Vampire film  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

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 200 versions to date. Running a distant second are adaptations of Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu. The legend of Elizabeth Báthory, the "Blood Countess" has also been an influence. By 2005, Dracula had been the subject of more films than any other fictional character.

Contents

History

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 40's, it was only in this final film that he played Count Dracula onscreen for the second (and last) time.

A link between the Universal tradition and the later Hammer style is the 1957 Mexican movie El Vampiro that actually showed the vampire fangs (Lugosi did not) and introduced other now common cliches (like the backwards spelling of the name as a vampire's way to hide its identity).

Dracula was reincarnated for a new generation in the celebrated Hammer Horror series of films, starring Christopher Lee as the Count. The first of these films Dracula (1958) was followed by seven sequels. Lee returned as Dracula in all but two of these.

A more faithful adaptation of Stoker's novel appeared as Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) directed by Francis Ford Coppola though also identifying Count Dracula with the notorious medieval Balkan ruler Vlad the Impaler

A distinct sub-genre of vampire films, ultimately inspired by Le Fanu's Carmilla explored the topic of the lesbian vampire. The first of these was Blood and Roses (1960) by Roger Vadim. More explicit lesbian content was provided in Hammer Studios Karnstein trilogy. The first of these, The Vampire Lovers, (1970), starring Ingrid Pitt and Madeleine Smith, was a relatively straightforward re-telling of LeFanu's novella, but with more overt violence and sexuality. Later films in this sub-genre such as Vampyres (1974) became even more explicit in their depiction of sex, nudity and violence.

Beginning with the absurd Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) the vampire film has often been the subject of comedy. The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) by Academy Award winner Roman Polanski was a notable parody of the genre. Other comedic treatments, of variable quality, include Old Dracula (1974) featuring David Niven as a lovelorn Dracula, Love at First Bite (1979 USA) featuring George Hamilton and Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995 USA, directed by Mel Brooks) with Canadian Leslie Nielsen giving it a comic twist.

Another development in some vampire films has been a change from supernatural horror to science fictional explanations of vampirism. The Last Man on Earth (Italy 1964, directed by Ubaldo Ragona) and The Omega Man (1971 USA, directed by Boris Sagal), both based on Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend, are two examples. Vampirism is explained as a kind of virus in David Cronenberg's Rabid (1976 Canada) and Red-Blooded American Girl (1990 Canada, directed by David Blyth).

Race has been another theme, as exemplified by the blaxploitation picture Blacula (1972) and several sequels.

Since the time of Bela Lugosi's Dracula (1931) the vampire, male or female, has usually been portrayed as an alluring sex symbol. Christopher Lee, Delphine Seyrig, Frank Langella, and Lauren Hutton are just a few examples of actors who brought great sex-appeal into their portrayal of the vampire. Latterly the implicit sexual themes of vampire film have become much more overt, culminating in such films as Gayracula (1983) and The Vampire of Budapest, (1995), two pornographic all-male vampire movies, and Lust For Dracula (2005), a pornographic all-lesbian adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic.

There is, however, a very small sub-genre, pioneered in Murnau's seminal Nosferatu (1922) in which the portrayal of the vampire is similar to the hideous creature of European folklore. Max Schrek's disturbing portrayal of this role in Murnau's film was copied by Klaus Kinski in Werner Herzog's remake Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979). In Shadow of the Vampire (2000, directed by E. Elias Merhige), Willem Dafoe plays Max Schrek, himself, though portrayed here as an actual vampire. Dafoe's character is the ugly, disgusting creature of the original Nosferatu. Stephen King's Salem's Lot (1979), notably depicts vampires as terrifying, simple-minded creatures, without erotism, and with the only desire to feed on the blood of others. This type of vampire is also featured in the film 30 Days of Night.

A major character in most vampire films is the vampire hunter, of which Stoker's Abraham Van Helsing is a prototype. However, killing vampires has changed. Where Van Helsing relied on a stake through the heart, in Vampires 1998 USA, directed by John Carpenter, Jack Crow (James Woods) has a heavily-armed squad of vampire hunters, and in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992 USA, directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui), writer Joss Whedon (who created TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and spinoff Angel) attached The Slayer, Buffy Summers (Kristy Swanson in the film, Sarah Michelle Gellar in the TV series), to a network of Watchers and mystically endowed her with superhuman powers.

Dracula and his legacy

By far, the most well-known and popular vampire in the movies is Count Dracula. An amazing number of movies have been filmed over the years depicting the evil count, some of which are ranked among the greatest depictions of vampires on film. Dracula has over 160 film representations making him the most frequently portrayed character in horror films; he has the second-highest number of movie appearances overall, following only Sherlock Holmes. Template:Fact

Other vampires in films

Other vampires in television

References

  • Christopher Frayling (1992) Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula (1992) ISBN 0-571-16792-6
  • Freeland, Cynthia A. (2000) The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror. Westview Press.
  • Holte, James Craig. (1997) Dracula in the Dark: The Dracula Film Adaptations. Greenwood Press.
  • Leatherdale, C. (1993) Dracula: The Novel and the Legend. Desert Island Books.
  • Melton, J. Gordon. (1999) The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead. Visible Ink Press.





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Vampire film" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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