Sunday, July 5, 2009

Vampire Movies... 100 Years In Film...

To say that vampires in film are a critical part of our film heritage would be an understatement. As I was reading many sites on the history of vampires in movies, I was pleasantly surprised to see how important of an influence the genre really has been. I have printed several key points from Wikipedia concerning the subject just to prove a point... OK, probably several points. The first thing that caught my attention was that Dracula has been the subject of more films than any other fictional character... that is a huge statement. Considering there have been so many movies of all topics over the last 100 years, to realize that Dracula had that much influence over our film culture was quite surprising to me. There is also an interesting article by Morgan Bell where he develops "theories" as to the deviant, sexual, and immoral nature of the vampire. He tries to understand why we "fear" the vampire. Good article and if you're interested here's the link to copy and paste: I can see his point on many levels and maybe that is why the vampire still scares us today, because he is a character that we don't understand and we fear what we don't understand.

I have and always will be a traditionalist when it comes to the "undead". As a kid, I loved the old vampire movies. I didn't see Dracula as a sexual being. I was more impressed with his superhuman strength, turning into a bat and a cloud of smoke, and his ability to control his victims. It's not to say that I haven't enjoyed movies like Blade when the vampire is a daywalker. I do appreciate writers and directors adding a few twist to their work... the problem is that it's not possible for a vampire to go into daylight. It's also not possible for a vampire to have sex and children. They are dead. Therefore, a dead person cannot procreate. The Vampire survives off the drinking of the blood of his victims. That doesn't mean he has blood in his veins. Therefore it would be impossible to have sex. The only way to "create" more vampires is for a vampire to "change" a human into a vampire. There have been many ways this has taken place in film over the last 100 years, but my favorite is by bleeding the human of his or her blood and when they wake up as a member of the undead, they must drink the blood of their master to fully change.

Vampire of the Coast (1909) (the first silent Vampire film)
I saw that the first vampire movie was Vampire of the Coast (1909). I really haven't been able to find out much about it, but it was probably a silent short. More importantly, it means that we have had 100 years of vampire movies and have seen the evolution of the genre evolve into quite an interesting art form. Are there moral questions to be answered? Do we really fear or hate things and people we don't understand or are different then us? In many cases the answer is yes, but when it comes to vampires... I love them! Thanks for 100 years of fear and entertainment!

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Vampire films have been a staple since the silent days, so much so that the depiction of vampires in popular culture is strongly based upon their depiction in movies throughout the years. The most popular cinematic adaptation of vampire fiction has been from Bram Stoker's Dracula, with over 170 versions to date. By 2005, Dracula had been the subject of more films than any other fictional character.

The earliest cinematic vampires in such films as The Vampire (1913), directed by Robert G. Vignola, were in reality 'vamps' or femme fatales deriving inspiration from a poem by Rudyard Kipling called "The Vampire", composed in 1897. This poem was written as kind of commentary on a painting of a female vampire by Philip Burne-Jones exhibited in the same year. Lyrics from Kipling's poem: A fool there was . . . , describing a seduced man, were used as the title of the film A Fool There Was (1915) starring Theda Bara as the 'vamp' in question and the poem was used in the publicity for the film.

A genuine supernatural vampire features in the landmark Nosferatu (1922 Germany, directed by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau). This was an unlicensed version of Bram Stoker's Dracula, based so closely on the novel that the estate sued and won, with all copies ordered to be destroyed. It would be painstakingly restored in 1994 by a team of European scholars from the five surviving prints that had escaped destruction.

The next classic treatment of the vampire legend was in Universal's Dracula (1931) starring Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. Five years after the release of the film, Universal released Dracula's Daughter (1936), a direct sequel that starts immediately after the end of the first film. A second sequel, Son of Dracula, starring Lon Chaney, Jr. followed in 1943. Despite his apparent death in the 1931 film, the Count returned to life in three more Universal films of the mid-1940s: House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945) both starring John Carradine and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). While Lugosi had played a vampire in two other movies during the 1930s and 1940s, it was only in this final film that he played Count Dracula onscreen for the second (and last) time.

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