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  Vineyard, The Wine And GrineBuy this film here.
Year: 1989
Director: James Hong, William Rice
Stars: James Hong, Karen Witter, Michael Wong, Lars Wangberg, Cheryl Madsen, Cheryl Lawson, Rue Douglas, Sean P. Donahue, Sherri Ball, Karl-Heinz Teuber, Ruth Lin, Michael Quion, Lissa Zappardino, Mark De Alessandro, Vivian Lee, Robert Ito, James Russo
Genre: Horror, Trash
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Elson Po (James Hong) owns a vineyard on this exclusive island, and tonight he notices from the balcony of his mansion a dog worrying at one of the zombies he has buried in the ground between the vines, so takes a shot at it with this rifle to scare it away. Then his younger wife Tina (Lissa Zappardino) emerges to canoodle with him in full view of the handyman down below, knowing it is he who she would rather be with, but also that Po is the one with the bags of cash that will keep her in comfort, so she puts up with his attentions: after all, he does give an excellent massage. Yet what she doesn't know is what keeps her husband so active...

Which is basically drinking the blood of the young women he has locked in his dungeon, mixed with scrapings of jade from the enchanted amulet he wears at all times, accompanied by a few words of tribute to the statuette of a god he worships, ah right, that old chestnut. This was really James Hong's work all the way, as he co-wrote, co-directed and co-starred in it; as one of the most prominent Asian-American actors, he was best known for his screen appearances big and small, but was wont to step behind the camera a few times as well. By this point, he had directed a hardcore porn movie in the seventies and later, er, a softcore porn movie as well.

With this, however, it was the horror genre catching his attention, and he attempted to emulate the wackiness of your average shocker out of Hong Kong at the time only with mostly North American actors (this was a New World co-production between the U.S.A. and Canada, with no Asian involvement in putting up the budget). It was undeniably off the wall, but more in a trashy manner than some of the genuine weirdo efforts which emerged from the Far East, as when you examined it (as you had ample time to do as it unfolded) there were plenty of tropes from the Western traditions of horror with what was effectively a mad scientist role filled by Hong, and zombies added almost as an afterthought.

It was as if Hong thought, we have everything else in there, so why not slap a few walking dead onto the plotline into the bargain? Exactly how they assist with the wine making is not made clear, but then there was a lot that was puzzling about The Vineyard, seeming to be edited down from a more coherent work into the barest minimum of sense, or as much sense as a film with this narrative could make. The evil Mr Po has been around for hundreds of years thanks to his amulet and blood-guzzling, but the jewelry isn't going to last forever even as he hopes he will, so he needs a replacement. Quite how he goes about this involves a sacrifice of a Playboy centerfold, because of course it does.

She was Karen Witter, latterly Karen Lorre, appearing in an acting capacity though it was really only Hong who fulfilled the actual performance angle among the amateurish cast. Po invites a bunch of aspiring thespians to his home, ostensibly to set up a movie, but actually to drain their blood and feed his vineyard and his liable to decay drastically at any minute body, though that doesn't mean he isn't going to have fun with them, nope, he's quite the party animal is Mr Po as the semi-infamous dancing scene illustrates with Hong strutting his stuff to heavily generic electropop which could have hailed from no other decade but the eighties. But there's always someone who has to go too far, and in this case it's... Mr Po, as he makes one girl vomit spiders (quite convincingly) and another chap collapse with voodoo acupuncture. One thing you couldn't accuse this of being was boring, it was too nutty for that, but then neither could you view it as anything other than the hokey nonsense it was, and it didn't pretend to be anything else anyway. Music by Paul Francis Witt.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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