Monday, February 29, 2016

Ten Years of TMtV: Favourite Stakings

I thought today I’d look at staking vampires. The following ten stakings are particular favourites because of the implement used, the reason for staking or just the impact of the filming. They are mostly from films and not in any particular order.

1. Varney the Vampire: Before we look at some of the films, we start with a book, but not just a book – the collected Penny Dreadful that ran from 1845 to 1847.

The series was so long that backstory and lore would change and vanish through its length but there is one particular part of the book about staking that reminds us that staking was not about instantly killing vampires, nor was it necessarily a stake in the heart. In fact it is even suggested that it should be done in a way to cause the least pain: "Drive a stake through him," said a woman; "it's the only way, and the humanestest. You've only to take a hedge stake, and sharpen it a bit at one end, and char it a little in the fire so as there mayt'n't be no splinters to hurt, and then poke it through his stomach."

We have to remember that, in Varney, the vampires are revived by the moon and so one character explains that: I have heard of stakes being driven through the body so as to pin it to the earth until the gradual progress of decay has rendered its revivification a thing of utter and total impossibility.

2. If Varney brought us the stake in the stomach then Mario Bava brought us a pin (or indeed a shard of wood) in the eye in his seminal film Black Sunday. And not just any eye, the left eye specifically. This leads to a macabre scene where eye fluid bursts from the eyeball of the vampire treated in such a way.

3. If a person is being threatened by a vampire then a stake isn’t always the first thing to hand. This brings us to Anders Banke’s flick Frostbite. The screenshot here isn’t actually a staking – a flower is being placed in a vase but, of course, portraying the shadow of a staking has a long cinematic history. However the film is listed here as it was probably the first to feature a vampire being staked with a garden gnome.

4. The Alan Gibson directed Dracula AD 1972 was unusual not only because it was the first Hammer film that looked to place Dracula in a modern setting but also because it actually killed Dracula at the head of the film (and not just a reprise or reminder of a death from earlier in the series). However, being staked by broken carriage wheel was probably the most ignoble death Dracula suffered in the series.

5. Sometimes a film can deliver a normal wooden stake by mechanical means. I nearly went for Seth’s pneumatic stake in From Dusk till Dawn but found myself remembering that the Francis Ford Coppola film Twixt has a vampire execution chair modelled – and we are left to wonder, was a full size one built?

6. The next staking on my list comes from the Paul Landres film the Return of Dracula. The film starred Francis Lederer as Dracula and interestingly the actor actually lived through three centuries, being born in 1899 and dying in 2000. The staking should not be that unusual but for the fact that the film is shot in Black and White and yet for a second, as the stake penetrates, it flips into technicolour.

7. If you want a gory staking, you could do worse than to look to Mel Brooks’ Dracula: Dead and Loving It. The film divides people, I know, but I love it. When Van Helsing and Harker stake the vampire Lucy, Harker gets somewhat more than he bargained for, whilst the wily Van Helsing knew exactly where to stand.

8. In Fran Rubel Kuzui’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer the death of Amilyn – played by Paul Reubens – takes over thirty seconds complete with comedy gasps and frustrated little kicks at the wall. This sequence resumes within the credits. It is a highlight of the film in a very silly way.

9. But, lest we forget, Rutger Hauer was the master vampire in that first incarnation of Buffy and was also Barlow in Mikael Salomon’s 2004 version of Salem’s Lot. His death was fantastic; after the stake penetrates, blood seems to slough off him and fly into the air. He screams as his shape shifts from victim to victim through the ages, as though their souls were finally released.

10. Of course… if you plump for the vampire then you don’t want to see them staked. In that case the vampire needs to take instruction from Roy Ward Baker’s The Monster Club. The centre segment in this portmanteau movie is our vampire segment and all seems lost for the vampire’s family as he has been staked by the B-Squad. However, once they have gone he sits up and removes the stake; he explains that he always wears his stake proof vest filled with tomato ketchup.

Finally, always be on the lookout for a new favourite staking. After I had written this article I watched the film Freaks of Nature and, whilst the film was not as good as I would have hoped, it did include a very satisfactory staking… by mounted fish. Now I assume taxidermy, as the thing didn’t sing (for those who remember Big Mouth Billy Bass), but it was still a great staking and has been added as a bonus staking here.


Everlost said...

I can remember one scene where a vamp is impaled on the horns of a wall mounted deer head. No idea what film though. Lost boys? Or is my brain well and truly fried?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

That does indeed happen to David (Keifer Sutherland) in the Lost Boys :)

Zahir Blue said...

I'm not sure I could come with a list as good as this one.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers Zahir :) though I'm sure you could