Who knew there were so many fang bangers out there? The success of HBO’s True Blood and the Twilight franchise is proof that vampires have risen from the dead, driven a stake through the very heart of popular culture and won over new fans in unprecedented numbers.
Never before have bloodsuckers done such boffo box office, but how can this newfound popularity be called a comeback when the vampires never went away?
No amount of garlic, it seems, can keep vampires out of the theatre. This weekend Daybreakers, a film about a world where vamps outnumber humans, joins the list of vampire films which dates back to the 1900s.
In the 101 years since audiences first sunk their teeth into a vampire movie — 1909’s Vampire of the Coast — vamps have come in all shapes and sizes. There’s The Vampire Effect, a Chinese martial arts vampire movie (guest starring Jackie Chan), Thomas Dolby’s vampire musical comedy Rockula and the self explanatory Gayracula to name just a few.
Even stranger than any of those is Dracula Blows his Cool, a 1979 German comedy featuring the Count as the proprietor of a disco in his ancestral castle. It’s quite awful, but worth a rental (if you can find it) to hear the disco “hit” Rock Me Dracula (Suck! Suck!).
More traditional is another German film made the same year. Roger Ebert called Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre, “the most evocative series of images centered around the idea of the vampire” since 1922’s Nosferatu.
It cannot be said that this is a particularly scary movie, but Herzog’s emphasis on slowly building tension and atmosphere rather than simply smearing the screen with blood is disquieting and decidedly eerie.
A little more rock’em sock’em is The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, the 1974 collaboration between Britain’s Hammer Studios and the Hong Kong based Shaw Brothers Studio. Peter Cushing is vampire hunter Prof. Van Helsing who battles Dracula and six disciples in a remote Chinese village. It’s weird and wacky, but as one critic said it gets by “on sheer novelty alone.”
So many vampires, so little time. How have vampires survived when other film fads are dead and buried? Adaptability. Just as every generation has placed a hero on the pop charts, cinematic vampires have shapeshifted over the years, bending to the times.
How else can you explain Dracula Blows His Cool’s disco dancing Drac?