Friday, February 09, 2007

Vampire films – review

Written by: Colin Odell and Michelle Le Blanc

First published: 2000

This is a pocket essential guide and it is a small book, so that must be taken into account as I write this. Indeed the authors actually say, in a section entitled ‘Using this book’: “The sheer bulk of vampire films means that this book would have ended up a list if we mentioned every one.”

This is a fair point, though they could have mentioned every one and produced a massive volume – but that would have been out with the pocket essential mentality. The entries, themselves, are smallish for each film but contain a brief description and thoughts on the films they look at. Of course, whether you agree with their thoughts – as is the case with any review – is an individual matter of perception and taste. I didn’t always agree with their opinions (for example giving Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires a higher score than Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter or giving Vampirella a score higher then either of them) but that is not to say that either of us are right in our perceptions, in fact neither are right or wrong, and I can live with that.

The problem, however, lies in how they have set the book out. A quick flick through shows approximately 94 entries. Actually, in honesty, one less as they have listed “The Omega Man” (1971) which, despite being based on I am Legend, is not a vampire film by any stretch of the imagination. It is a mutant film… I, however, digress.

The films are neither set in chronological order, nor alphabetically. They are grouped into sub-headings such as “Early morsels” or “Offbeat Indies”. Whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach, it only works if an index is provided. The sort of person who buys this sort of book wants to be able to flick to the film they are looking for with ease.

I mentioned the inclusion of the Omega Man and this is not the only error I have picked up on. If we look at the entry for Count Dracula by Jess Franco they state it was released in 1971 – I know pinning down the release date of some films can be difficult but I have checked three sources and it was definitely 1970. Further they mention Herbert Lom’s performance as Jonathon, he played Van Helsing. Factual errors such as these are sloppy (though I must admit I’ve probably dropped some clangers on this page but nobody is paying to read this blog!)

The films listed are limited but show a good mix of famous films, classic films and unusual films – so no problem there. I also liked the brief synopsis of themes used in vampire films at the head of the book. There is, however, the occasional odd omission. Whilst taking their point that they couldn’t cover every vampire film, one wonders why they would look at almost every Hammer Dracula film (indeed almost every Hammer vampire film), yet miss out Dracula has risen from the grave? What had that one film done to offend them?

To a degree the detail is sparse, both in the themes’ synopsis (which could have been a book in itself) and in the specific film details, but given the size of the volume this is to be expected thus, at the most, a flavour is given. However the claim from the blurb, “Almost everything you need to know in one essential guide” is blatantly untrue and never could be achieved in a volume this size. The real problem, as stated, lies in the lack of indexing mixed with some factual errors and these factors restrict the score to 5 out of 10, probably better for casual browsers than students of the genre.

No comments: