You know how Count Dracula is usually said to be partially based on Vlad the Impaler? Well, most scholars think that the legendary literary bloodsucker was also based on someone who was arguably even scarier than that: Elizabeth Bathory. The Hungarian countess has become infamous for the horrific torture and murder of anywhere between 35 and 650 young women, and in later years, stories arose that she bathed in virgin blood to retain her youth. Countess Bathory, as a matter of fact, is credited by no less an authority than the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s most prolific female serial killer. On this episode of 13 O’Clock, Tom and Jenny delve into the terrifying and crimson-drenched world of the Blood Countess, trying to sort the truth from the myth. Exsanguinate the nearest servants and relax in a tub full of gore (don’t really do that), it’s time for episode 53.
Download the audio podcast here, or watch the YouTube version here. Also, don’t forget to follow the 13 O’Clock Podcast blog, subscribe to our YouTube channel, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter. And be sure to check out our list channel, 13 O’Clock In Minutes! AND SUPPORT US ON PATREON!!! For iTunes listeners, here is a link to the new feed. Song at the end: “Elizabeth” by XIII Stoleti.
We already recorded a second movie review for our new 13 O’Clock offshoot! It’s of my very favorite vampire movie from the 1980s, The Hunger, which I also wrote about in depth right here, if you’re interested. Enjoy!
Zombies are pretty ubiquitous in pop culture, what with all your Walking Deads and your George Romeros and what not. But the origins of the zombie, of course, lie in the voodoo practices of Haiti, and are less about flesh-eating ghouls than about using death-mimicking drugs to enslave your enemies. On this episode, Tom and Jenny explore the curious world of the Haitian zombies, including the famous case of real-life zombie Clairvius Narcisse, the study of the supposed “zombie powder” undertaken by anthropologist Wade Davis, and various other aspects of the zombification process as well as mythology surrounding the procedure and various digressions about zombie movies and the differences between zombies and vampires. Call the bokor to resurrect you from your grave, because it’s time for episode 51.
Download the audio podcast here, or watch the YouTube version here. Also, don’t forget to follow the 13 O’Clock Podcast blog, subscribe to our YouTube channel, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter. And be sure to check out our list channel, 13 O’Clock In Minutes! AND SUPPORT US ON PATREON!!! For iTunes listeners, here is a link to the new feed. Songs at the end: “Now I’m Feeling Zombified” by Alien Sex Fiend and “I Am Legend” by White Zombie.
Just a brief update here with some new links and upcoming goodies, just so you know the Goddess is still around and working!
First up, I’m sure you will remember the book I published not so long ago with parapsychologist Steve Mera, The Rochdale Poltergeist. Well, as a result of that book, Steve was summoned to work on an even stranger case right here in the US of A, the controversial Keith Linder “Demons in Seattle” case! Steve and his collaborator Don Phillips have been to the house and gathered lots and lots of data, and are in the process of making an episode of their UK TV show, “The Phenomena Project,” about what they discovered. More germane to this blog is the fact that Steve and I are collaborating on another book about this newer case! Its working title is House of Fire and Whispers: Investigating the Seattle Demon House, and it’s still in the interview/outline stage at the moment, but we’re trying to get it out in the next few months, while interest in the case is still high. More news as the book progresses! In the meantime, here is a short video giving an overview of the mysterious happenings:
I’m also still working on the erotica stories for my Panty Party Publishing arm; I haven’t been able to put up as many as I’d like lately because of other competing projects, but I have one story called “Island of the Satyrs” almost finished and ready to roll, and a third installment of the Little Dick Superpower series is also in the pipeline. Keep your pervy eyeballs peeled!
If any of you are going to be out and about in the Tampa, Florida area this coming weekend, why not stop by the Endless Night Vampire Ball at storied goth landmark The Castle? Tickets are $18 apiece, doors open on Saturday night at 10pm and it promises to be a grand time. I will be in attendance in all of my vampiric finery, accompanied of course by the GoH, and also by our dear friends DJ Lavidicus of Memento Mori fame, and his lovely wife Jen Draven, of 13th Angel fame. Vamp on up and say hello if you’re in the neighborhood!
And that’s all the news that’s fit to blog at the moment. Until next time, keep it creepy, my friends.
One of the main underlying themes of a lot of these blog posts is an examination of why particular moments in horror film, literature or music made a lasting impression on me while others did not. Why, for example, was I terrified by the bubbling cauldron sound at the beginning of “The Monster Mash”? Or the schlocky scene in My Bloody Valentine where the homicidal miner pops out of the closet with the pickaxe? Or the part in Fright Night where Amy reveals her horribly wide terror-mouth? I still have no idea, but it’s been fun reliving all this stuff from my wayward youth and trying to find some kind of perspective on it, or contemplating the threads that might tie all these disparate things together.
The next scene I want to discuss is another one of those that, for whatever reason, has stuck with me for 35 years, even though I don’t remember much about the rest of the film. The scene itself was only a couple of minutes long, but I can still vividly remember the heart-stopping shudder that traveled through my body the first time I saw it, and further recall how I studiously covered my eyes during the scene on subsequent re-watches of the movie.
Before I get to the main feature, allow me another short commercial break. I still have a Patreon campaign going to fund my writing work, and there are lots of neat rewards just for pledging a few bucks a month, so check it out, won’t you? Thank you. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
John Badham’s version of the classic Dracula (1979), starring Frank Langella as the titular Count, came out around the same time as a few other vampire films, notably Werner Herzog’s elegant remake of Nosferatu. Badham’s adaptation wasn’t horribly reviewed, but apparently audiences were experiencing some vampire fatigue, and it only did so-so business at the box office. I was only seven when it was released in theaters, so I didn’t catch it until it ran on television a year or two later; in fact, I’m fairly sure it was the first of the major Dracula film adaptations I ever saw, even before the more-famous Bela Lugosi and Hammer versions.
Like the 1931 Bela Lugosi film, Badham’s Dracula was based on the stage play rather than the novel, and followed a lot of the tropes of the Universal version. For example, Dracula is portrayed as a seductive, romantic figure rather than a ratlike monster as in the book, and the entire first part of the novel (where Harker is kept prisoner in Dracula’s Transylvanian castle) is scuttled, allowing the movie to start with the Count’s arrival on English shores. Something the Badham film does that I thought was odd, though, is that it reverses the characters of Lucy and Mina; Mina is the first one attacked and vampified by Dracula, for example, while Lucy is Harker’s fiancée, and is attacked later but ultimately saved when the vampire is staked. The film also portrays Mina as the daughter of Van Helsing and Lucy as the daughter of Dr. Seward. These changes don’t ruin the story or anything, but they also don’t really add to it, so I’m not sure why they were made. Perhaps because some characters were eliminated for brevity (like poor old Quincey Morris, who hardly ever gets a part in these adaptations), the screenwriter thought it would increase the drama and emotional coherence of the characters to make them all related somehow, but I’m just speculating about that. Still doesn’t explain why Lucy and Mina were reversed, but whatever.
As I said, I don’t remember a great deal about the film as a whole; I remember enjoying it, and being quite taken with Langella’s graceful performance as the Count, but even though I saw the movie several times when I was about nine years old, very little of it made a lasting impression. Except for that one, very brief scene.
If my quick Google search is any indication, I’m not the only one that has had this scene burned into my memory for more than three decades. I’m not entirely sure why the scene is so memorable; it could be simply because in the context of the film, it is so shockingly unexpected. This version of Dracula, after all, was marketed more as a supernatural romance than a horror film, and played rather like a staid English parlor drama (with fangs). There was little to no gore that I remember, and nothing that was outright frightening. But then this happens:
The lovely Mina (Jan Francis) has been exsanguinated by the foxy Count one night while her friend Lucy (Kate Nelligan) is out tramping it up with Jonathan (Trevor Eve). It makes me feel weird to even type that, you guys. It’s like they were cheating or something, what with the character reversal and all. Though now that I think about it, how great would a Mina/Lucy catfight scene have been? Anyway. The next morning, Mina is pale and gasping for breath, and dies as a horrified (and guilty) Lucy looks on. Dr. Seward (Donald Pleasance) has no idea what could have killed Mina, and summons Dad Van Helsing (Laurence Olivier) to help solve the mystery.
No slouch, Van Helsing immediately jumps to the most obvious conclusion, that eine nosferatu is running loose in the vicinity. As an aside, though, this is Van Helsing we’re talking about. He probably blames a vampire every time one of his socks disappears from the washing machine. Sure, he was correct in this case, but even a stopped clock, yadda yadda.
Anyhoo, Seward and Van Helsing visit Mina’s new grave in the cemetery, and find that her coffin is not only empty, but contains a ragged hole where she presumably dug herself out. The hole leads underground into some old mining tunnels, and they crawl down there to investigate, pretty sure of what they’re going to find. As they peer into the darkness, visions of the beautiful Mina probably uppermost in their minds…
…they begin to hear a shuffling sound coming toward them. They raise their lamps or candles (I can’t exactly remember which, and can’t find the scene on YouTube to check), and there, emerging from the darkness, is this horror, reaching for them and begging for a kiss:
This shit scared me SO BAD, you guys. And in this sense maybe it was a sound storytelling idea to make Mina Van Helsing’s daughter, because the tragedy of the scene is very apparent here, and underscores the horror with great effectiveness. The figure of the undead Mina is terrifying but also heartbreakingly pitiful, and the viewer really feels it when Van Helsing has to put down the monster his daughter has become. The rest of the film isn’t nearly as powerful, but that one scene is a stunner.
Keep watching this space for more of my horror-related wanderings, and news on my upcoming poltergeist book! Until then, Goddess out.
I have to admit that, as a rule, I’m kinda over vampires these days. Like all self-respecting darklings, of course, I was all about Anne Rice back in the day, and my first (terrible, unpublished) novel was actually a painfully angsty vampire love story along those same lines. If only I had known that years later, someone would write Twilight and make all the money in the world, I might not have been so quick to shame-toss my manuscript in the garbage, but on such lack of foresight doth the vagaries of fate turn, or something.
On the other hand, though, as an unrepentant goth chick for nigh on three decades, I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t be seduced by a genuinely great vampire film, especially if it was stylish as fuck, starred three of the best-looking people on the planet at the time, and boasted an opening scene featuring one of my favorite bands performing the grandaddy of all goth-rock anthems. By now you should have guessed that I’m talking about this gothic wet dream right here:
Tony Scott’s The Hunger (loosely based on an okay novel by Whitley “I Was Anal Probed by Extraterrestrials” Strieber) has been dogged by criticisms of style over substance pretty much since its release in 1983, but in my opinion, time has been very kind to it, and I would happily defend it as one of the very best vampire films of the 80s. Not only was it gorgeous to look at and chock full of fantastic acting performances, but it also took the tired vampire schtick and did something fairly original and arty with it (though of course much of the concept of interpreting vampire tropes through the lens of modern genetic science was present in Strieber’s book).
The Hunger is the story of beautiful, centuries-old vampire Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve) and her understandable but ultimately cruelly selfish quest to find a companion who will be with her forever. Her latest consort, John (David Bowie) has been with her for two hundred years, but John soon learns that Miriam’s promises of eternal youth were a lie when he begins to rapidly age, due to an apparent incompatibility between human and vampire blood that takes centuries to manifest.
John and Miriam enlist the services of cutting-edge gerontologist Dr. Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon) in an attempt to reverse the aging process, but all to no avail. After the feeble John kills the couple’s young music student, hoping that her blood will revitalize him, Miriam tenderly carries his still-living but disintegrating carcass into the attic. There she places him in a coffin along with her other former lovers, all of whom are enduring the same living death. It is this aspect of Miriam’s character that makes her monstrous: she is so desperate for companionship that she will strategically neglect to mention that the vampire gift she is bestowing comes with eternal life, yes, but not eternal youth. She will also keep her lovers alive and with her forever, even though they are suffering terribly.
Grief-stricken and lonely after John’s confinement, Miriam then sets her sights on Sarah and begins to groom her as her next companion. The pair exchange blood during a languid, gauzy, and super-hot sex scene, but Sarah discovers soon enough what Miriam’s gift entails. At first she refuses to accept her new blood-drinking nature, preferring to starve herself of the sustaining red stuff, but eventually her willpower fails her and she ends up killing her boyfriend Tom and feeding on him. Miriam thinks that Sarah is now on board with the whole vampire thing, but Sarah’s steely resolve is such that she attempts to cut her own throat with Miriam’s purpose-made ankh pendant rather than spend the next few hundred years at the vampire’s side. The distraught Miriam attempts to save her, but evidently Sarah’s attempted self-sacrifice has rallied the troops, so to speak; all of Miriam’s rotting former lovers rise from their coffins, kill Miriam, and fall to dust upon the floor, finally finding the sweet release of death that they had been denied for so long.
There is then an odd coda to the film that doesn’t really make any sense in terms of the story, as we see briefly that Sarah has survived her suicide attempt and is now living as a vampire with a male and female consort of her own. Susan Sarandon has reported that she was not happy with this tacked-on ending, as it negated the whole arc of her character and the point of her rebellion, but there was little she could do about it, since the producers apparently wished to leave the film open-ended in case they wanted to make a sequel down the line (sigh). The scene is only a few seconds long and doesn’t spoil the film, but it is kind of a WTF moment.
All that aside, though, let me take a moment to rhapsodize about all the great things this film does. Casting the impossibly beautiful and elegant Deneuve as a vampire was a stroke of genius, as her quiet gravitas and cold yet seductive grace lend a sense of timelessness to her portrayal that makes it very easy to believe, not only that she has been alive for millennia, but also that she could easily embody the conflict of genuine loving feeling existing alongside such fiendish cruelty. Susan Sarandon’s character is a perfect counterpoint, a thoroughly modern woman whose pragmatism and independence is the polar opposite of Miriam’s needy heartlessness.
Bowie is likewise great as the doomed companion, putting in a restrained and perfectly balanced performance in which the struggle between his deep love for Miriam and his anger at her betrayal of him are readily apparent.
The set design is also gorgeous, soft-focused and romantic, with billowing white curtains, shafts of dim light illuminating flocks of doves, and the spectacularly old-world interiors of the Blaylocks’ tastefully appointed New York townhouse brilliantly contrasted against the sterile environment of Sarah’s medical clinic. I’ve heard many people complain that The Hunger looked more like a music video than a movie, and I understand that assessment, but I feel as though the entire look of the film is a crucial part of its enduring charm. Its aesthetic flair was certainly one of the things that first drew me to it in the 1980s, and to be frank I think it looks even better now that we’ve had more than thirty years’ perspective on it.
The fact that the film also has such a dynamite opening, with the vampiric Peter Murphy in a cage intoning “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” with his band Bauhaus, is simply the pitch-black icing on the darkly glamorous cake that is this movie.
Unlike many other vampire films of the period, The Hunger is more concerned with artistic visuals and exploring the relationships of the characters than it is with outright horror or gore. That’s not to say that there aren’t some intensely bloody scenes, and the final shots of Miriam’s ancient, skeletal companions rising up against her are fairly horrific, but fans of more in-your-face horror may find the film far too cerebral for their tastes, and that’s as it should be. Different strokes, and all that.
Until next time, Goddess out.