Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"Draw First Blood!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

                              The phrase's importance to me comes from the 1977 (hey, that's 40 years ago!!!!!!!!) classic Meat Loaf album, "Bat Out Of Hell."  The song is "All Revved Up, With No Place To Go," which I promise you will eventually hear, but, then I found my wandering to the subject of vampires, and I began to question.

                               How do vampires cope with the recent Time Change???????????

                                Remember, they have to be in their coffins by sunrise.  But, when the time changes, how do they register the difference?  I mean, they are already dead.

                                 Then I thought of that neglected vampire film "The Curse Of Dracula." Released in 1958 under the title "The Return Of Dracula," it featured Francis Lederer, Norma Eberhardt, and Virginia Vincent, about whom you will hear much, later. 

                                  Why television changed the title to "The Curse Of Dracula" I don't know.  How the opening title was redone I could not tell.  I loved this film when I was a child and adolescent, (it turned up a lot on Channel 9, then!!!!!!!) but what I did not catch on to, till years later, and especially on a very recent viewing, was that it is less benign than I remembered and that its gimmick is simply brilliant.  It is a redux of Hitchcock's "Shadow Of A Doubt," with a vampire substituted for a serial killer.

                                    Francis Lederer displays a chilling, coiled sexuality, in the role of the vampire.  I do not buy that he is Count Dracula himself, but rather an emissary thereof.  He infiltrates the good people of Carleton, California, where Christianity, matriarchy, and spinsterhood rule, with an aim, I believe, to report back to the actual Dracula if this is a good feeding ground.

                                     But, by far, the outstanding performance here, is Virginia Vincent, in a black wig, as Jenny Blake.  She is to this film what Lucy Westenra is to the Bram Stoker novel!!!!!!!  (And I just love THIS Lucy, too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

                                      Jenny, who is referred to by Mrs. Mayberry, (mother of Rachel, played by femme lead Norma Eberhardt) as "a little girl we all knew and loved....she had been ill a long time,"
is a tragic figure alive--a blind spinster, (who looks well beyond the "little girl" stage; hell she could be in her mid-Thirties!!!!!!!!!!) with a sweet, vulnerable, childlike nature, which endears her to all.  But she has no family, which is why she resides at the town Parish House, run by the Reverend Doctor Whitfield, (played by Gage Clark; remember him as Reginald Tasker, two years before, in "The Bad Seed;" who could forget THAT?????????) who dotes on her, as does Rachel, and the entire femme contingent there.  The naive Rachel mentions Jenny to her "Cousin Bellac Gordal, (whom the vampire is posing as) and by nightfall he is in Jenny's bedroom, trying to recruit her for one of his own, in a scene that, especially as an adolescent, and even more today, I found to be chillingly sexual.

                                     Jenny, of course, becomes a vampire.  She is seen luring a man to his death by the train tracks--great place to hang out-- but her big scene is the sequence when the Reverend and others, having tracked her down, try to catch her in her coffin, at sunrise.

                                     I love the scene of Jenny running through the cemetery, gracefully as a sylph.  But this is where the issues of Time for Vampires becomes an rears it head.  Jenny is on West Coast Time; does her vampire self realize that?  How can she know?  If she were here, back East, would the time change confuse her?????????  Inquiring minds want to know.

                                     What follows is, in retrospect, a foreshadowing of the Age Of Gore, and I am surprised this was gotten away with, back in 1958.  The film is in black and white.  Now, remember, in the earlier films, when the stake was driven, the act thereof was rarely seen, and the vampire's pain, at best, a blunt groan.

                                         Here, you see the tawdry ugliness.  Virginia Vincent should have received an Oscar nomination for her performance as Jenny, I am telling you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                          The men open the casket.  The clergy pray.  Jenny's eyes are open, her rather ample chest (it was the 1950's, girls!!!!!!!!) simmering with both anger and fear, which her eyes brilliantly register.  The stake is driven, and out of the actress comes the most blood curdling screams, suggesting excruciating pain, followed by a spurt of blood from the heart, that, in this film,
gets tinted with the color red!  Nothing else--just the blood spurt!!!!!!!!!!  Oh, my God!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                           No wonder the time issue confuses me.  In this film, when they first spot Jenny, someone says the time is 5:15 AM; the stake is driven in, fifteen minutes later.

                                            I always thought, if I were a vampire, I would be safer wrapping things up, around 4:00 AM, just to be on the cautious side.  I always thought the hour of four in the morning (which Sylvia Plath lyricized about in one of her works) was the time for vampires to pack it in.

                                              So that is why all this fascinates me.

                                              Here is the shot of Jenny going back to her crypt!!!!!!!!!  Isn't she brilliant????????

As well as the Meat Loaf classic!  Enjoy!

If any vampires out there have insights they wish to share, I would love to hear them!!!!!!!!!!

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