Monday, October 26, 2009

Old Vampire Movies Never Die: They Just Get Older by Neil Benson



I watched a couple of old, old vampire movies and was disappointed. The original Dracula has become a classic for a variety of reasons, but largely due to Bella Lugosi's campy, over-the-top, performance. His image, words, and style has become "the vampire" for many people for many decades.

This is not true of most of the other early vampire movies. The movie "Vampyr " made in 1932 by Carl Theodore Dreyer, is long on style and short on substance. The director, focused on visual effects, which were very powerful in their time, but not enough on the plot. It is the story of a traveler obsessed with the supernatural visits an old inn and finds evidence of vampires. In a way, it's unfair to compare a movie made seventy-seven years ago with current and recent films. This movie is best enjoyed by aficionados of vampire movies, and other early cinema.

Mark of the Vampire, made in 1935,starred Lionel Barrymore and Bella Lugosi. I found the dialogue to be clich├ęd and the acting "hammy" even for its time. One critic thought it was amusing. Perhaps it was, but I failed to see it as so. The photography by the famous James Wong Howe captured the eerie atmosphere, but didn't provide anything we hadn't seen in the original Dracula. Only when the script turns everything on its ear at the end of the movie, doesn't rise to a higher quality. The supporting cast, including Lionel Atwell, was talented, but limited by the stylized acting of the time.

The myth of the vampire has become part of world and American culture. It's a shame that movies about vampires aren't seen as potentially premier movies by the powers that be in Hollywood. Then again, the powers that be in Hollywood give us an endless array of cartoon characters in our movies.


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