Sunday, May 22, 2016

Vamp or Not? Dracula of Exarcheia

It might seem silly to have a film with the name Dracula in the title as a ‘Vamp ot Not?’ but really this felt the best way to go for this Nikos Zervos directed 1983 slice of Greek surrealism and music. The film has the alternate title O Drakoulas ton Exarheion.

The film is a political and social satire, I'd guess, and the reason I say that I guess is because I am sure some of the commentary means more if you are aware of Greek culture. It also, for me, slams synthetic pop/pop culture and the tendency to push financial gain over art in the music industry.

Konstantinos Tzoumas as Victor
We begin with Victor Papadopoulos (Konstantinos Tzoumas) walking towards camera. He eventually comes to a tree branch that overhangs the stairs he is walking on and grabs (what is clearly meant to be) an insect from the foliage. He opens his hand, swats it with a newspaper and eats it. So, at this point, I was thinking Renfield.

Graveyard ciggie
He is picked up in a car driven by Aphrodite (Johnny Vavouras) and is in the car with Stoneheaden – who looks like a member of the Blues Brothers. As they drive Victor has Aphrodite put some Talking Heads on, though Stoneheaden appears not to like it. They arrive at a cemetery and start grave robbing (a right hand for the bass player, a head for the singer and 20 fingers for the guitarists says Victor). When I say they, Victor is listening to music and Stoneheaden is smoking, only Aphrodite digs. Suddenly there is a moaning sound, they’ve been rumbled and leg it.

Zombie activist
Zombies rise from the graves. They have a zombie union meeting and one zombie believes that they must take action against Victor. The entire thing is based on a left wing meeting but what we do hear is that Victor is robbing the graves of musicians to steal their body parts. The zombies decide to hold a protest concert at a festival. They go on the march, with placard held high. Some of the zombies are determined to eat the living.

Making a band
Meanwhile Victor gets home. He asks the maid, Ophelia, if his daughter Ioulieta (Isavella Mavraki) has gone to bed. Victor is creating a band. He places the bodies he has collected together in a vat and is making them listen to 48 hours of contemporary music as part of the process… So he is not Renfield, he is Victor Frankenstein? It would seem not. His daughter is sneaking around the lab as she is making a doll (which her father cannot find out about) and wants to know what he uses as a battery for his musical creations.

Musical interlude
Over dinner that evening we get a further clue as Victor is less than happy when Ophelia leaves a soup spoon over a knife forming a sign of a cross. We hear that he travelled from the Carpathians to move to Greece (and become a music mogul, it appears) and we see that he sleeps in a coffin. So, Victor is the Dracula of the title apparently. As it is things go wrong with the band (Music Brigade, an actual Greek band) as Stoneheaden plays something unsuitable in earshot and Ioulieta runs away with them. Victor sends Stoneheaden after them and we don’t see him again until the end and then he is simply watching their concert on TV.

Mermaid moment
The rest of the film has the band playing to a feminist collective that turns into an orgy with raiding police. Aggressive marketing in a supermarket. Stoneheaden going into disguise both as a meremaid and (at the feminist collective) an unconvincing woman. There is coffin sex and occasional zombie attacks and, of course, there is the benefit concert. It’s a heady, surreal cocktail of strangeness that will be off-putting to many and cult viewing to some. But is it Vamp?

Zombie attack
Truthfully there is nothing traditionally vampiric within the film. However, the character Victor is meant to be Dracula and Konstantinos Tzoumas has a presence that works well. If we take the vampire to be an agent of capitalism, though, a creature who takes the dead and uses it as cheap means to make a buck – exploiting culture and heritage for the sake of manufactured pseudo-art then Victor is a real vampire.

The imdb page is here.


Alex. G said...

As a avid collector of the absurd, bizarre and surreal, this looks like something right up my alley. Where can I find this masterpiece?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Alex. It is a rarity, no doubt. Collector's sites tend to have it.