To be honest, Wendigo agrees with me that Jerry Ciccoritti's film has some interesting ideas in it, but I have to agree with him that as writer and director Ciccoritti's realization of those ideas is breathtakingly inept. The movie's title has been changed for home video, presumably to avoid confusion with a Stephen King adaptation that's a stinker in its own right, and my Shriek Show DVD doesn't divulge how old the movie actually is. But it's very much a vampire film of its time, though not in any good way.
The title drifter is nothing of the kind. Stephen Tsepes (Silvio Oliviero) holds down a steady job as a taxi driver and has a nicely furnished apartment for his coffin. He has a taste for females who have suicide on their mind, figuring that if they want to go anyway, they may as well go his way. We meet him using his moves to save a woman from throwing herself into a river, only to vamp her instead. So far, so good; let's indulge in the fantasy and assume that he has a seductive power over women despite appearances. But then he goes and ruins it by turning into a gray-haired, gray-skinned fangboy with a breast fetish. Wouldn't you rather have the breast than the neck at a feast? Don't judge Steve, then -- yet.
Of course, he loses focus in a big way when he meets with music-video auteur Michelle Hayden (Helen Papas). She grows a morbid streak when she learns she has terminal cancer. All the doomed women in the city end up in Steves's cab, of course, but Michelle has something extra. She inspires flashbacks and dream sequences that seem to suggest that she was his love in a past life, but this film will never do something so crass as to state that as a fact. In any event, he wants to screw her, not bite her, and this is when things really go to hell. Steve seems to have a psychic bond with his past victims, and the activation of his libido puts all of them into a feeding frenzy. For a long while we don't know how many "all of them" really are, but we get a police report of ten men getting killed while Steve is doing the erotic-vampire thing with Michelle. We actually see two of these killings intercut with the sex scene in one of Ciccoritti's attempts to be artistic.
Steve seems none the wiser about any of this, and he adds another bride to the lineup when he bites an actress from Michelle's video in a fit of blood hunger. By the time everyone converges on the video studio for the big finish, including Michelle's jealous husband and his vampire-scholar buddy, it seems like Stephen has at least nine brides, not counting the actress who attacks Michelle and a female cop last seen sucking blood from her own breast in a jail cell. Only one individual is going to walk out of that studio, and you may have guessed already who or what that individual will be. If not, we're not telling.....
Little does Steve realize when he's invited to a costume party that everyone else is only wearing masks. He comes in full regalia, complete with opera cape (not shown here). Wendigo thinks the costume design was inspired in part by the cover art for early editions of Interview with the Vampire he remembers seeing as a kid.
Ciccoritti strikes Wendigo as an ADD director and an incompetent writer whose script would have been impossible even for talented actors. Fortunately, Central Park Drifter has none of those. In the lead, Oliviero (also known as Michael A. Miranda) has what Wendigo calls the charisma of a turnip, while Papas goes screaming over the tops at inopportune moments, especially a scene in a park where she confronts Oliviero in a fit of hissing and howling and claw-baring -- even though she's not a vampire. It's bad acting all the way down, including the monotonous husband and the Crockett & Tubbs copycats who pass for a police force in this town. As for special effects, they're special the same way the "special" class was in school. The big finish when the vampire women are all supposed to be incinerated by the husband opening a stage door is laughably bad. Other effects scenes make no sense at all. In one scene, Stephen is stabbed in the back with a knife. Michelle pulls the knife out and it bursts into flames. Why??? Meanwhile, Oliviero's makeup is inconsistent. He often goes gray when he feeds, except when he doesn't. The music stinks, too.
Graveyard Shift II: The Understudy, in which Ciccoritti directs Oliviero as a vampire infiltrating a movie set. Such success as the film had only points to the poor taste of vampire movie fans back then. I can recommend this one only to bad-movie buffs, but Wendigo won't even bother doing that. Remember, "It was crap."
But perhaps you'll disagree after watching this trailer, uploaded to YouTube by AussieRoadshow.