Sunday, 16 August 2009

RICH LIST # 1 : Ten "Non-Dracula" Vampires

A list of ten vampires. All "non Dracula". No Counts (almost). None are tall or Byronic, good looking types (almost). And no cliches (almost).

1) Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe) in THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1988). Ken Russell's ridiculously enjoyable 1980s romp involving snake gods, various phallic symbols and Hugh Grant. By day Lady Sylv wears lots of leather, by night she curls up to sleep in a basket. The rest of the time she sports impossible fangs, blue skin, makes the occasional sacrifice to the giant snake god Dionin (who lives in the caves beneath her house), and castrates boy scouts. She also gets to fight Catherine Oxenberg while dressed as air stewardesses (well, it is a Ken Russell film). 2) Gorca (Boris Karloff) in Mario Bava's BLACK SABBATH aka I TRE VOLTI DELLA PAURA (1963). Based on the Russian short story by Aleksey Tolstoy (Leo's cousin), The Wurdalak is a gothic horror masterpiece, and one of three different stories that make up Bava's masterful take on the portmanteau film. Gorca is the wurdalak of the piece, a strong patriarchal father and grandfather driven to return to his family and kill each of them. After 5 long days hunting the cossack wurdalak who has been terrorizing the village, Gorca returns and begins to work his way through his terrified loved ones. With his dog howling incessantly, his dishevelled corpse like appearance, and the mortal wound to his chest you'd think they would be more careful. They're not.

3) Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) in FRIGHT NIGHT (1985). In the 1980s if you weren't a punk/metal/goth vampire then you were a suave, bouffant bonced disco dandy (yes even in 1985). A natural progression I guess for the Byronic (er... Dracula) like figure of the vampire. Jerry's the best though. He's a mean good looking bastard who will snap you in two, break into your house and beat the shit out of you, kill your friends (well the annoying ones anyway) and seduce your girlfriend, if you look at him funny. And he can turn into a big fuck off evil bat creature too (seven years before Mr Coppola).

4) Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe) in SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000). A rare take on the perils and pitfalls of film making, and in this case the very real sacrifices that are needed to define the mad artistic vision of the great 1920s German director F.W. Murnau. Kind of a "print the legend" yarn with Murnau (played by John Malkovich) as a barking mad genius compelled to complete his film by any means possible. So employing a real life vampire to play your Count (Dracula but not Dracula), and promising them the neck of your leading actress, seems almost a reasonable thing to do. You would be forgiven for thinking it's all true especially when you compare Dafoe's performance to the original Schreck in NOSFERATU. Scarily similar.

5) Those creepy bastard evil floating children Ralphie and Danny Glick in SALEM'S LOT (1979). Based on the 1975 Stephen King novel, this TV mini series (in this list because I say so) avoids the traditional depiction of tall, dark and heavily accented vampires and goes for the ratlike, ghoulish take of Nosferatu for its main threat. But that's not my pick. No instead it's the kids that get infected and are seen floating eerily (is there any other way of floating if you're undead?) outside bedroom windows. Tapping their nails on the glass, surrounded by fog, with a cold malevolent smile on their dead dead faces, and being all round unsettling little fuckers.

6) Emily (Mariclare Costello) in LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH (1971). Is she a ghost or a vampire? Is she even real? A question never really answered and not needing to be in this early 1970s independent horror classic (an almost one shot from director John Hancock). Emily starts off as just another no good hippie squatting in the house of Jessica (Zohra Lampert) and her husband. But soon her portentous graveyard appearances and weird singing give way to underwater hauntings and disfigured hostile locals. Or is it all in Jessica's mind?

7) A gang of ne'er do wells led by US Civil war vet Jessie Hooker (Lance Henrickson), his girlfriend Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein), a psychotic cowboy in leather called Severen (Bill Paxton), a man stuck in a child's body Homer (Joshua Miller), and the gorgeous Mae (Jenny Wright) looking for love in NEAR DARK (1987). The best gang of vamps in film especially in the 80s (sorry Lost Boys). Crazed, psychotic truckers killers who get a kick out of Russian roulette and being set on fire.

8) Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek) in FROM DUSK TIL DAWN (1996). A beautiful Mexican exotic dancer who performs with a snake, a mean look and a mariachi band at the Titty Twister - the roadside bar just outside hell for truckers and soon to be ex truckers. Never bleed in front of her (even if it's just a little prick), especially if you're Quentin Tarantino. Slightly less attractive when transformed into a half snake vampire creature herself. Easily the most fun you'll have in 90s vampire cinema (sorry Mr Coppola).

9) Countess Elizabeth Bathory (Delphine Seyrig) in DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS aka LES LEVRES ROUGES (1970). All sensible Hungarian countesses travel by night and with gorgeous Louise Brooks lookalikes (Andrea Rau) as their secretaries (I know I do). Never a good idea to go on holiday to a remote seaside hotel resort in Belgium, especially out of season though (bit boring). But extra points if you have endless conversations about death and sadism, and wear thigh high leather boots and a fur coat.

10) And finally the most recent and arguably best is Eli (Lina Leandersson) from LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008). An achingly beautiful film about friendship, loyalty, loneliness, family breakdown and the symbiotic relationship of human and vampire, dead and living. Oh, and it's got some kick ass ninja cats and lots of blood too. Eli is in the tradition of child vampires. Stranded in prepubescence, quietly tormented by her plight but a wolf in sheep's clothing able to use it to her advantage. Great twist on the " what happens if you come in when you're not invited " lore too.

Honourable mention : The Not Dracula vampire played by the real Max Schreck in NOSFERATU (1922), the naked alien vampire in LIFEFORCE (1985), the strange green vampire in QUEEN OF BLOOD (1966), the prosphetic enhanced armpit vampire of RABID (1977), the ambiguous Japanese gender vampire of VAMPIRE MOTH aka KYUKETSUKI-GA (1956), the Chinese hopping vampires of MR VAMPIRE aka GEUNGSI SINSANG (1985), the Mexican count vampire in EL VAMPIRO (1957), the " I Can't believe it's not a vampire but a Giant Moth thing " in THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR (1968), the confused "real" vampire in MARTIN (1977), the scythe wielding Brigitte Lahaie in FASCINATION (1979), and Carmilla in Roger Vadim's beautiful BLOOD AND ROSES (1960).
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