Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A vanguard of various virile, viral and viscous vampires

Kate Beckinsale returns as the beautiful but deadly Selene in “Underworld: Evolution,” the sequel to the 2003 vampires vs. werewolves opus. Selene is definitely on our list of ten favorite vampires in movie history (and she is the hottest). What are the other nine, you ask? Okay, we’ll bite.

9) William Marshall as Mamuwalde in “Blacula” (1972)
While spawned by the Blaxploitation explosion of the early 70’s, “Blacula” is far more tragic and complex than a mere Shaft with fangs. In 1780, an African Prince named Mamuwalde seeks the aid of Count Dracula in ending slavery (which would’ve made our five dollar bills look funny). Instead, Dracula puts the bite on Mamuwalde, who lies undead in a coffin until he’s resurrected in 20th century Los Angeles. The movie is kinda pedestrian, but William Marshall is oddly touching as the regal prince.

8) Ingrid Pitt as Carmilla in “The Vampire Lovers” (1970)
In this Hammer horror flick, Polish born actress Ingrid Pitt plays Carmilla, a lusty bloodsucker who finds youthful rejuvenation through the blood of pretty virginal maidens (ah, the pre-Botox days). Aside from the voluptuous vampire, this soft-core monster flick is also memorable for dream sequences featuring a giant bloodsucking kitty cat!

7) Lance Henricksen as Jesse Hooker in “Near Dark” (1987)
Written and directed by Kathryn Bigelow, this cult film tells the tale of a traveling band of vampires (although the word is never used in the movie) sucking the life’s blood from unsuspecting Okies. This truly original take on vampire lore puts Paxton in the spotlight as the bad boy vamp Severen, whose bar-hopping ways will make any waitress be wary of any patron who asks for an empty glass. But we prefer the more laid back Henricksen as Hooker, the vampire leader who evokes Clint Eastwood more than Bela Lugosi.

6) Alfie Bass as Shagal in “The Fearless Vampire Killers, or, Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck” (1967)
Roman Polanksi’s 1967 vampire comedy plays like a surrealistic fairy tale, and aside from its gorgeous visuals (not the least of which is Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate), it’s got some hilarious bits. At one point, a potential victim tries to fend off the vampire Shagal with a crucifix.... the only problem is, Shagal is Jewish, thus unaffected by the sign of the cross! Of the thousands of movie vampires, Shagal is without question the only one to utter the words, “Oy Vey!”

5) Edward Herrmann as Max in “the Lost Boys” (1987)
Kiefer Sutherland, Schmiefer Schmutherland, the highlight of Joel Schumacher’s teen-vampire romp is Ed Herrmann as Max, the seemingly harmless suitor of the Emerson family matron (Dianne Wiest). Sons Mike (Jason Patrick) and Sam (Corey Haim) immediately take a disliking to Max, a feeling magnified when they discover his desire to win the heart of Mom has more to do with the blood within than love. Grandpa Gilmore, no!!!

4) John Amplas in “Martin” (1977)
You’d think that zombie-meister George Romero’s foray into vampire lore would yield the most gruesome bloodsucker of all. So it’s ironic that in 1977’s “Martin,” we’re never sure whether the disturbed titular teenager actually is or only THINKS he’s a vampire. Martin needs to use razor blades and syringes to drain the blood from his victims and becomes a regular caller to a local radio show. This intelligent, dark brooder (Romero’s most overlooked film) is actually more drama than horror, and that’s not meant as an insult.

3) Salma Hayek as Santanico Pandemonium in “From Dusk Till Dawn” (1996)
It’s a toss-up for favorite vampire in this collaboration between writer Quentin Tarantino and director Robert Rodriguez. There’s Cheech Marin’s bitin’ bouncer, Chet Pussy, Danny Trejo as bartender Razor Charlie and Tom Savini as Sex Machine, who has a gun in his pocket (he’s not happy to see you). But as Santanico Pandemonium, a belly dancing monster vampire, Salma Hayek snake charms the machine-gun-wielding pants off of you! Remember, folks, even in Mexico, never drink tequila off a vampire’s toes.

2) Bela Lugosi in “Dracula” (1933)
Obvious choice? Sure, but the fact remains, when someone says the name, “Dracula,” Lugosi’s wine-abstaining prince of darkness is still the image that pops into mind. One of the most indelible portrayals in film history, the Hungarian stage actor’s Transylvanian Count may not be as frightening as say, Gary Oldman in Francis Ford Coppola’s otherwise miscast 1992 remake (Keanu & Winona? Please!) or the #1 vampire on our list, but he is, with his thick accent and stiff, exotic demeanor, by far the most iconic.

1) Max Schreck as Count Orlok in “Nosferatu” (1922)
Ater over 80 years, still the scariest. In F.W. Murnau’s 1922 German film, “Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens” (Nosferatu, a symphony of Horror), Max Schreck plays Count Graf Orlok, a bone-white human rodent with elongated claw-like fingers and ratlike teeth. An unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” the film is a haunting black and white example of German Expressionism. “Nosferatu” has only grown in creepiness since 1922, partially due to the alienation of time. Modern viewers often find even comedies from that era to be unsettling due to the stark difference in style, technology and setting. When you add a plague of rats and a truly terrifying Dracula to the mix, there’s absolutely nothing comforting in “Nosferatu.” And we mean that as the ultimate praise.

Runner-up bloodsuckers include Kirsten Dunst as Claudia in “Interview With the Vampire” (1994), a wee vampire waaaaaay scarier than Tom Cruise as Lestat; Paul “Pee-Wee Herman” Reubens as Amilyn, the fanged freakazoid from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1992); Stephen Geoffreys as Evil Ed, the campiest vamp of all in “Fright Night” (1985); and David Bowie as John, the most rock and roll vampire in “The Hunger” (1983). If we neglected to list YOUR favorite bloodsucker on this list, please don’t take it personally. Wait.... do we smell garlic?

No comments: