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Vampires In History And Popular Culture

Copyright 2008-2019 by Richard J. Ballard -- All Rights Reserved.

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Many cultures have equated vampirism to the antichrist. Vampires are weirdly attractive and communion with a vampire offers near-immortality, but victims forfeit their souls to the vampire (e.g., Eden's serpent) in an unearthly ritual of personal ruination.

Popular culture often depicts vampires as cultured. (Contrast actor Bela Lugosi's noble Count Dracula with actor Lon Chaney Jr.'s remorseful working class Wolfman.) Recent vampire depictions feature disaffected youthful vampires both fighting among themselves and also stalking authority figures and the affluent.

I include immortals with vampires because vampires are near-immortal, revitalized by human blood. Immortals are not deities; immortals usually are revitalized by some elixir, and who sacrifices to provide that elixir often is the immortality novel's plot.

The Golden | Liquid Dreams of Vampires | Something in the Blood | Fat White Vampire Blues

Piercing The Darkness: Undercover With Vampires In America Today

by Katherine Ramsland

c1998 macabre eyewitness account of the vampiric lifestyle.

Something In The Blood: The Underground World of Today's Vampires

by Jeff Guinn with Andy Grieser

c1996 warm (not macabre) narrative discussing blood-drinkers, self-proclaimed vampires and their donors/victims.

Liquid Dreams Of Vampires

by Martin V. Riccardo

c1996 narrative recounting of peoples' vampiric dreams and fantasies; psychological commentary.

Vampires Among Us

by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

c1991 retelling of vampire lore and related experiences. Worthwhile chapter on so-called psychic vampires
that feed on others' life energy instead of blood. Good bibliography. [Discusses Aleister Crowley, who was
W. Somerset Maugham's acquaintance and inspiration for antagonist Oliver Haddo in Maugham's c1908 novel
The Magician, a novel partially about homunculi (artificial human lifeform) creation.]

Hex Files: the goth bible

by Mick Mercer

c1996 -- an incomplete testament.

The Golden

by Lucius Shepard

Vampire detective novel providing insight into vampire chauvinism. Lucius Shepard's excellent
first novel Green Eyes depicts scientific reanimation of human corpses (i.e., zombification).


by Yvonne Navarro

A plague of vampires decimates humans. Vampires starve and weaken; wealthy vampires
become stock holders. Free humans fight back.

The Vampire Tapestry

by Suzy McKee Charnas

Multiple perspective views of a cunning yet aesthetic vampire functioning within
c1980 modern United States society. IMO the near-immortal swordplay film
Highlander starring Christopher Lambert offers a valid yet interesting plot contrast.

Moon of the Wolf / Progeny of the Adder

by Leslie H. Whitten

Blood drained, starved blonde women's corpses are pulled from Washington DC's Potomac River
in c1965 Progeny of the Adder. Gory murders plague a 1938 Mississippi rural town in c1967
Moon of the Wolf.

The Blood Countess

by Andrei Codrescu

Exquisitely but brutally written fictional tale of a modern descendant retracing
Countess Elizabeth Bathory's path.

A sampling of novels about acquired immortality.

The Immortal

by John Tigges

The cost of wealth and immortality.

I Am Legend

by Richard Matheson

The c1954 novel plus ten macabre short stories. A plague survivor scavenges for food
and supplies while battling mental erosion due to disappointment and due to vampiric
unceasing mockery and threats. The films The Omega Man starring Charleston Heston
and Anthony Zerbe, and I Am Legend starring Will Smith both are based on this novel.

The Immortals

by James Gunn

This c1962 novel is set within a failing society's medical fiefdom. While the cities become toxically polluted,
medical science becomes both increasingly capable and increasingly not affordable: people who default on
their medical contracts often are dissected for the tissue-replacement banks. Then doctors treating a dying billionaire
discover an individual whose blood confers temporary immortality. The billionaire recovers but feels his newfound
youthfulness slipping away, and the billionaire desperately devotes his fortune to acquiring immortality at the expense
of the immortal individual.

When I first read this novel in the 1960s I carried away two lessons: Reinventing yourself and That gets old fast.
The novel tells a genuinely good story and is historically remarkable: while this c1962 novel questioned the cost
of advanced medicine, government discussions starting in 1961 resulted in Medicare's establishment (and a
blossoming of geriatric medicine) in 1965.

The Immortal

by James E. Gunn

ABC Television created a short-lived television series starring actor Christopher George based upon James Gunn's
(earlier) novel The Immortals. After the series aired, James Gunn published this c1970 novel reflecting the TV series
pilot episode. The novel dramatizes the earlier novel's beginning; it ignores the medical cost issue while tracing
the dying billionaire's recovery and his efforts to monopolize the immortal individual's revitalizing blood. The
earlier novel is a better read; this novel's principal charm are the philosophical soliliquies beginning each chapter
(in a style similar to Henry Fielding's novel Tom Jones).

The Immortals

by Andrew Neiderman

What would you trade for youthfulness?

Blood Is Not Enough

edited by Ellen Datlow

The first of Ellen Datlow's Best Of The Undead anthologies. Her sequel anthology A Whisper Of Blood
dwells upon emotional/psychic vampirism and upon immortality. I include author Robert Bloch's horror
anthology Fear and Trembling with these vampire anthologies because of its vampiric lead story The Yugoslaves.

The Midnight People

edited by Peter Haining

John Polidori's The Vampyre, Fritz Leiber's The Girl With The Hungry Eyes and 16 other vampire classics.

'Salem's Lot

by Stephen King

Vampires suck the life out of a 20th Century quiet New England town.

Fat White Vampire Blues

by Andrew Fox

New Orleans poorboy vampire struggles against the new kid in town. Well written and hilarious!
[Superficial plot similarity (car, no mom) to non-vampire New Orleans classic novel
A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.]

The Nymphos Of Rocky Flats

by Mario Acevedo

Peter Parker-like vampire detective Felix Gomez fights government red tape and Eastern European
vampire hunters while seeking the cause for contagious nymphomania. Interesting descriptions of
The Vampire Underground.

Blood Is Not Enough | The Nymphos Of Rocky Flats | Afterage | Hex Files: the goth bible

Lust For Blood: The Consuming Story of Vampires

by Olga Gruhzit Hoyt

Concise biographies of Vlad Tepes and Countess Elizabeth Bathory; Asian and European folklore;
vampire crimes. Good bibliography.

In Search Of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires

by Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu

Readable discussion of vampires in history, literature and cinema. Extensive bibliography.
Editor Raymond T. McNally's companion volume A Clutch Of Vampires: These Being
Among The Best from History and Literature
includes Carmilla, a classic tale by Le Fanu;
plus 24 other vampiric excerpts and short stories.

The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead

by J. Gordon Melton

Comprehensive and organized but awkward to read vampiric reference text.

A Dream Of Dracula: In Search of the Living Dead

by Leonard Wolf

Leonard Wolf's c1972 A Dream Of Dracula: ... is a lyrical discussion: vampires offer communion, near-eternal
life and personal ruination
. IMO Wolf is an exceptional author whose writing contains extensive references,
good commentary and good bibliography. Wolf's c1997 Blood Thirst: 100 Years of Vampire Fiction is
an impressive compilation of vampire tales, many written by authors not associated with vampire literature,
and is worthwhile despite some overlap with Alan Ryan's The Penguin Book of Vampire Stories.

The Penguin Book of Vampire Stories

edited by Alan Ryan

Formerly titled Vampires: Two Centuries of Great Vampire Stories, editor Alan Ryan's
c1987 compilation contains many elegant vampire stories (including one written by Ryan)
not visible elsewhere. Good commentary and good bibliography. Worthwhile despite
some overlap with author Leonard Wolf's c1997 Blood Thirst: 100 Years of Vampire Fiction.

The Vampire

by Montague Summers

Early 20th Century wordy text compares the vampire legend with excommunication from
the Church. Author Dudley Wright condenses this material in The Book Of Vampires.


by Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker's classic vampire treatment.

Blackwood Farm

by Anne Rice

After a deliberate hiatus from Anne Rice's novels I read c2002 Blackwood Farm, a worthwhile novel but also
IMO an attempt to revitalize The Vampire Chronicles. Blackwood Farm links new strong characters to The Vampire Lestat.

Eighteen year old Tarquin Blackwood is a newly made vampire. Tarquin shuns his maker Petronia and returns
to his Louisiana family estate but Tarquin encounters a problem. Tarquin always was a seer of spirits and
throughout his adolescence Tarquin was accompanied almost everywhere by his sympathetic spirit familiar Goblin.
But Goblin becomes destructive instead of sympathetic now that Tarquin is a vampire. Tarquin seeks his idol
The Vampire Lestat for assistance in exorcizing Goblin.

Blackwood Farm revolves around Tarquin's pre-vampire maturation, the Blackwood family's members and history,
and the Blackwood family's relationship to Louisiana's Mayfair family. In late adolescence Tarquin becomes enthralled
with Mona Mayfair, heiress to the Mayfair fortune, but there are complications. And Petronia then forces unwilling Tarquin
into vampirism.

This novel's characters are well developed and the novel is well written, but I found Blackwood Farm difficult reading
because Tarquin Blackwood is truly pansexual. And the novel leaves a question unanswered: Is vampirism a mixed blessing;
that is, a boon to some and a curse to others?

Psychic Vampires: Protection from Energy Predators & Parasites

by Joe H. Slate, Ph.D.

This c2002 book is not about traditional vampires. Joe Slate argues that individual humans possess personal energy fields
that manifest as Kirlian auras. Pushing beyond tiresome social games, psychic vampires (either individually or acting
in a group) seek to reinforce their own energy fields by draining mundane humans' personal energy fields. IMO some
of the author's interpersonal psychology comments are worthwhile, but I view this book skeptically because following
the author's suggested exercises I was not able to visualize anybody's Kirlian aura.

Vampires in Their Own Words: An Anthology of Vampire Voices

by Michelle Belanger

Author Joe Slate externally investigated psychic vampires and depicted them as energy parasites. In this c2011 work,
author Michelle Belanger illuminates the vampire modern community by presenting an anthology of opinion written
by self-professed vampires. The anthology first relates sanguine (i.e., traditional blood-drinking) vampires with pranic
(i.e., psychic) vampires, explaining that vampires have a flawed metabolism that consumes more life energy (e.g.,
Hindu prana or Taoist chi) than the vampire's body generates, causing lassitude and weakness if untreated. Pranic vampires
feed by remotely draining life energy from other people. Sanguine vampires are less powerful, requiring physical contact
during blood-drawing in order to feed, but during blood-drawing physical contact the sanguine vampires also drain
pranic life energy from their kitra (i.e., donors).

The anthology then discusses modern vampires' social structure within vampire houses, groupings analogous to
witches' covens and Pagan families where members socialize and pursue specific agendas using ethical rules designed
to facilitate vampire coexistence with mundane (i.e., non-vampire) society. Vampire house rules emphasize that
a vampire's relationship with a kitra is based upon mutual respect, consensus and safety. The rules also discourage
vampire chauvinism, and dictate formalized etiquette and conflict resolution procedures during vampire gatherings.
Specific vampire houses and their agendas are discussed. Nobody claims superhuman powers; but not surprisingly,
many vampire house agendas (similar to satanism) promote personal empowerment for their members. The anthology
references vampire house websites and references television documentaries available on YouTube.

The anthology does not identify vampires' energy transference mechanism (usually explained as something my
flawed metabolism empirically taught me that other vampires later helped me to refine.
) But the anthology attempts
to place vampirism in historical and occult perspective, identifying analogies within Biblical, Gnostic and Hindu writings;
within the anthropology of ancient cultures; and within the writings of notables such as Aleister Crowley.

While some of the occult sections are burdened with flowery vague prose, Michelle Belanger's anthology is a better read
than Joe Slate's Kirlian aura-based investigation because the anthology explains and somewhat illuminates vampire
modern culture. But at anthology's end I was left with a nagging doubt: The vampire draws energy from the kitra much like
an acquaintance who repeatedly bums money, or like an acquaintance whose only purpose in visiting is annoying
whining and complaining. I don't understand the vampire / kitra relationship: What relational benefit does the kitra receive?

Countess Dracula | Blood Of Dracula's Castle | Love at First Bite | Near Dark

Mark of the Vampire

starring Bela Lugosi

Director Tod Browning's 1935 classic film features actor Bela Lugosi as the vampire.

The Fearless Vampire Killers

starring Jack MacGowran, Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate and Alfie Bass

Actor/director Roman Polanski's 1966 artfully comedic rendition of Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Polanski later married featured actress Sharon Tate.

Blood of Dracula's Castle

starring John Carradine, Paula Raymond, Alex D'Arcy and Robert Dix

Director Al Adamson's 1969 film is a vampires in the desert, campy version of the song
Hotel California (... you can check out any time you want, but you never can leave ...).
IMO actor John Carradine deserves acclaim for his many horror roles.

Countess Dracula

starring Ingrid Pitt, Nigel Green, Sandor Eles and Lesley-Anne Down

Bathed in the blood of virgins: director Peter Sasdy's well (a-hem) maid 1970 film adaptation
of the life of Countess Elisabeth Bathory. Compare to 21st Century depictions of hideous demons
projecting attractive guises.

Dracula A.D. 1972

starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing

Vampire traditional films bring to mind grainy black-and-white photography shot in Eastern European
locales. The familiar plot: on the 100th anniversary of his destruction Dracula is reincarnated by a
vampire disciple; Dracula then seeks vengeance upon the house of Van Helsing. Yet for two reasons
this Hammer Films production is a real gem. First, the film's color photography is exceptionally clear.
Second, the film goes to great pains depicting London's mod (i.e., young modern) 1972 culture, and
in some ways the cultural depiction is more entertaining than the film's vampire plot.

Love At First Bite

starring George Hamilton, Arte Johnson and Susan Saint James

In director Stan Dragoti's 1979 irreverent spoof, Count Dracula relocates to NYC and chases
his lost love's reincarnation. Heavily suntanned actor George Hamilton credibly plays confused
Count Dracula to a good comedic cast (featuring Arte Johnson as helpful bumbling Renfield).

Dracula (1979)

starring Frank Langella and Sir Laurence Olivier

Director John Badham's 1979 film is a lavish depiction of Bram Stoker's Victorian England
with enhanced female roles. Sir Laurence Olivier plays a distinguished Professor Van Helsing
against Frank Langella's sensual Count Dracula.

the Hunger

starring Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon and David Bowie

All vampires are not created equal. Director Tony Scott's 1983 film casts Catherine Deneuve
as a wealthy vampiress sophisticate whose vampiric companions lack her own longevity.

The Fearless Vampire Killers | the Hunger | Innocent Blood | Dracula (1999)

Near Dark

starring Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Hendrikson and Bill Paxton

A vampire clan ravages the United States southwestern countryside while a new convert
struggles to adapt in director Kathryn Bigelow's 1987 film. Incendiary action and
good character development.

The Lost Boys

starring Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric and Corey Feldman

Amidst amusing parental concern, anxious teens battle teen vampires in a California surfing town.
Director Joel Schumacher's 1987 film makes Buffy and her friends appear normal.

Innocent Blood

starring Anne Parillaud, Robert Loggia and Don Rickles

Director John Landis' 1992 film casts Anne Parillaud (la femme Nikita) as an ethical vampiress
feeding on Pittsburgh's crime underworld.

Bram Stoker's Dracula

starring Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder and Anthony Hopkins

Director Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 film (3 Academy Awards) emphasizes Christianity
among lavish medieval sets. Gary Oldman sensitively portrays Count Dracula, Winona Ryder
strongly portrays Mina Harker and Anthony Hopkins' rustic Dr. Van Helsing dominates.

Interview With The Vampire

starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Christian Slater

I have read the first four volumes of author Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles (Interview With The Vampire,
The Vampire Lestat, The Queen of the Damned and The Tale of the Body Thief), but director Neil Jordan's
well (a-hem) maid 1995 film so beautifully depicts vampire culture that I recommend the film as an introduction.

Embrace of the Vampire

starring Alyssa Milano, Jennifer Tilly and Charlotte Lewis

Director Anne Goursaud's 1995 unrated awkward film depicts late teen female sexual confusion
interwoven around dreamed visits by a carnal vampire.

Vampire In Brooklyn

starring Eddie Murphy and Angela Bassett

I approached director Wes Craven's 1995 film with low expectations, expecting a smart-aleck interpretation of the
vampire legend. The Renfield-like ghoul and the neighborhood characters do provide street sass, but Eddie Murphy
credibly depicts vampire Maximilian as Caribbean nobility. And depicting shape-shifting, Eddie Murphy plays
several other characters within the film; it's interesting IMO to see what can be accomplished with theatrical makeup
and acting instead of computerized special effects.

From Dusk Till Dawn

starring George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel and Juliette Lewis

A pair of psychopathic killer brothers and their hostages descend upon a border stripjoint cantina
showcasing gory bloody marys. Director Robert Rodriguez and screenwriter / actor Quentin
Tarantino's R-rated 1996 film brings their distinctive cinematic bravado to vampire cinema;
the film is noteworthy for strong character development, its cantina lavish setting, and features
a stellar cast including Salma Hayek, Cheech Marin and Fred Williamson.

More recently, the Miramax From Dusk Till Dawn Collection 2011 DVD supplements From Dusk
Till Dawn
with three related films: Full-Tilt Boogie depicts the personalities and behind-the-scenes
production problems underpinning the film From Dusk Till Dawn. In From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas
Blood Money
, Robert Patrick assembles a criminal specialist team to pull off the bank robbery of a
lifetime, but one specialist visits the wrong cantina on his way to the heist. From Dusk Till Dawn 3:
The Hangman's Daughter
IMO borrows concepts from the films The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach, and from Underworld starring Kate
Beckinsale: Civil War journalist Ambrose Bierce (played by Michael Parks) crosses paths with
a charismatic outlaw Johnny Madrid who cheats the hangman and absconds with the hangman's
daughter Esmeralda, but their flight leads them and their pursuers to the wrong cantina.

Bram Stoker's Dracula | Embrace Of The Vampire | From Dusk Till Dawn | John Carpenter's Vampires

John Carpenter's Vampires

starring James Wood and Thomas Ian Griffith

Director John Carpenter's 1998 film depicts a team of mercenary vampire slayers pursuing
a master vampire through the United States southwestern countryside. The plot revolves
around medieval exorcism rituals. Incendiary action and good character development.

Modern Vampires

starring Casper Van Dien, Natasha Gregson Wagner and Rod Steiger

Director Richard Elfman's attractive 1999 film depicts Buffy The Vampire Slayer from
the vampires' perspective and raises the question: (Unlike Rod Steiger's Dr. Van Helsing)
Why do near-immortal vampires ever get old?

Dracula's Curse

starring Patrick Bergin and Giancarlo Giannini

Director Roger Young's artful 2003 depiction of Bram Stoker's Dracula set in modern Europe.
Stunningly beautiful women vampires; Dracula espouses satanic philosophy.

Collection: Blade; Blade 2; Blade Trinity; Blade - House of Chthon

This action / adventure film collection depicts warring vampires but totally lacks the vampire mythos' cultural charm.
The first three films feature Wesley Snipes as Blade, who in the womb was converted to vampire and who obsessively
battles the vampire menace while serum daily injections dull his blood thirst; Kris Kristofferson plays a mentoring role
in the first two films. The fourth film Blade - House Of Chthon is the feature-length premiere of Spike TV's miniseries
Blade - The Series starring Kirk Jones.

These films depict vampires as predators who consider themselves the top of the food chain, using biological technology
(e.g., genetic optimization experiments and living blood banks) to achieve their ascendancy. The films introduce the term
human familiars (behaving as satanic disciples instead of occult familiars): humans who anticipate the vampire
ascendancy and who chaotically collaborate hoping to be converted to vampires after the ascendancy. Yet despite
the films' Gothic fashions featuring hidden opulence amid urban and industrial ruined settings, the films highlight
weapon-laden action / adventure instead of (omitted) vampire cultural history.


starring Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman

Wealthy organized vampires (Death Dealers, similar to Anne Rice's Talamasca) battle impoverished
organized werewolves for supernatural supremacy. Director Len Wiseman's 2003 film centers
around vampire Selene's (Kate Beckinsale) quest to understand why the werewolves doggedly
pursue human Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman). A good cinematic vehicle for Kate Beckinsale,
impressive special effects, repeated stylized depiction of falling angels who usually land on their
feet. Tied with An American Werewolf in Paris for my favorite werewolf film.

Underworld is remarkable IMO for the depth and quality of its vampire / werewolf clan depiction.
In his 2006 film sequel Underworld Evolution director Len Wiseman provides details of the
Alexander Corvinus (Sir Derek Jacobi) bloodline and the vampire / werewolf clan evolution.
Underworld Evolution's plot is two-sided: locally both the vampire clan and the werewolf clan
hunt vampire Selene and human Michael Corvin, while globally the vampires wonder why
elder vampire Marcus (Tony Curran) apparently destroyed his own clan.

Director Patrick Tatapoulos' 2009 prequel film Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans further details
the vampire and werewolf clans' early histories, explaining the emergence of elder vampire Viktor
(Bill Nighy) and werewolf leader Lucian (Michael Sheen). The prequel remarkably IMO depicts
the werewolf clan as rational freedom fighters.

In their 2012 film Underworld Awakening, directors Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein depict a
totally changed environment. Supernatural evolving biology has changed the goals, while human
governments have learned about vampires and werewolves; the Military Industrial Complex
fights to control and to eradicate the supernatural clans. Vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale)
fights for survival against both werewolves and organized humans while she tries to understand
a technologically changed, increasingly hostile world.

Director Anna Foerster enlarges the Underworld universe in her 2016 film Underworld: Blood Wars
through the introduction of the vampire Northern Coven, a refuge with its own distinctive rituals.
And the film depicts the rise of Marius, a Lycan ambitious leader with a genius for weapons and tactics.
It's a great action film, but its no surprise that at film's end the Vampire / Lycan blood feud continues;
the key to ending the blood feud remains unresolved.

Van Helsing

starring Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale and Richard Roxburgh

Director Stephen Sommers combines other films' characterizations plus computerized special effects
into an effective 2004 action film. Hugh Jackman plays slayer (not Professor) Van Helsing,
Kate Beckinsale plays breathtaking Princess Anna Valerina, and Richard Roxburgh portrays Dracula
as a resource-controlling aristocrat (with a demonic dark side) who exercises remarkably sensuous taste
when selecting vampiress candidates.

Dark Shadows

starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green and Helena Bonham Carter

Director Tim Burton's 2012 film showcases Gothic opulence as it pits the witch Angelique
(Eva Green) against the magickal Collins family. Vampire Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp)
defends his family while pursuing his reincarnated lost love (Helena Bonham Carter). IMO
the Alice Cooper stage performances are an added treat.

Dracula Untold

starring Luke Evans

Director Gary Shore's 2014 film emphasizes Vlad Tepes' historic military prowness (CGI-enhanced)
instead of Dracula's vampirism: seeking to save Wallachia's boys (and his own son) from conscription
by the marauding Turks, noble Prince Vlad (Luke Evans) flirts with Faustian empowerment.

Underworld | Van Helsing | Dark Shadows

Music from Castle Dracula

by Various Artists

String ensemble performs formal period pieces interspersed with readings from Bram Stoker's novel Dracula.
IMO not Gothic or scary.

Vampire Music Volume 2

by Maria Bethania and the Gypsies Maladron

Enjoyable gypsy (embellished) selections lack obvious vampire association.

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