Thursday, November 01, 2007

Real Vampires – review – TV


Director: Daniel Richler

First aired: 2007

Contains spoilers

Last night, as many channels showed the usual Halloween horror movies, Discovery Channel gave an alternative by showing this two hour (including ad-breaks) documentary on real vampires.

Presented by Dr Timothy Taylor and Dr Kathryn Denning, the show covered many of the usual suspects of this type of documentary. impalement was hard workDracula, of course, was present and correct – as in Tepes and not Stoker’s creation – but it was in this section that some of the superiority of this documentary can be identified, as information not normally looked at was shown. I didn’t, for example, know about the sheer logistical difficulty involved in impalement – or more precisely how much man power it took up. The show also suggested that his atrocities were, perhaps, exaggerated but in doing so gave statistical information to back this up.

Báthory is horrified, she's found a clotBáthory was present and correct also, although I was not convinced by the attempt to suggest that her crimes were more a frame job by political enemies. The documentary never mentioned her diary of kills, which would, to me, be compelling evidence. They again, statistically, showed that the Hollywood imagery of the blood bath is more than probably unlikely, and I couldn’t help but be amused with the actress’ face when Bathory found clots in the bath!

The show went through several of the infamous vampire killer stories, most interestingly looking at the case of the vampire of Niteroi – as I was largely unaware of the case and was fascinated by the killer's claims that he was influenced by the Christian church to do what he did. There was also the obligatory look at the Goth and vampyre scene – though it was a very small part of the whole.

There were some serious attempts to analyse what could have made people think that they were plagued by vampires. Consideration was given to undiagnosed rabies (we also got a brief but interesting look at vampire bats, talking of rabies). The misunderstanding of the decay process was also looked into, as we shall see.

Paole disinterredMore interesting, however, were the real vampire cases. The programme looked at the Arnold Paole case in depth – concluding that it was more than likely a misunderstanding of the decay process. The programme did mention the fact that Paole had claimed, whilst alive, to have been bitten by a vampire but didn’t really tie that claim heavily into the conclusions.

burning the heart of the strigoiAnother really interesting section was the recent case (2004) of Peter Toma. This case made world headlines when the suspected vampire was dealt with by traditional methods. The family members involved were prosecuted by the Romanian Courts but their sentences were commuted. The programme actually interviewed people from the village and Toma’s alleged victim. There is a really good, in depth report on this, by Taylor, located here - many thanks to Crabstix, who emailed the article, which alerted me to the documentary itself.

the Highgate vampireAlso interesting was the section surrounding the Highgate vampire and the case seemed to have a real impact on Denning as she realised that she had interviewed a man, Seán Manchester, who truly believes (or at least seems to) that he has hunted and slayed a vampire. This wasn’t someone following the traditions of their peasant village but a Western European who got out his slayers kit and explained the techniques and also described a rapid decay after staking.

I may not have agreed with all their conclusions – whilst the figures of those Báthory killed may have been inflated I have not been convinced that she was the victim of a frame – this was a worthwhile documentary with impressively high production values in respect of the illustrative film sequences. 7 out of 10.

At the time of review there is no IMDB page.


Mateo said...

Ah nuts, I wish I hadn't missed this. I went through the documentary channels on 31st looking for something good, but only saw the usual history of vampires starting with Dracula and ending with Dracula. This program sounds like something different. Hopefully it'll repeat soon.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Mateo, hope you had a good Halloween generally.

Bear in mind that this was on Discovery Channel in the UK - I don't know if it was aired in the States or not. If not, hopefully it will be on over there soon.

jen said...

I think it would be really cool to see a real vampire i mean i actually love vampires and to bite n be bitten yeah enough of that but i still love vampires it wuld be awesome.

Anonymous said...

who the heck are they kidding.. but really i loved vampires and i really want to be bitten by one .. kenneth

Anonymous said...

my friend bonnie thinks im a vampire just because of my teeth i like blood and because of my hair watch (OUT) i could be one

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Ahhh Satire... at least I hope so. Tell your friend Bonnie that you are not a vampire because they're not real.

vampire chik said...

I love vampires so much i wish i was one , i do have the fangs my friends call me vampire chik!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

fair enough