Vampires have long held a certain fascination within many different cultures of the world. While the concept began in Europe, it didn’t stay confined there. America has taken tales of the living dead and made them famous through literature and film. So real have these legends become in the hearts and minds of fans, that vampire cults continue to exist today. Some of them practice the symbolic act of drinking blood.
Many people equate the legend of the vampire to Vlad the Impaler, a depraved Romanian Prince who enjoyed torturing and killing men, women, and children. He then impaled the bodies or heads of his enemies on spikes and hung them outside his castle as a warning to anyone who would dare to cross him.
As scary as his tales may be, however, there is little evidence to suggest that he actually drank his victims’ blood. However, there was an earlier deviant – – Countess Elizabeth Bathory – – who apparently did just that along with the practice of bathing in blood in hopes of maintaining her youth and beauty. For more information on her, click here http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/276457/countess_elizabeth_bathory_a_vampire.html?cat=37
It is far more likely that the stories of these two individuals ran together over time to create the legend we now know as Dracula. But, whatever the source of these stories, they are not likely to be forgotten since movies continue to explore the realm of vampirism.
With the recent release of the movie “Twilight,” the myths and legends surrounding vampires are once again taking front and center. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best vampire movies of all time.
It all began in the 50’s with a string of films based on Count Dracula, a vampire that bewitched women and lured them to their deaths. “The Horror of Dracula,” starring Christopher Lee, is an undisputed classic. Made in 1958, it was one of a string of Dracula films most of which starred Lee. These movies first introduced the heroes Jonathan Harker and Dr. Van Helsing, vampire hunter; as well as the subjects of the count’s nefarious lust – – Lucy and Mina. The films were very sexual for that time period and offered more than a fair amount of gore, which may have well helped to establish them within what was then a growing horror industry.
Although technically a mini-series and not a movie, one of my favorite vampire films is “Salem’s Lot.” It was based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. Of course I’m talking about the 1979 version, starring David Soul as the hero Ben Mears, James Mason as the evil Richard Straker, and Bonnie Bedelia as the lovely Susan Norton. It is the better of the two adaptations, the second of which starred Rob Lowe in the lead role. Directed by Tobe Hooper, “Salem’s Lot” was every bit as dark and foreboding as the story it portrayed. Set in a small Maine town, the sleepy village was obviously ill equipped to deal with the evil that insinuated itself into the community, slowly draining away its very lifeblood. The acting in this film was good, if not excellent, and the special effects were outstanding for that time period.
Another of my favorite vampire films stars Wesley Snipes as part vampire, part human, day walker known as “Blade.” The original ’98 film was the first to bring the graphic novel of the same name to life, complete with a butt-kicking hero who didn’t have a problem with dusting those who represented his worst side. The franchise went on to spawn two additional movies. Full of action, quick-witted humor, and lots of martial arts, the film had a lot to offer; not the least of which was a touching relationship between the anti-hero and the human who raised him. Consequently, “Blade” managed to appeal to a broader cross section of moviegoers than many of its vampiric predecessors. It continues to enjoy a comfortable cult following.
Another vampire film that wasn’t afraid to make fun of itself was the 1987 cult classic, “The Lost Boys.” Of course it didn’t hurt that it starred the two hottest teen idols of the day in Corey Haim and Corey Feldman. The story centered on two brothers who lived with their single mother and grandfather in a small coastal California town. While they worried that life there would be boring, nothing could have been further from the truth. Boring was no longer in the cards after the older brother, played by a young Jason Patric, made friends with a vampire gang led by Kiefer Sutherland and a mesmerizing Jami Gertz. The film had its scary moments, to be certain. However, its real brilliance lay within its biting humor and not its blood and gore.
For sheer creativity, a nod has to be given to “Interview with a Vampire.” The all-star cast included Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Christian Slater, Antonio Banderas, and a very young Kirsten Dunst. The ’94 film was of course based on the highly popular novel by Anne Rice. Much speculation was bandied about regarding the film for months before its opening. Rice, it seemed, was not originally pleased with the casting of clean-cut American hero, Cruise, as the evil LeStat. In the end, however, the casting proved to be perfect, making both the author and moviergoers pleased with the outcome. The film had several ominous overtones and dealt with subjects that many considered taboo like homosexuality and incest. It was also one of the most graphic films of its type, with enough blood and gore for all four of the movies noted above. But the acting was excellent; the costuming perfect; the set designs elaborate; and the cinematography memorable. With all of that going on, it was destined to become a film classic.
While there have been many other notable vampire movies over the years, these five represent a good cross-section of the various explanations and adaptations of vampire myth and legend. It is for that reason that I have chosen them as my top five; not THE top five, mind you – – just mine. I haven’t yet seen “Twilight.” I admit I am even unfamiliar with the novels. But if box office receipts are any indication, it would appear that it may also be well on its way to joining the ranks of a long and distinguished list.