One of the film's greatest strengths is the performance of Michael Pataki as Caleb Croft/Charles Croydon. His dialogue is just as over the top as everyone else's, but he makes it work, coming off as an immortal fiend with a God complex. Kitty Vallacher also gives a strong performance as Leslie, showing equal strength as both a shrieking victim and a strong-willed and protective mother. The opening scene in the graveyard sets a creepy ambiance, which holds throughout the picture. Grave of the Vampire may not be a masterpiece, but as a drive-in era horror flick, it's one of the best of its kind.
The vampire as serial rapist scenario is, to the best of my knowledge, unique to this film. The sexuality of vampires is a subject that has been beaten to death, but since the relationship between vampire and victim involves close physical contact, penetration, and an exchange of fluids, one need not be a student of Freud to see the obvious. Rape/revenge films were not uncommon in the 1970s, so the mixing of this theme with the vampire genre is not so hard to imagine. Still, Croft/Croydon's status as a rapist serves its purpose by making a time worn movie monster all the more horrific for a modern audience, and the scene in which Leslie is assaulted, though not graphic, is very disturbing.
While I'm grateful Alpha Video has made this obscure title widely available, the condition of the print is abominable. The movie is presented in fullscreen, and suffers from gatefloat during the first few reels, causing the picture to bounce up and down. The color is badly washed out. A scene in which Anne finds a raw half-eaten steak, showing the viewer James still retains at least part of his vampiric nature, is rendered meaningless because the degraded print makes the meat appear cooked. Several jump cuts seem to indicate Alpha's Video's version of the film is culled from an edited TV print. Both Video Search of Miami and Sinister Cinema carry the film, but I haven't seen either of those versions and can not comment on their quality or completeness.
In any case, Grave of the Vampire is past due for restoration and a high quality DVD release. Are you listening Anchor Bay, or perhaps Dark Sky Films?