This Week in Vampire Cinema

This week we watched four more vampire movies on our mission to watch 63 vampire films by Halloween. At this rate… we won’t finish in time. And I’m writing this post and listening to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver instead of watching another vampire film. It’s going to be a long couple of months.

This Week in Vampire Cinema:

  • Brides of Dracula (1960)
    • Directed by Terence Fisher, starring Peter Cushing as Van Helsing.
  • The Vampire Lovers (1970)
    • Directed by Roy Ward Baker, starring Ingrid Pitt as Carmilla Karstein and Madeline Smith as Emma Morton.
  • Count Dracula (1970)
    • Directed Jesus Franco, starring Christopher Lee as Dracula and Herbert Lom as Van Helsing.
  • Blacula (1972)
    • Directed by William Crain, starring William Marshall as Mamuwalde (aka Blacula) and Vonetta McGee as Luva/Tina.

dracula brides

Somehow I love Cushing’s Van Helsing even more. Overall the film wasn’t actually all that good. The brides aren’t really all that relevant to the story, the vampire dies because he’s “trapped” between two shapes of the cross, and Van Helsing reverses turning into a vampire by cauterizing the bites and THEN pouring holy water on the wound. 1.) Dope. That was a tense and wild scene that came directly after a buckwild fight sequence. The reveal that Helsing was bitten was also very well done and I was shouting at the tv. 2.) I don’t know what the rules of vampire procreation are, but I’m pretty sure dumping holy water over wounds you JUST SEALED via a very hot and painful process wouldn’t undo it. Overall, my suspension of disbelief faltered a few times in this film and I’m already getting sick of the “fair maiden in a horror film can’t do a single goddamn thing she’s told” trope. But, I’m pretty sure I could watch endless Cushing as Van Helsing films, so I ain’t that mad about it.

vampire lovers

I have a lot of feelings about this one. All of them bad. 1.) If you’re going to add a character that isn’t in the original source material (Carmilla by Le Fanu in this case) you should probably explain why the fuck he’s there. The “Man in Black” just looms around watching Carmilla wreak havoc, laughs menacingly at the end and is never once explained. 2.) I could do with about 85% fewer titties in this movie. I get that it’s supposed to be this taboo lesbian romance, but this was so PAINFULLY male gaze that it was egregious. Also, they swapped the names of the protagonist and her best friend for no apparent reason and replaced the very dynamic Dr. Hesselius with the not-remotely interesting Baron Hartog. The sole bright spot of this film is, of course, Peter Cushing, who should have been in much more of the film. It’s just strange because while I found Carmilla to be erotic and spicier than expected, it still didn’t feel as overtly sexualized as this film. Welcome to the 70s I guess?

count dracula

Holy crow this movie is bad. How do you have Christopher Lee on screen and I’m falling asleep? at 8 o’clock at night? It might be the most faithful adaption, but there’s a reason. It’s BORING. And even worse, the shots were bad. Lots of zooming in and out on people’s faces, camera panning were the cameraman was obviously on foot so everything was shaky and awkward. I liked the bit where Dracula got younger as he fed, but that was literally the only interesting part of this film. I literally fell asleep and missed the ending. I will not be rewatching it.

blacula

First, I just want to point-out that apparently all directors and cameramen forgot how to make movies in the 70s. Shaky handheld follow-shots galore! I really didn’t know what to expect from this movie. It’s an early 70s Blaxploitation film so derogatory language abounds, but it wasn’t as stereotypical as I expected. I think I’m a bit removed from it because it’s old and i’m not the intended audience. I’m not a film student, or a history student, but I do know that Blaxploitation films were (and still are) problematic. That said, it was better than Count Dracula. There were a lot of plot holes and lore inconsistencies, but it was entertaining. While the craft of the film wasn’t anything spectacular, it’s worth noting that this is the first time (in our list) that the vampire is cast as a sympathetic creature. Mamuwalde was turned into a literal monster, but he did love his wife and that love carried over to her reincarnation(?), Tina. He cared for and seemingly respected her. It was unclear who I should be rooting for throughout the film, even with all the murder. Overall an interesting and inventive twist on the vampire myths we’ve seen so far.

And that’s the week. The 60s had some weak representation, and the 70s aren’t doing much better so far. I know the 80s pick up (looking at you The Lost Boys), but we have a few more movies to watch from the “‘Me’ Decade” first.  Let’s hope they’re better than what we’ve seen so far.

BZ

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