Tuesday, June 24, 2008

In Search of Dracula – review (documentary)

dvd

Directed by: Calvin Floyd

First Released: 1975

Contains spoilers

There are several documentaries floating around about vampires and/or Dracula (specifically). This early documentary has an edge because it is narrated by Christopher Lee and includes Lee in the dramatisation sections playing both Dracula and the historic Prince Vlad. That said, there is something off kilter about the documentary’s focus.

The documentary goes, mainly, through the usual suspects but starts with a resurrection scene. This is taken directly from Hammer - unfortunately they use the poor reanimation sequence from Scars of Dracula.

naked vampire detectionThe documentary looks into the Novel and Stoker’s life (briefly) but spends a lot of time looking into the folklore of Transylvania. This is by far some of the most interesting information offered to the viewer and includes such gems as naked vampire detecting on horseback. Unfortunately a documentary could be dedicated solely to this and one feels that it is still rushed through.

a vampire batThe documentary briefly mentions the Countess Báthory, and actually gives some inaccurate information (such as the length of her incarceration). It looks at the vampire bat (with some fascinating footage) and flirts with the concept of eroticism in the vampire genre. Unusually it also mentions the similarities between the Christian mysteries, specifically communion, and the vampire myth.

the story of BillOne interesting section was that concerning real vampires – as in serial killers and those with vampiric psychological persuasions – and one particular case. It tells the story of the case study of Bill – as originally presented by Robert McCully – a young man who displayed many vampiric traits psychologically but had never, allegedly, encountered the myth. McCully concluded that the vampire was a Jungian archetype. This could have been a full documentary film itself. As a follow up I tried to find some information on McCully’s paper and drew a blank and I must state that I find it very difficult to believe that Bill had received no exposure to the vampire myth but I would have liked to discover more.

Christopher Lee as VladThere is, of course, a full discourse on Vlad Tepes – as one would expect, before looking at the vampire in popular culture. The documentary first looks at the party at Villa Diodati, which spawned Polidori’s The Vampyre and Frankenstein. In a strange choice the documentary looks in depth at Mary Shelly and Frankenstein and one wonders why – especially as The Vampyre and then both Varney the Vampire and Carmilla are only very briefly touched upon.

Christopher Lee as DraculaThe same imbalance is there with films. Hammer is looked at a little as are Nosferatu and Dracula 1931, whilst more in depth footage is presented in respect of non-vampiric films.

A strange mix but worth watching if only for the folklore section. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

4 comments:

Anthony Hogg said...

"As a follow up I tried to find some information on McCully’s paper and drew a blank and I must state that I find it very difficult to believe that Bill had received no exposure to the vampire myth but I would have liked to discover more."

A reference to a work by Robert MCully appears in Katherine Ramsland's Piercing the Darkness: Undercover with Vampires in America Today (New York: HarperPaperbacks, 1999), p. 528. It is also contemporaneous with the documentary in question:

"Vampirism: Historical Perspective and Underlying Process in Relation to a Case of Autovampirism." The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 139, no. 5 (November 1964).

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Cheers Anthony, I'll use that to do more research.

Pidde Andersson said...

Calvin Floyd's daughter is actually called Carmilla Floyd!

What's pretty cool about this Swedish-Irish movie, are the Swedish exploitation actors who pop up in the dramatized scenes.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Pidde said "Calvin Floyd's daughter is actually called Carmilla Floyd!"

I love little facts like that... they absolutely make my day, so thanks for posting it.

The dramatised scenes are some of the better aspects of this - though I was, to be honest, unaware of the actors bar Chris Lee.