Monday, November 02, 2009

Weird Vampire Tales – review

First published: 1992 (collection)

Editors: Robert Weinburg, Stefan R Dziemianowicz & Martin H Greenberg

Contains spoilers

Weird Tales was an American pulp magazine first published in 1923. This is a collection of vampire stories taken from EDIT: this and similar magazines and was recommended to me by regular visitor and friend of the blog Anthony Hogg.

There are thirty stories in all and, I must admit that I found the first couple a little bit of a slog but this was due to the use of phonetics within the dialogue to simulate accent. However, this is a minor quibble as the volume as a whole didn’t follow such a line, plus it contained some fascinating stories and some great lore. I, personally, was struck by some of the sci-fi/vampire crossovers and found at least one story I might consider adapting to audio drama script – at some point in the future. Adaptation of stories is nothing new, of course, and in the volume you will find Everill Worrell’s The Canal, which was the basis of the Night Gallery episode Death on a Barge.

I do not intend to go over every story in the volume but do want to look at a few favourite moments.

Edmond Hamilton’s story Vampire Village, which was published under the pen name Hugh Davidson, contains a nice idea. We know that in Dracula there is the concept that on the Eve of St George’s Day all evil holds sway. Hamilton wonders as to why it would be said that vampires would walk on this night, as they can walk on any night? The answer; it is not the normal vampires at large. All over Transylvania are vampires bound within their graves by the actions of the clergy. On that night all of them can rise from the grave, breaking the bonds that bind them for just one night of the year.

In a visual medium, as far as I know, it was Dan Curtis who brought the concept of the reincarnated love into the vampire genre as a main theme in Dark Shadows. I, the Vampire by Henry Kutner is a much earlier written example of the concept being used – dating back to 1937.

Return of the Undead, by Frank Belknap Long and Otis Adelbert Kline, is about a practical joke that goes horribly wrong but has the interesting concept that it is dangerous to look at a vampire right after it has feasted and thus the stake should be thrust through the coffin lid and into the vampire.

Stragella, by Hugh b Cave, has the idea that a tattooed crucifix could ward a vampire and Robert Bloch’s The Cloak was clearly a prototype for the vampire section in the portmanteau film the House the Dripped Blood - especially when we realise that Bloch wrote (that section of) the film's screenplay. When it was Moonlight by Manly Wade Wellman has Edgar Allen Poe as a central character and William Tenn uses science, and a blood substitute, to enable vampires and humans to coexist, long before True Blood, in She Only Goes Out at Night.

This is a fascinating look into some of the more obscure areas of the genre. Yes it is pulp, but pulp can be very entertaining and very genre defining. Recommended as a collection, 8 out of 10.


Gabriel said...

This collection does sound interesting, thanks for the heads up I will look for it at Borders to start with. I have several Dracula ones myself, and they are a treat.

In regards to the Eve of St George's Day, is that also the night where the blue rings of fire burn over secretly buried treasure like in Dracula that Jonathan Harker spies on the way to the castle?

The reason I ask is that in another Dracula/vampire omnibus I read a story where 'opportunists' decide to take advantage of the blue fire markers to get rich, but get in over their heads with the undead.

Sorry but for the unlife of me I can't remember what it was called, perhaps it is familiar to you?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Gabriel, I found the collection second hand on Amazon Marketplace - I don't know if it is currently available new or not.

I believe it is st George's eve when the blue fire burns. I don't recall the story your referring to but I might have it in a compendium volume and forgotten it or not read that specific tale.

The T said...

Great! I'll try to get that collection right away. Hope I can find it. Sounds extremely interesting!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hope you enjoy it.

OllieMugwump said...

I got this around Christmas-time. I'd already read a fair few of the stories in other anthologies.

"Return of the Undead" definately deserves a film, though written in the 30s, I was reminded of fun 80s horror romps like "Night of the Creeps" and of course "Return of the Living Dead".

Impressed with "Vampire Village" and "Stragella" (which I'd read before) I purchased Edmond Hamilton's "The Vampire Master" from Haffner Press; in which the Holmes/Watson duo Dr. John Dale and Harley Owen take on the evil Gerrit Geisert who is vamping his way through the upstate New York town of Mayfield posing as a namesake descendant (ala Barnabas Collins).
I also bought
Hugh B. Cave's "Murgunstrumm" in which we have the decayed Grey Toad Inn in the American South run by the deformed, cannibalistic title-character who 'disposes' of the victims of his blood-sucking residents.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers for the comment Ollie.

Kuudere-Kun said...

Does this collection include "Children of The Bat" from 1937. Because I've read that story was almost certainly inspired by Les Vampires.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

No Jared, it doesn't I'm afraid