Lemora had its premiere in Claremont, California on April 30, 1973 at the Garrison Theater on the Scripps College campus.[1] The audience response at this screening was allegedly so poor that Fern and Blackburn quickly sought to sell the film and recoup part of the money spent to produce it.[3] It was subsequently released in 1974 after being purchased by Media Cinema Group, who cut the film from 118 minutes to 80 minutes.[3] It received screenings through Media Cinema Group at drive-in theaters and local cinemas in the United States, opening in December 1974.[2]

Home media

The film was released on DVD by Synapse Video on August 31, 2004.[7]

Reception

Initial reception

Lemora received mostly negative reviews upon its initial release, with some calling it "anti-Catholic."[8][9][3]

Author and film critic Leonard Maltin awarded the film a BOMB, his lowest rating, calling it "[a] Perfectly awful low budgeter."[10] Elvis Mitchell from The New York Times wrote "Lemora wants to surpass the expansions on vampire film mythology that propelled the fecund, tightly wound horror movies from Hammer Studios. The film falls far short of its goals, but it is a classic of sorts."[5]

Reassessment

On the internet film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 86% based on 7 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 7.1/10.[11] On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating to reviews, the film has a score of 49 out of 100, based on 4 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[12]

Barry Meyer from Film Monthly called the film "A real creeper", writing, "What makes this film work so well is that director/writer Richard Blackburn understands how to shock people with out exploiting the gimmickry of the genre, like so many other films of the era were so willing to do".[13] In 1992, film writer John Flynn noted Lemora as "an artistic offbeat vampire movie which recalled the best of Bava and Bunuel."[14]

Maitland McDonagh from TV Guide awarded the film 3/5 stars, writing, "An art-house vampire movie with lesbian undertones, Richrad Blackburn's debut film puts an ambitious and surprisingly effective spin on traditional vampire movie cliches."[15] Dennis Schwartz from Ozus' World Movie Reviews gave the film a grade B+, calling it "A haunting and intelligently accomplished work".[16]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d Smiley, Sarah (May 3, 1973). "Local horror film in Claremont". Progress Bulletin. Pomona, California. pp. D-6—D-7 – via Newspapers.com. open access publication – free to read
  2. ^ a b "Cinemafare for Valley of the Sun". The Arizona Republic. Phoenix, Arizona. December 18, 1974. p. D-13 – via Newspapers.com. open access publication – free to read
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Smith 2017, p. 75.
  4. ^ a b Hardy & Milne 1996, p. 279.
  5. ^ a b Mitchell, Elvis (June 29, 2001). "FILM REVIEW; A Female Vampire Wins Another Stab at Immortality". The New York Times. Retrieved August 11, 2018. closed access publication – behind paywall
  6. ^ Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural (1973), DVD Commentary
  7. ^ "Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural (1973) - Richard Blackburn". Allmovie.com. AllMovie. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  8. ^ Hardy 1995, p. 279.
  9. ^ Kaufman, Barry (1983). "Lemora". Demonique. Albany, New York: FantaCo Enterprises. 4: 3.
  10. ^ Maltin 2013, p. 777.
  11. ^ "Lemora - A Child's Tale of the Supernatural (2001) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Flixer. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  12. ^ "Lemora - Reviews, Articles, People, Trailers and more at Metacritic - Metacritic". Metacritic.com. Metacritic. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  13. ^ Meyer, Barry. "Film Monthly.com – Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural (1973)". Film Monthly.com. Barry Meyer. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  14. ^ Flynn 1992, p. 194.
  15. ^ McDonagh, Maitland. "Lemora: A Child's Tale Of The Supernatural - Movie Reviews and Movie Ratings". TV Guide.com. Maitland McDonagh. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  16. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. "lemora". Sover.net. Dennis Schwartz. Retrieved 11 August 2018.

Works cited

  • Flynn, John L. (1992). Cinematic Vampires: The Living Dead on Film and Television, from Devil's Castle (1896) to Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-899-50659-3.
  • Hardy, Phil, ed. (1995). The Overlook Film Encyclopedia. Woodstock, New York: Overlook Press. ISBN 978-0-879-51624-6.
  • Maltin, Leonard (2013). Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide. New York: Penguin. ISBN 978-1-101-60955-2.
  • Hardy, Phil; Milne, Tom (1996). The Aurum Film Encyclopedia of Horror (Second ed.). London: Aurum Press. ISBN 978-1-854-10384-0.
  • Smith, Gary A. (2017). Vampire Films of the 1970s: Dracula to Blacula and Every Fang Between. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-1-476-62559-1.

External links

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