This feels like a complete cheat of a Scare of the Day, but yesterday was a long damned day, and, frankly, I went for the shortest thing in my pile that was even remotely appropriate to the concept: a screener of the new Starz documentary, “Bloodsucking Cinema,” which – shocker! – offers up an hour-long history of the vampire as portrayed in motion pictures. (Given the title, I’m sure you in no way saw the subject matter coming.)
Unfortunately, the first reaction that the documentary is likely to inspire is the realization that there have been a lot…a LOT…of not-great vampire movies in recent years. It’s all but a universal truth that flicks like 1922’s “Nosferatu the Vampire,” with its uber-creepy performance from Max Schreck as the title character, and Tod Browning’s 1931 version of “Dracula,” which proved to be the defining moment of Bela Lugosi’s career (not to mention the albatross around his neck for the majority of his life), are all-time vampire classics. Unfortunately, it’s not like any of the principals from those movies are still among the living to discuss their experiences…but, hey, Uwe Boll and Kristanna Loken are chomping at the bit to chat about “BloodRayne”! Same with Len Weisman and the “Underworld” flicks, Stephen Sommers and “Van Helsing,” and Stuart Townsend and “Queen of the Damned.”
Not exactly on the same level, is it?
On the flip side of the coin, though, the conversations with Cheech Marin reminded me that it’s been too long since I last saw “From Dusk ‘Til Dawn,” and the interview segments with John Carpenter and John Landis and the clips from their respective vampire films – “Vampires” and “Innocent Blood” – made me think that I should give those flicks another chance, that maybe they’re better than I remember them. (In particular, the moments I saw of James Woods’ performance in “Vampires” during the special made me wonder why the film doesn’t stand out for me; he seemed to be having a ball, and yet I can’t for the life of me recall a thing about the flick, even though I know I’ve seen it.) I’m still not convinced, however, that watching Francis Ford Coppola’s “Dracula” again from start to finish wouldn’t leaving me feeling like a week had gone by, but, dammit, I was almost tricked into thinking otherwise. It was also nice to see Joel Schumacher reminiscing about “The Lost Boys,” though seeing Corey Haim only served to remind me how awful “The Two Coreys” was, and as a comic geek, I took great enjoyment in seeing an on-screen interview with Marv Wolfman, co-creator of “Blade.” (Oh, yeah, and writer / director David Goyer shows up to discuss those films as well.)
To give credit where credit is due, however, “Bloodsucking Cinema” does offer a bigger-picture view of the vampire film, even if its talking heads tend to represent sub-par examples of the genre. It does indeed stretch all the way back to “Nosferatu,” then moves forward, stopping long enough to speak of Lugosi, Christopher Lee’s portrayal of Dracula in the Hammer Studios films, the underrated Mexican vampire films which served to inspire “From Dusk ‘Til Dawn,” and even offers brief mentions of comedies like “Once Bitten” and Mel Brooks’ “Dracula: Dead and Loving It.” The differences in the vampire mythos from film to film are compared and contrasted, and by the end of the special, things have gotten downright philosophical, with Carpenter musing about how he would deal with the curse of eternal life.
“Bloodsucking Cinema” actually premiered on Friday night, but it’s being re-run on Halloween night at 9:00 PM EST. I know, it’s hard to accept that anything involving clips from “BloodRayne” is worth seeing, but this is worth catching. It’s certainly not all-inclusive (what, no “Blacula”?), but given the financial limitations inherent in cross-studio clip borrowing, they do they best they can, and the results are quite enjoyable.