Sunday, January 17, 2010

VAMPIRES AND OTHER IMMORTALS--Part 1 of 2




Vampires are big business these days, their most recent surge of popularity due to the Twilight series books and movies. Of course, vampires have never really been out of style. They were popularized in literature by Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, DRACULA, but stories of vampires go back many centuries before that.

Where did the concept of vampires come from? The answer to that question exists somewhere in the space separating science and superstition. Some sources claim the stories of vampires began with the Romanian prince Vlad Tepes who lived 1431 – 1476 and fought for independence against the Ottoman Empire. His methods of dealing with his enemies included slowly impaling them on stakes, drawing and quartering, and burning them alive. It all seems very brutal and sadistic by today's standards, but not all that uncommon for those times. The same methods were used by the Catholic Church during the Spanish Inquisition and by other rulers and powerful leaders during the Middle Ages to torture and kill their enemies.

Bram Stoker is said to have patterned some of his Dracula character after Vlad Tepes as the birth of the modern fictional vampire. However, the roots of real vampires have very different origins. Stories of vampires are a worldwide phenomenon with localized versions of vampires coming from almost all cultures. Before science progressed to the point where it could explain weather patterns and germ theory, any bad event that did not have an obvious cause could be blamed on a vampire. The mythical creature was an easy answer to the age old question of why bad things happened to good people.

Superstitious villagers took their belief that something had cursed the bad things and put it together with their fear of the dead and came to the conclusion that recently buried people who had risen from the dead to do evil deeds were responsible. They dug up graves and were surprised by the way the corpses looked. Not understanding the process of decomposition, they assumed bodies immediately turned to skeletons.

Even with the original concept of vampires causing events now explainable by science being long gone, the cultural phenomenon of vampires continue to fascinate the world. And it isn't just the macabre and horror stories that draw on the vampire character. We have several examples of vampires being used as objects of humor. Certainly Al Lewis' Grandpa character on the old MUNSTERS television series. We have comedy movies such as LOVE AT FIRST BITE and Mel Brooks' 1995 film DRACULA, DEAD AND LOVING IT.

Even children have been caught up in the commercialism of the vampire world. There's General Mills' Count Chocula breakfast cereal, marketed to children. And not even the long running award-winning children's television series SESAME STREET was able to ignore the vampire allure. One of their popular Muppet characters is The Count, complete with black Dracula style cape and fangs.

Vampire movies have been around since the days of silent films with the 1922 classic, Nosferatu. What are your favorite vampire movies?

Next week (Sunday, January 24) I'm going to post Part 2 of Vampires And Other Immortals with a Top Ten list of immortals from myths, literature and movies.

10 comments:

vitch36 said...

I saw a history channel documentary on Vlad once. The narrator brought into fact the the impailings that Vlad was so known for...MOST did as well.

Any high ranking (Kings/Etc) did the same impailings as it was 'fashionable' of the time.

Much like the way the favored guillotine came and went, or burning one on a stake.

All horrific, but timeline orientated.

Favorite Vamp movie? Lost Boys.
Favorite Vamp Series? Blood Ties that was on Lifetime.

New Favorite Vamp Series? True Blood of Course!

I think some of the allure of vampires is the suave debonair attitudes they have. Most are portrayed as 'old' and have seen so much in their lifetimes. Their wise beyond belief.

Of course the neck thing doesn't hurt either.

;)

Great Blog!

Dana-Vitch36

Mary Ricksen said...

There are all types of vampire stories, but most of us want to find a redeeming quality in our heroes. So romantic vampires are hot, lethal, but loving. Hmmm, fantasy, but fun!!

Samantha Gentry said...

Dana: The Middle Ages were definitely horrific in the way one's enemies were treated.

I loved Blood Ties. After Lifetime took it off the air, they brought it back in an attempt to find an audience, but it didn't work.

Thanks for commenting.

Samantha Gentry said...

Hi, Mary. Nice to see you. Oh, yes. Heroes need redeeming qualities regardless of whether they're human or some other type of being. I think the sauve, sophisticted image quite often attributed to vampires comes from the original Dracula movie and the appearance of Bela Lugosi -- polite, impeccable manners, always formally attired.

vitch36 said...

OMG...I didn't know they tried to bring it back! I would have def watched.

I actually met Kyle and Dylan. Both actors were very down to earth and friendly and Kyle has that special 'Pizazz' that just makes one smile around him. Young and full of energy and I thought he did a fabulous job playing such a part at such a young age.

My all time favorite horror actor though is Vincent Price.

Samantha Gentry said...

Dana: Vincent Price was a very interesting man. Played all those horror roles in films, but in real life was a gourmet cook and a collector of and expert on fine art. And very charming.

P.L. Parker said...

I love vampire stories, but I like the ones with redeeming qualities, not the "Vlad the Destroyer" or Bram Stoker's Dracula. Loved Vincent Price, so scary when I was young.

Samantha Gentry said...

P.L.: Agree with you about the redeeming qualities for the vampire (or any other type of supernatural character). Of course, if he's the villain then lack of redeeming qualities makes him all that more villainous and increases the hero's need to vanquish him.

Jerome said...

These books are very cool. I'm not sure what kind of books suit your fancy, but I would suggest you take a look at Annie's Gift by Holden Herbert. This is a different slant on the vampire story, dealing with psychic vamps. The people in the book are a bit more like you and I, meanning they are regular sorts with new found powers. The book is about a nurse and how she comes to grips with her powers. The book has lots of action, sexy characters and a great sense of humor. It is a fun read if nothing else. I got the book from Amazon which is what I'd recomend for you

Samantha Gentry said...

Jerome: Sounds interesting. Thanks for the recommendation.