Thursday, July 02, 2015
First published: 2013
The blurb: Before Bella and Edward; Stefan and Damon Salvatore; and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, there was Lestat and Louis, The Lost Boys, and Buffy Summers. Before True Blood and Let the Right One In, there was Dark Shadows and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. And then there is the most prominent of them all: Dracula, immortalized by Bram Stoker in 1897. Whether they’re evil, bloodsucking monsters or sparkling like diamonds in the sunlight, vampires have been capturing our imagination since their modest beginnings in the rustic fantasies of southeastern Europe in the early eighteenth century. Today, they’re everywhere, appearing even in movies in Japan and Korea and in reggae music in Jamaica and South Africa. Why have vampires gone viral in recent years?
In The Rise of the Vampire, Erik Butler seeks to explain our enduring fascination with the creatures of the night. Exploring why a being of humble origins has achieved success of such monstrous proportions, Butler considers the vampire in myth, literature, film, journalism, political cartoons, music, television, and video games. He describes how and why they have come to give expression to the darker side of human life—though vampires evoke age-old mystery, they also embody many of the uncertainties of the modern world. Butler also ponders the role global markets and digital technology have played in making vampires a worldwide phenomenon. Whether you’re a fan of classic vampire tales or new additions to the mythology, The Rise of the Vampire is a fascinating look at our collective obsession with the undead.
The review: I have looked at Erik Butler’s previous volume, Metamorphoses of the Vampire in Literature and Film: Cultural Transformations in Europe, 1732-1933 and stated in the review “This is not a book, however, for the casual reader.” This is the reference book more designed for that casual reader, a quick foray through the flora and fauna that make up the media vampire (and a little touch on folklore).
There were moments within where I found myself disagreeing with him. The assertion that in Carmilla Le Fanu “hints at Lesbianism but never shows it” is one interpretation, however I believe Le Fanu showed much – in the dialogue and the scene where he quite obviously has Laura, whilst fed upon, orgasm belies that interpretation. Or interpreting the pure in heart maiden requirement for Ellen in Nosferatu as virginal (and thus her and Hutter having not consummated their marriage) was, I think, interesting but not necessarily the correct interpretation.
One assertion I must mention is that the Rocky Horror Picture Show is a vampire film – I found the logic here thin but perhaps a mention of Anyab, the Egyptian rip-off of the Rocky Horror Picture Show in which the Frank equivalent character is a vampire, might have shored up the argument.
But, hey, no matter what Butler always gives food for thought and is a joy to read. This volume probably is a little too fleet through the subjects but that aids its readability. It is referenced and has an index. 8 out of 10.
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
I have featured plenty of Doctor Who episodes on the blog, however this is by far the earliest being part of season 2 of the original Doctor Who and featuring William Hartnell as the Doctor. Directed by Richard Martin and airing in 1965, this was an episode in a 6 episode sequence called the Chase.
The Chase was bizarre in the humour it added into the series. We had stammering daleks who had trouble adding up, for instance, and a *comedic* Alabama resident in New York that was more Beverly Hillbillies than anything else.
|Malcolm Rogers as Dracula|
|Dracula meets a dalek|
The episode's imdb page is here.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
First published: 2015
The Blurb: Stories by Matthew Baugh, Nathan Cabaniss, Matthew Dennion, Win Scott Eckert, Brian Gallagher, Martin Gately, Rick Lai, David McDonald, Frank J. Morlock, Christofer Nigro, Catherine Robert, Dola Rosselet, Frank Schildiner, Michel Stéphan and Artikel Unbekannt.
Featuring Alinska, Elizabeth Bathory, Captain Vampire, Carmilla, Nadine Carody, Dracula, Koschei, Lenore, Orlok, Ruthven, the Vampire City and the Vampires of Mars.
This dual nature of the vampire, stretching between love and death, creates a moral ambiguity which is omnipresent in its literary treatment, incorporating and contrasting seduction and horror, heroism and villainy. It only reflects the nature of life after death, and how it is perceived by its surrounding culture. Is it a desirable dream, or a hateful abomination? A reward or a punishment? And what price must one pay for such survival?
The stories contained in this collection, featuring some of the most famous vampires in literary history, incorporate all of these contradictions; in them, vampires can be both super-human and sub-human, sexual predators and impotent, romantic and passionate, and yet devoid of soul. Ultimately, the vampire is our own face, reflecting in the mirror of our beliefs, the incarnation of our spiritual choices.
The review: Blackcoat Press rapidly became one of my favourite publishers due to the obscure 19th century text they release (for me, of course, especially those centred on the vampire) making translations available often for the first time.
They also publish original material and I have had their annual anthology series, Tales of the Shadowmen, on my wishlist for some time. Whilst I haven’t yet read those, this collection (the first of two) dedicated to the vampire and reimagining many of the Blackcoat stable and others was irresistible. Actually, some of the stories herein were first seen in the Shadowmen series.
There is a wide variety of vampires captured from Lenore (who was not originally imagined as a vampire and, indeed, was not in a vampire poem – but who appears in Matthew Dennion’s Hope for Forgiveness, as a vampire, alongside the Scarlett Pimpernel and Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter) to Dracula himself. I’ve captured in the review some of my favourite moments.
Nathan Cabaniss wrote the story Schodinger’s Blood and features the vampire Alsinka from the Virgin Vampire but it is the clever premise of Alsinka’s curse that captured me, as she avenges the wronged woman, devouring her victim’s blood through Quantum Mechanics as she reaches from the past and drains his blood in the future.
Whilst the book is split into sections based on the primary character that character might also appear in other tales (and very few of the tales follow on one from another so continuity is not an issue). There were three Carmilla orientated stories. Martin Gately’s the Moon Hag needs mention for not only telling the story of Lafontaine’s cousin as mentioned in the original story (“Mademoiselle related that her cousin, who was mate of a merchant ship, having taken a nap on deck on such a night, lying on his back, with his face full in the light on the moon, had wakened, after a dream of an old woman clawing him by the cheek, with his features horribly drawn to one side; and his countenance had never quite recovered its equilibrium.”) but also for the creation of a vampire living in utero, which would emerge from the mother only to feed before retreating back into the womb.
However it was Dola Rosselet’s To Die For that stole the show of the Carmilla tales, for me at least, which makes a beautiful coda to the Carmilla story.
Those who have read Paul Féval’s Vampire City will be aware of the interesting lore of dividuality, where a vampire can absorb a victim and then make them a duplicate of themselves or change their appearance generally, whilst making them part of their collective whole. Brian Gallagher’s City of the Nosferatu interestingly takes this concept and then makes Graff Orlok an abandoned aspect of Count Dracula. Gallagher also has it that if one takes the heart of a vampire and burns it before it is dead (not all the vampires die due to heart removal) you can put the ashes into a bullet to make it a devastating anti-vampire weapon. Later on, in a section introduction, the editor’s describe the Orlok of Nosferatu as an anti-hero, which I think is a stretch – to me he is most definitely a villain.
It is not, however, just 19th century (and very early twentieth century) characters that get a look in. I mentioned the appearance of Kronos and Win Scott Eckert’s Les Levres Rouges is based on Daughters of Darkness. The story Blood and Fire, by Artikel Unbekannt, is based on Vampyros Lesbos and is probably my favourite story in the collection, simply because of the beauty of the prose.
I have barely scratched the surface, there are tales of vampiric possession and there are tales that connect in to the Lovecraft mythos. There are stories of love and stories of hate. This is a fine collection of stories that are based on the characters created by others but that are strangely refreshingly original because of this. 9 out of 10. The Blackcoat Press page for the volume is here.
Friday, June 26, 2015
Release date: 2015
The vampire created by science, it’s a nice route to tread at times. It makes me think back to the vampire bat and deranged experiments involving blood as well as hypnosis and village hysteria. None of which you’ll really find here. Ok, you will find deranged experiments…
It is a film on a budget and it does try to rise above that, yet I was left with some doubts around the plot and a lack of belief in the characters (despite the actors’ best efforts), which all in all left me a tad underwhelmed.
|Henry and Ella|
|blood spattered professor|
The imdb page is here.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Release date: 2014
The Blurb: Vlad the Impaler was once the most fearsome ruler in Europe. His armies marched against both Turks and Saxons until his enemies assassinated him. But Vlad Dracula rose from the dead, ready to wrest control of a new kingdom, that of the undead legions of the Night.
To his surprise, he discovered the Undead of Europe to be bestial, scattered, and nearly mindless; more akin to zombies than vampires. So he set out to replace them with a new breed of Undead, borne of his blood and taken from only the finest noble houses. Thus Dracula became the sire not of warriors, but elegant and seductive noblewomen whom no man could resist: Lady Katya, Countess Elizabeth Báthory, Countess Mircalla Karnstein, Lady Lenore, Countess Ulrica Dolingen, and others.
You've read Bram Stoker's “Dracula”. Now see how Dracula assembled the most powerful and famous members of his entourage. As part of THE LEGEND OF DRACULA trilogy, this book contains thirteen short stories about the infamous Count and his seductive children of the Night.
Vampires are scary again!
The review: If I came across as harsh when I reviewed book 1 of Perry Lake’s Dracula series then I have to say that it is because I see much potential within the series and hoped by being constructively critical that I might help the author tap that potential.
I have to say that, as a collection of shorts, this volume held itself together more than the first volume. I think the narrow focus on the various brides helped. Indeed one short section, Immortal Love, was impressive as Lake changed voice and showed to advantage the skill in prose that the author is capable of. That’s not to say that I don’t still think that some of the stories suffer from brevity, they do, but many are fleshed further and has allowed Lake to develop the characters in a much stronger way and some sections felt more like longer prose than shorts, which was positive.
I am still not impressed with the cod-mediaeval dialogue that we occasionally get (much less in this volume I thought) but the author commented on my previous review that they are to stay and that is the author’s prerogative.
The volume explores Carmilla’s background, which was done in an interesting way and it is worth looking at the volume for this section alone. The cornucopia of references and borrowed characters continued apace.
The improved characterisation and the more focused knitted plotlines pushed this ahead of book 1 in my opinion and made it a more satisfying read. 6 out of 10.
Monday, June 22, 2015
The story follows Dr Bruce Cairn and his son Robert as they become embroiled in the machinations of Antony Ferrara, the adopted son of Dr Cairns' colleague and friend Sir Michael Ferrara. Antony Ferrara murders his adopted father through occult means and, as the book progresses, we discover that his powers reach back to Ancient Egypt.
Though Ferrara’s goals through most of the book involve either the marriage to, or death of, Sir Michael’s ward Myra Duquesne he does deviate from this as he turns his attentions to a certain Lord Lashmore’s young wife. Of course the presence of Lord Lashmore, and thus the fact that she is not a wealthy widow yet, stands in the way of his ambition.
Lord Lashmore is directed to Dr Cairn and has scars on his neck that look to have been made by fangs. We discover that in his ancestral seat of Dhoon there is a dark secret. One of Lashmore’s ancestors, the third Baron, brought home a beautiful woman from the continent – a Polish Jewess called Mirza. There was a child from their marriage, Paul Dhoon, though he was passed off as a child of a subsequent marriage after Lord Lashmore despatched Mirza.
At the coming of age the heirs of the family were taken to a secret room in Dhoon castle to reveal the family’s dark secret. In that room was Paul Dhoon’s body, still with flesh on his bones, gleaming “wolf fangs” and an aspen stake driven through him – which was done a whole year after his death.
Cairn concludes that “Mirza… …practised sorcery in life and became, after death, a ghoul—one who sustained an unholy existence by unholy means—a vampire.” She was decapitated by her husband, which prevented her return as a physical vampire as the body was no longer a suitable vehicle but her spirit was bound to Earth. Ferrara discovered that Lady Lashmore was, unbeknown to herself, a sensitive and ensured that the spirit of Mirza could possess the woman – allowing Mirza access to the two things she desired, blood and vengeance against the family Dhoon.
Cairn realises that they have to find a cavern that houses the body of Mirza and finally release her through a wooden stake. Before they get chance to do this Lord Lashmore dies, following an attack where he struck his attacker, realised it was his wife and suffered a fatal heart attack. Whether they subsequently went to the cavern to aid Lady Lashmore is not covered in the book and the entire Lashmore sub-story is dropped and forgotten at that point.
According to the book’s Wikipedia entry, Lovecraft compared this novel to Stoker’s Dracula and Les Daniel deems it Rohmer’s best novel. For the former I doubt I would go anywhere near that far. The book proves itself to be a fair romp but somewhat unsophisticated. The vampire section was interesting but suffered for the lack of conclusion. That said, it is an interesting use of vampiric possession.
Saturday, June 20, 2015
Director: Joe DeMuro
Release date: 2015
If we class Tales of Dracula as a fan film – which it most assuredly is, given that the film has clearly been created with a fan’s touch – then it isn’t a bad effort. If we view it through the same critical lens we’d reserve for more professional fare then perhaps it struggles a tad. But with an estimated budget of $20,000 they have managed to pull off more than one would expect.
The film harks back to the Universal pictures of yore and there are plenty of references for the fans. The use of black and white probably hides some issues, the physical effects can be surprisingly good and whilst the cgi is obvious it is better than some.
|tales of the smoking cross|
|Daniel and Creighton|
|Wayne W. Johnson as Dracula|
|enter the bride|
The imdb page is here.