The History Channel releases a set of documentaries entitled Vampire Secrets – named after the lead documentary and containing 6 documentaries. Vampire Secrets is 90 minutes long and the others 45 and the review will look at each documentary in turn
The Diana Zaslaw directed lead documentary was… well the best way I can describe it was sensationalist in nature. It began with a tale of James Spalding (Dan Higgins) and a failed execution. It touches on Kyonsi and even Jesus. It then returns to Spalding, when he joined the ranks of the Undead by not dying (I will remind folks that Stoker invented that word and so it wasn’t really appropriate for a story said to be from 1632). Onto Dracula and at least they state that Stoker took “the name, but not the actual history” but then insist on looking at Vlad anyway.
|Christa Bella as Báthory|
We then move on to a re-hash of the ‘porphyria explains vampires’ rubbish and the documentary actually suggests that, in the age of enlightenment, it was used as an explanation. As has been well documented the entire bunkum was created by Dr David Dolphin in 1985 (on very poor research) and the assertion in this by Michelle Belanger (who is actually a spokesperson for vampyre lifestyling and self proclaimed psychic vampire, thus not necessarily an expert on medical matters) that porphyria sufferers sometimes crave blood was another giant boob – porphyria sufferers do not crave blood and it would not, ingested, help their symptoms. Mark Benecke did offer another side when he went through the forensics of decomposition – though it was nothing new as anyone who has read Vampires, Burial and Death will know.
|Was the Gaspard Robilette story invention?|
Less a documentary and more a dip into tabloid journalism, all sensationalism, sleaze and little substance; as a result this wasn’t very good. 2.5 out of 10. The imdb page is here.
Monsterquest: Vampires in America
|details on a gravestone|
|coming to get you|
However, all in all this was a much more interesting documentary. 5 out of 10. The imdb page is here.
Biography: Bram Stoker
Ancient Mysteries: Origin of the Vampire
Then, in the 5th Act things went awry as we get the idea that Dracula was based on Vlad Tepes, that the contents of the novel was based entirely on authentic Transylvanian myth (when Stoker, as well as researching myths, invented much himself) and that Báthory was the model for the female vampire and not only drank blood but indulged in cannibalism. Much of this was espoused in documentary by Raymond McNally and I guess 1994 was earlier than the development of the arguements against his theorems. A further error occurred when the narrator suggests that Dracula meant devil or dragon rather than son thereof. Still, ignoring Act 5, this was the best of the documentaries in the set thus far. 6 out of 10. The imdb page is here.
Cities of the Underworld: Dracula’s Underground
|bust of Vlad|
The third reason I disliked this was due to host Don Wildman, who came across as a grinning annoying buffoon. Sorry if you happen to be a Wildman fan. Perhaps it’s just me, perhaps I wanted him to stop going gee whizz in full on tourist mode and actually act like the archaeologist he clearly isn’t. If you turn the sound off, this shows some fascinating archaeological and geological sites. With the sound up, 3 out of 10. The imdb page is here.
The Final Documentary – In Search of History: The Real Dracula – was actually the documentary that also came in the Box of Blood Set and I have previously reviewed it here.
You may be thinking 'ouch' at this point; however there is a damn fine reason for having this set. For your collection. It is a nice big box (though only released as single discs in the US, I’m afraid) and it cost me just £7.49 on pre-order. Just don’t expect world shattering documentaries.