Wednesday, December 04, 2013
First published: 1981
The Blurb: Man had landed on the planet before: a fruitless expensive fiasco of an expedition. Then, fifty years later a smaller disastrous landing had left two men horribly and unexplainedly (sic) dead.
Mow a third attempt had so far found nothing but a silent, lifeless world. Until they broke open the underground chamber and discovered in the most vile way imaginable that the planet was not quite dead. That a sleeping life form had been waiting for millennia, needing only a chance to breed before escaping to spread like a foul, devouring disease into the lifeblood of the universe.
And to breed it needed the bodies of those who had disturbed it.
The review: I was contacted, not long after reviewing the film Inseminoid and given the heads up about the novel of the film and, you know what, I couldn’t resist. Time for some good, old fashioned cheesy sci-fi.
And what cheese, flaming camembert of the literary world. The book is short, the prose is functional and the premise… well, whilst it is the same as the film details are changed. The creature is found in a glass sarcophagus (what killed the three crew members of the second expedition is never answered) and the mysterious crystals have a function. We still get an interspecies rape – which is more organic and less tubular than the film.
There is a disturbingly sexist undercurrent to the book – not necessarily in the concept of rotation (making sure that men and women on inter-stellar expeditions have partners forcibly rotated for provision of (I assume not forced) sex without damaging emotional ties) but with the attitude of the female crew as described by the author.
The baby creatures were identified as the primary vampiric element of the film. Not so in this (though they carnivorously devour humans). However the mother, Sandy, is certainly more vampiric in this than in the film; “she ground her teeth into Holly’s neck. The life juices spurted out and that pleased Sandy because she drank it all.”
Altogether poor prose mingled with dated attitudes but so much cheese that it is actually quite good fun in a guilty sort of way. 4 out of 10.
Sunday, December 01, 2013
First aired: 1987
I was informed of this episode of Duck Tales by Alex and found it online, at Daily Motion, though it is available on DVD.
It is, of course, a Disney series featuring Scrooge McDuck (Alan Young) and his Grand-nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie (all voiced by Russi Taylor).The premise being that the nephews have been left wqith Scrooge after their uncle Donald joins the navy. Scrooge is the richest duck in the world but is always trying to find ways of becoming richer.
|Wolf hires the convention centre|
|the creature, Drake-ula and the Mummy|
|I only bite... apples|
The imdb page is here.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Release date: 1999
The DVD of Blood Kiss suggests that the quality of image may vary as the film is taken from different sources. How true this is I don’t know but it doesn’t really vary as it is all pretty poor. Film shot on cheap end video equipment, with no inherent photography expertise, is about the best thing I could say about it.
That could be the message of every aspect of the whole flick – cheap end and no inherent expertise. It’s sad, it’s unfortunately also true.
|Steve Lee as Adam Mortis|
|stalking and blood soaked|
1 out of 10.
The imdb page is here.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
|A sketch artist rendition of Count Dracula|
It is true that Bram Stoker took the name Dracula, referred in book to him as a voivode and lifted a smattering of biographical data (which was thin, to say the least, and not all of it was actually about Prince Vlad) and used said data to expand the background of the character. However this was part of an amalgam and the more explicit connections between Prince Vlad and Count Dracula came in the twentieth century.
I will offer at this point a debt to Elizabeth Miller and her book Dracula: Sense & Nonsense (D:S&N) from which many of the arguments have been gleaned.
|Prince Vlad III|
Wilkinson’s detail was scant, indeed it only refers to a Voivode Dracula – never Prince Vlad or Ţepeş – and we know that the novel never mentions the names Vlad, Ţepeş or Impaler, it never refers to the title of Prince and it never mentions the atrocities that Prince Vlad is infamous for. Stoker does mention the rank of voivode but never tackles the fact that Count is a lower rank. It may be helpful if I repeat verbatim what Wilkinson said about the Draculas (and there is a reason for pluralisation) as cited in D:S&N (p155):
“Wallachia continued to pay it [tribute] until the year 1444; when Ladislas King of Hungary, preparing to make war against the Turks, engaged the Voivode Dracula to form an alliance with him. The Hungarian troops marched through the principality and were joined by four thousand Wallachians under the command of Dracula’s son.”
This is later: “Their Voivode, also named Dracula*, did not remain satisfied with mere prudent measures of defence: with an army he crossed the Danube and attacked the few Turkish troops that were stationed in his neighbourhood; but this attempt, like those of his predecessors, was only attended with momentary success. Mahomet, having turned his arms against him, drove him back to Wallachia, whither he pursued and defeated him. The Voivode escaped into Hungary, and the Sultan caused his brother Bladus to be named in his place. He made a treaty with Bladus, by which he bound the Wallachians to perpetual tribute.”
Most importantly (and we know it is most important because of the capitalisation used by Stoker in his notes) was the footnote to the second passage: *Dracula in the Wallachian language means Devil. The Wallachians were, at that time, as they are at present, used to give this surname to any person who rendered himself conspicuous either by courage, cruel actions, or cunning.
|Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula|
So where did the connection come? Clearly from Stoker, in the first instance, as he made a casual connection to “Voivode Dracula”. However the more explicit connections seem to start in film with the Turkish film Drakula Istandul’da, which in turn was based on the 1928 novel by Ali Riza Seyfi entitled Kaziki Voyvoda, which was a reworking of Stoker’s novel but with greater play on the Prince Vlad connection and moved the action from England to Turkey. Given the history of the Ottoman Empire and the apparent impact of Prince Vlad during his reigns this seems hardly surprising at all.
From an academic point of view we can look to Bacil F Kirtley’s Dracula, the Monastic Chronicles and Slavic Folklore in 1956. However it was Raymond McNally and Radu Florescu who really brought the connection to popular Western attention. However their theories were, shall we say, flawed by some dubious academic assertions. Indeed as time moved on, later editions of their work would soften some of the looser evidence they offered regarding the connection. Eventually they would step away from the connection and the following choice quotes by Florescu are cited by Miller: “the connection between the historical Dracula and the novel… beyond the title, is limited to four short references from a single book” (p 155) and that any connection between fictional and historic Dracula is a “Unique and extraordinary accident” (p 182). She suggests that McNally has called claims that Stoker was inspired by Prince Vlad’s atrocities as “silly”. (p 153) However that connection was made by the two academics in the first instance and the behemoth-like concept was out of control and became “fact” within popular concept.
|Prince Vlad full length|
We also have details from Stoker’s Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving (1906) of two meetings with Arminius Vambery, neither of which suggest they discussed Prince Vlad or vampires. In fact Stoker states that - in the first meeting - the conversation was about Vambery's travels in Central Asia and makes specific reference to Tibet. The second occurrence was upon seeing Vambery receive a degree at Dublin University and mentions Vambery's role as a speaker - where he spoke against Russian aggression. There are also no references to correspondence with Arminius Vambery in Stoker’s notes. Later in the novel we get more detail from Arminius, of Buda−Pesth University that suggests Count Dracula “was in life a most wonderful man. Soldier, statesman, and alchemist”. That does not match the infamous Prince Vlad – especially from the Saxon propaganda that earned him the sobriquet Ţepeş – given he was writing a book of Gothic horror, had Arminius Vambery told Stoker of anything about the reputation of the Prince Vlad you would have thought he would have used it, or at least place it in his notes for potential use. Of course I could be wrong about Vambery but there is no evidence to the contrary.
If we look to the history that Count Dracula gives us, as noted by Jonathon Harker, we hear: “We Szekelys have a right to be proud, for in our veins flows the blood of many brave races who fought as the lion fights, for lordship.” Prince Vlad was not a Szekely, Count Dracula clearly was. There are enough misunderstandings flying around about the difference between a Wallachian (Prince Vlad) and a Transylvanian (ie they are two separate principalities). Being a Szekely Count Dracula admits to actually being a Hungarian.
He also suggests, “What devil or what witch was ever so great as Attila, whose blood is in these veins?” Prince Vlad was not descended from Attila.
Why is this important? Because it underlines the fact that Count Dracula is an amalgam character, that Stoker invented a character and then added details from a variety of sources to make the character interesting. I would argue that no single part is any more important than any other.
|Gary Oldman as Count Dracula|
I want to touch briefly on how Count Dracula came to be a vampire as, in order that Prince Vlad can be tied in, there are some confusing aspects to this suggested. As far as I can tell there were no legends surrounding Prince Vlad and vampirism until the connection between Count Dracula and Prince Vlad became popular. Indeed, Prince Vlad is regarded as a national hero in his homeland (though there may have been some manipulation of this during the communist era). However a whole cottage industry seems to have developed suggesting that Prince Vlad was connected with vampirism in legends from his homeland. It has to be said that, even if he had been, no source consulted by Stoker mentions this (as the only source we know of is, of course, Wilkinson).
|woodcut of Prince Vlad|
If he was, it was not because he “turned his back on the church” but because he turned from the Orthodox Church to the Roman Catholic Church for political reasons. As such I doubt that he would have been bothered by his excommunication as he still was a member of a Christian Church (indeed the Holy Church of Rome). It has been suggested to me that all those who follow the Pope are deemed excommunicated by Orthodox churches by rote and thus there would not be a specific excommunication. Taking that on face value it would mean that (if all excommunications lead to vampirism) that we would be overrun by our toothsome friends – there have been a lot of Catholics over the centuries.
However Stoker implied how Count Dracula became a vampire – for that we return to Emily Gerard and note that Arminius has told Van Helsing, “They learned his secrets in the Scholomance, amongst the mountains over Lake Hermanstadt, where the devil claims the tenth scholar as his due.” Note now that we know that Stoker believed Dracula to mean devil, he also has the Count using the pseudonym of Count de Ville, and we read “The Draculas were, says Arminius, a great and noble race, though now and again were scions who were held by their coevals to have had dealings with the Evil One”. The evidence stacks up that it was at the Scholomance that Count Dracula consorted with the devil and I do not think that it is such a stretch to offer the theory that it is the attendance at the Scholomance that was the source of the Count’s vampirism. It is therefore logical that Stoker’s use of the name Dracula had more to do with the meaning of the name that Wilkinson suggested rather than the scant history he offered.
Finally, I’d like you to look to the picture at the head of this essay. This is a sketch artist’s rendition of Dracula as described in the novel (I am unsure of the artist or the ownership and use it only for illustrative purposes under fair usage). Compare that picture to Prince Vlad’s picture further down. They are not the same man – of course they are not for Stoker never saw a picture of Prince Vlad that we are aware of.
|Christopher Lee as Count Dracula|
Ahh, you may say, but you yourself have looked at the 1982 (possibly 1976) absolutely vampire free biopic Vlad Ţepeş on your vampire blog, and I have. I looked at it as an honourable mention because the two figures (literary and historical) are inextricably conflated. However, Count Dracula, as written by Stoker, is not (in my opinion) Prince Vlad though there is a little Prince Vlad (II and III) in him.
As I gird my loins in preparation for the comments I would suggest that should you want further details on much of the nonsense talked about Count Dracula and, of course, the novel itself you should see Elizabeth Miller’s Dracula: Sense and Nonsense:
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
First aired: 2011
Psych is a favourite series of my better half’s and I must admit it is one that I really enjoy too, though I don’t watch it with the same regularity. This episode was the third of season 6 and it was when the series did the, apparently, mandatory vampire episode.
The show itself centres around Shawn Spencer (James Roday), a man with heightened observational skills and a gut instinct for detection and his best friend and business partner Gus (Dulé Hill). Shawn pretends to be a psychic, as the police thought he knew too much and might be a suspect, and the tagline on the DVD set sums it up, “fake psychic, real detectives.” Psych is good at throwing geek orientated trivia and references in and so I will try and point out much that is there and said references actually starts with the opening of the episode as the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” plays with the lyrics, “The world is a vampire, sent to drain”.
|As Lestat and Blacula|
|Cory Feldman as Thorn|
|Dracula (1979) on TV|
Enjoyable stuff though. 7 out of 10.
The episode’s imdb page is here.