Thursday, October 25, 2018

Vampire Films of the 1970s: Dracula to Blacula and Every Fang Between – review

Author: Gary A Smith

First published: 2016

Contains spoilers

The blurb: The 1970s were turbulent times and the films made then reflected the fact. Vampire movies-always a cinema staple-were no exception. Spurred by the surprise worldwide success of Hammer Film's Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1969 (sic)), vampire movies filled theaters for the next ten years-from the truly awful to bonafide classics. Audiences took the good with the bad and came back for more. Providing a critical review of the genre's overlooked Golden Age, this book explores a mixed bag from around the world, including The Vampire Lovers (1970), Dracula Versus Frankenstein (1971), Scream, Blacula, Scream (1973), Salem's Lot (1975 (sic)), Dracula Sucks (1978) and Love at First Bite (1979).

The review: If I am given pause to thought on this volume it is around the subtitle “Dracula to Blacula and Every Fang Between” because, whilst this is a valiant effort, there are plenty of 1970 vampire genre pieces missing. Now, to be fair, of the roughly 100 entries on this blog (not including films I haven’t covered yet) that don’t appear in the book many are cartoons and TV episodes – not texts that the book looks to cover. However, there are some films absent, often obscure or films in which the vampiric element could be debated or is a fleeting visitation. Sometimes not so obscure given some of the entries in the volume.

I was heartened when the first line of the books opening “The Rules About Vampires” stated “The rules about vampires are that there are no rules.” But Smith often didn’t look to the more borderline films, those films that are vampire despite not being the traditional undead. He did mention Alucarda but suggested it was not a vampire movie, I disagree, but in the main borderline movies do not appear. Then, strangely, he includes Chosen Survivors in which it is vampire bats (with no supernatural element), something I would not look to cover. Chinese films that included vampires pre-1980 were missed (as not existing) though there are a couple of examples where they were a fleeting visitation or it was not a standard vampire type.

The book is chatty and it is an overview, so the plot summaries are mostly quickfire with a few factoids laid out before, but this made the book readable. Where it failed was when personal prejudice came into it. I’m not talking about opinion – and it is clear to me that the author and I radically differ on our opinions of several films – but using Jess Franco as a prime example, the maverick director did receive his own chapter but it is clear that Smith did not care for the director’s work to the point that several of his better known films were glossed over and not given the format prominence of other work and A Virgin Among the Living Dead (one of his superior films) was missed altogether. In one of the (in this case, glaring) omissions I mentioned, though not directed by Franco, I would have expected to see Cuadecuc Vampir mentioned, if not covered fully.

That said the book did touch into the obscure and also covered things like (briefly) vampire porn – something I deliberately haven’t covered here. I was pleased to see Los vampiros de Coyoacán covered, a film I do have a couple of times on DVD but have failed to find a subtitle set for it. All in all, it’s a brave stab and very readable 7 out of 10.

In Paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK


JaredMithrandir said...

I haven't commented on this Blog a lot lately since my interested in Vampires has wanned. But the currently airing Ms Vampire who Lives in my Neighborhood has been bringing back memories.

70s Vampire movies were pretty awkward, I watched quite a few of them, don't fondly remember many.

Ya know, the title character of George MacDonald's Lilith has Vampire tendencies, maybe that's a book you should consider covering?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Jared, always good to hear from you and thank you, if not heard of Ms Vampire who Lives in my Neighborhood, I'll track it down.

I'll also keep an eye out for Lilith 😀