Saturday, September 20, 2014
Metamorphoses of the Vampire in Literature and Film: Cultural Transformations in Europe, 1732-1933 – review
Release Date: 2010
The Blurb: For the last three hundred years, fictions of the vampire have fed off anxieties about cultural continuity. Though commonly represented as a parasitic aggressor from without, the vampire is in fact a native of Europe, and its "metamorphoses," to quote Baudelaire, a distorted image of social transformation. Because the vampire grows strong whenever and wherever traditions weaken, its representations have multiplied with every political, economic, and technological revolution from the eighteenth century on. Today, in the age of globalization, vampire fictions are more virulent than ever, and the monster enjoys hunting grounds as vast as the international market.
Metamorphoses of the Vampire explains why representations of vampirism began in the eighteenth century, flourished in the nineteenth, and came to eclipse nearly all other forms of monstrosity in the early twentieth century. Many of the works by French and German authors discussed here have never been presented to students and scholars in the English-speaking world. While there are many excellent studies that examine Victorian vampires, the undead in cinema, contemporary vampire fictions, and the vampire in folklore, until now no work has attempted to account for the unifying logic that underlies the vampire's many and often apparently contradictory forms.
The review: It is a singularly impressively difficult task to undertake; attempting to “account for the unifying logic that underlies the vampire's many and often apparently contradictory forms.” A Grand Unified Theory of the media vampire, so to speak.
In truth Butler does not succeed, in my opinion anyway, which is not to say that this book is without merit – indeed it is brimming with merit. I just think that such a theory, such a logic is ethereal – running from the light like Nosferatu at dawn and obfuscated by each piece of literature, theatre or film that does not fit in with the logic.
However Butler takes us on a fascinating jaunt through the hubbub of the media vampire drawing into parallel with cultural changes in Europe. The date range should have kept us firmly away from the burgeoning Hollywood vampire but it does rear its head on occasion.
Interesting to me was some of the sources that I had not come across before. Potocki’s The Manuscript Found in Saragossa is now in the “to read” pile as is Memoires of my Nervous Illness. The latter by Schreber has a chapter built around it and, whilst I believe that its association with vampirism might prove to be less overt, I find the idea of it fascinating.
This is not a book, however, for the casual reader. Butler has a PhD in comparative Literature and thus this volume is very scholarly – not that it should put you off, and his style prevents the contents from becoming dry, but the warning is there. Indexing, citation lists and notes are all present and correct allowing the student to use the volume properly as a source itself. 7.5 out of 10.
Thursday, September 18, 2014
First Published: 2014
The blurb: The British Isles has a remarkable association with vampires – chilling supernatural creatures of the night. From the nineteenth-century writings of John Polidori, James Rymer, Sheridan Le Fanu and Bram Stoker, to the modern literary horrors of Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley and Kim Newman, the vampire casts a strange and compelling shadow that spreads from the realms of fantasy into the world of the living. Here you will find vampire murderers and vampire hunters together with the real-life mysteries of Croglin Grange, Alnwick Castle, the Vampire of the Villas, the Yorkshire Vampire and the enduring phenomenon of London’s famous Highgate Vampire.
In this thought-provoking book, illustrated with never before seen photographs and drawing on extensive original research, writer and paranormal historian Paul Adams explores the fascinating history of British vampirism in both fact and fiction. With extensive chapters on the post-war revival of Gothic cinema horror and the influence of cult studio Hammer Films on the vampire in British television and music, here is a modern guide where every page is truly written in blood…
The review: Paul Adams takes us on a whistle-stop tour of vampirism as it ties in to British culture, running the gamut from 1816 to 2013 and looking at everything from Penny Dreadfuls through to Hammer films and beyond. He looks at legends (such as Croglin Grange) and some of the earlier appearances of the restless dead (as recorded by William of Newburgh and Walter Map). He touches on continental Europe, of course, and delves into vampire murderers – which does see him veering off the Isles as well as into general occult orientated killings, I think as a need to pad out what would have been a thin chapter had he remained in Britain.
Mostly I found his writing balanced, the discussion of the Highgate Vampire steered a fair line between the two primary personalities involved in the case without fawning over either. The book is quite tabloid in its brevity, in places, but Adams chose to write an overview – each chapter may have generated a reference book of its own. The writing style is chatty and engaging but the book does have a bibliography and indexing, allowing further reading into the subjects.
Given the general balance shown, I found it (possibly unfairly) unfortunate that he had not unearthed the potential controversy surrounding the authenticity of the Penny Dreadful story, The Skeleton Count, or, the Vampire Mistress. But, then again, my own reference bookdid not pick up on this when written. More unfortunate was the continued association between Count Dracula and Prince Vlad III. Adams’ suggests that Stoker “immersed himself in the history of the Wallachian warrior knights Vlad Dracul (d 1447) and his son…” but there is absolutely no evidence of this. For more on this please see my article. That aside the balance in the book – when looking at competing theories, was well maintained.
All in all, a fine primer on a plethora of vampire related topics. 7.5 out of 10.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
First released: 2013
One issue I have about the place that I live is that if a film is slightly from left field there is a very good chance it will not play close to home. We have two multi-screen cinemas and, at best, we might get a more unusual film on for a week at one of them but often – as was the case with this film – it came nowhere near home.
So I have waited for the DVD and waited with anticipation as the word seemed to be good, the film was garnering praise… I wanted to like the film, I really did, but as I sat and watched it I realised that the praise was perhaps more a reaction to the fact that it simply wasn’t a teen vampire flick than the quality of the film itself.
|Adam checks a guitar|
|John Hurt as Kit Marlowe|
|Drinking (bottled) blood|
|strange tech - an aside, not a story|
|Mia Wasikowska as Ava|
The film ended and I felt underwhelmed. I felt disappointed also, as I had really wanted to enjoy it – perhaps my expectations were a tad on the high side… I can’t say it deserves more than 5 out of 10 and that is generously awarded due to the efforts of the players.
The imdb page is here.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
As a result, I think I may well merge the index of honourable mentions and successful “Vamp or Not?”s in with the standard indexes. However, ultimately with the blog re-jig in mind, I decided that this 2011 short film by Chris Zdyrski should have an honourable mention as it is available for free viewing over on vimeo (at time of posting).
The film starts with a Grandma (Ruth Bowen) tucking a young boy (Jarod Bowen) in at night. He asks for a story, a scary one. She obliges and says that the story is scary because it is true. The story starts off innocently enough – indeed for those who have seen the Princess Bride, it may have been enough to illicit concerned commentary from a young boy. It was a story of a beautiful girl (Jennifer Wonder) who liked to walk in the sun.
|Jennifer Wonder as the girl|
At the time of posting there was no IMDb page.
Friday, September 12, 2014
First aired: 1986
Wailing Well was one of the shorts written by master of the ghost story M R James and, as such, you might wonder why I am looking at it here? Well, despite the V word not being mentioned there is definitely a vampiric element to this tale and it was adapted for television in the short BBC series Classic Ghost Stories.
The series aired in 1986 and was narrated by Robert Powell. Each episode was essentially Powell telling the story, with occasional scenes of actors in some. This did not have the acted moments at all, rather it had a few photographs of a boy scout troop and one particular scout, Stanley Judkins.
The story is a classic – of that there is no doubt – and Powell a masterful story teller. As a piece of TV, however, I would have much preferred to have seen visual representation of the events also. However, it is what it is and delights for 15 minutes. 7 out of 10.
The imdb page is here.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Release date: 2014
Never judge a book by its cover, but… if the DVD cover for auteur Chris Alexander’s first film, Blood for Irina, was wonderfully retro, then the poster for sequel(ish) film Queen of Blood is simply magnificent.
The film, of course, shares its name with the 1966 sci-fi vampire flick but that is all they really share. If this film shares with anything, it has to be Jean Rollin and, in particular, lead actress Shauna Henry (reprising the role of Irina) seems to be channelling Françoise Blanchard’s performance from the Living Dead Girl. But how to review… that is the question.
|preparing a stake|
The imdb page is here.
Monday, September 08, 2014
Release date: 2014
We’ve seen a couple of films by Richard Poche before. Previously we have looked at A Candle in the Dark and Crimson. Neither were brilliant films by a long stretch but Poche clearly loves his filmmaking and that has to count for a lot.
This film is a short and is on a couple of video sites for free viewing. As such I would possibly have just given it an Honourable Mention but it is also commercially available on Amazon, and when hard earned cash is involved then it’s got to be a review.
|Vivian is not well|
|getting tooled up|
|blood at mouth|
All in all it probably deserves 4 out of 10. The score for Richard Poche’s films is slowly going up and that is no bad thing.
The imdb page is here.