Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Vampire Cinema

'The Vampire Cinema' by David Pirie

Back in the 1970s, before there was an internet, or an, one primary way to acquire PorPor books was via the companies that specialized in selling remainders through mass-mailed catalogs. 

One of the larger such companies was Publishers Central Bureau, or PCB. Their distinctive two-tone catalogs regularly would arrive at my house as part of the junk mail.

'The Vampire Cinema', published in 1977 by Quarto Books, was a perennial entrant in the PCB catalog, and in late 1978 I ordered it.

'The Vampire Cinema' is actually a pretty good overview of vampire movies up till the early 70s. It's well illustrated with copious, often full-page, color,  black and white, and tinted stills.

Pirie's chapters start off with a look at vampires in popular fiction and mythology; move on to the early vampire films, such as Nosferatu; the Universal films featuring Bella Lugosi; and then the Hammer vampire films, staring Christopher Lee as Count Dracula.

The chronology then moves to the Eurotrash, low-budget 'sex' vampire films of such directors as Jean Rollin and Roger Vadim. Blurring the lines between softcore porn and art house horror, this sub-genre also was exploited by Hammer, with early 70s movies such as The Vampire Lovers, Twins of Evil, Countess Dracula, and Lust for a Vampire.

The book's final chapters touch on the mixed success Hammer experienced with taking its Dracula series to the 20th century, as well as an overview of the 'New American' vampire films of the 70s, such as Blacula and Count Yorga

Pirie makes the argument that the American low-budget horror cinema made a crucial transition in subject matter, taking the European image of the vampire as a seductive aristocrat, and converting it into a zombie or ghoul with a more grim and unglamorous aesthetic.

'The Vampire Cinema' closes with a brief overview of The Latin Vampire, as epitomized by Spanish and Italian productions of the 60s and 70s.

I suspect that anyone under 30, exposed to the tsunami of vampire content dominating today's popular culture, is going to find the content of 'The Vampire Cinema' to be quirky and quaint. 

The book's most appreciative audience will probably be found among those who subscribe to Shock Cinema and search the cult cinema websites for the DVDs available for some, but not all, of the films covered in 'The Vampire Cinema'. In other words, those who grew up in the 60s and 70s and still have a nostalgic fondness for the Old School approach to horror movies. 

This book is for you....and copies can be found at the usual online sources for under $10.


Minerva Pop said...

Man, it´s an amazing blog!!! this Vampire articles are soo good!!!!
Greatings from Brazil!

Unknown said...

I haven't thought about those Publisher's Central catalogs in years, but I pored through those every time we received a copy.