Saturday Review: The Last Vampyre

The Grenada adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes stories, filmed in the 1980s and early 1990s, earned a reputation for fidelity to the source. This film may surprise some viewers, then. Loosely based on a minor Holmes adventure, “The Case of the Sussex Vampire,” it significantly alters and expands the original story, with nods to Stoker and Universal and Hammer. Early on, viewers receive clues that, this time, Holmes may be facing an unearthly opponent.

Directed by Tim Sullivan
Written by Jeremy Paul and Arthur Conan Doyle


Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes
Edward Hardwicke as Dr. John Watson
Roy Marsden as John Stockton
Yolanda Vazquez as Carlotta Ferguson
Juliet Aubrey as Delores
Keith Barron as Rob Ferguson
Richard Dempsey as Jack Ferguson
Maurice Denham as the Rev. Augustus Merridew

Available as part of the Sherlock Holmes Feature Film Collection and The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.


Holmes and Watson visit a village where the locals blame a recent death and other misfortunes on the recently-returned descendant of a notorious family who were burned out a century before.

High Points:

By the 1990s, Jeremy Brett, on medication that caused him to retain water, had grown somewhat portly and the filmmakers had taken to dressing him in lots of dark, heavy clothing to disguise the fact. Brett, suffering from bipolar disorder and the recent loss of his wife, was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. In short, the actor was not in top form for the role when he made this film.

Despite this fact, Brett and Hardwicke’s performances as Holmes and Watson remain highly entertaining. Their interplay and banter is amusing. Brett’s Holmes manages to be both wittier and darker than previous screen incarnations, and this remains true even in this lesser Grenada adaptation.

The opening sequence, set in the eighteenth century, creates a gothic atmosphere that promises scary fun. We have a tale of dark doings at night, twisted family dynamics, an abandoned house near an isolated village, and a cemetary that may be haunted. A certain kind of viewer will find these elements terribly amusing.

Low Point:

The film needs editing. The additional material stretches the tale beyond what it can hold.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 Half of this is adaptation; the other half features elements that have been used many times before. Indeed, one could base a “gothic cliché drinking game” upon this episode, although I admit I found the use of those clichés entertaning.

Effects: 3/6 The film’s one real special effect looks cheesey. The cameracraft used to create a spooky feel is more effective, if elementary.

Story: 4/6.

Acting: 6/6 The Last Vampyre features strong performances.

Production: 5/6 The Grenada series had strong production values. This film does an excellent job both in recreating the late Victorian era and the gothic, eighteenth-century setting of the opening sequence.

This film does suffer from some sloppy moments, however. During a wild carriage ride through a storm, the rain vanishes during one shot.

Emotional Response: 4/6.

Overall: 4/6.