Friday, September 01, 2006

A Bloody Good Subject

I like vampires. I always have. Not in the creepy sense that would make me ever want to dress in goth clothing and haunt some of the clubs inhabited by the misfits who fancy themselves modern day vampires. That's just weird.

After all, vampires are figments of imagination. So don't write me and tell me otherwise; if you do I'll be forced to write back and tell you you're a dork. I once had a conversation like that with a guy who wrote me claiming to be an elf, and asking that I tell his story. His request arrived shortly after the release of the second Lord of the Rings movie. I refused on the grounds that A.) I didn't believe in elves and B.) If there was an elven realm, as he claimed - I sort of doubted that it existed in the lockdown unit of the mental hospital he was calling from.

But I digress.

What I really want to talk about is vampires, which have garnered much of my creative attention over the last few weeks. Last year, I was hired to write a screenplay for a vampire series. Recently, I was hired to write another.

For a vampire movie buff, this is one of those dream jobs - the kind where you have to stop every half hour or so to pinch yourself, just to make sure you're really awake. To get hired to do something like this is a stroke of ridiculous good fortune; to get paid good money to write something like this is beyond ridiculous good fortune. It's pennies from heaven, and don't think I don't know it.

Now don't get me wrong - I would have felt just as fortunate if I'd been hired to write a werewolf screenplay, though not as giddy. Werewolves are limited characters. Once they change, all they can really do is run about, howling at the moon and ripping off limbs. The only time they get to have a real personality is between transformations, when they fret over their next impending full-moon metamorphis. An American Werewolf In London did a great job with this. So did The Company of Wolves, one of my other favorites.

But vampires are different. Their humorous or brooding nature - or sensuality - isn't diminished by their vampyric state, only enhanced by it. That gives writers the chance to work with characters that have a lot of range.

And over the year some pretty diverse vampires have emerged from the minds of writers who've brought them to life.

Here's a very short list of my favorite movie vampires:

Sexiest Vampire: Jerry Dandridge from the movie Fright Night
Played by Chris Sarandon, this character was funny, suave and oh, so sexy. And of course, a blood-sucking killer. When his next door neighbor, - a teenager named Charlie Brewster - realizes that Jerry is a murderous Creature of the Night, the vampire threatens to kill him. And what's worse, he develops designs on Charlie's girlfriend, Amy. To protect himself and his friends, Charlie enlists the help of a has-been horror show host, Peter Vincent.
The special effects in this movie are awesome, but don't watch it for that. Watch it to ogle Chris Sarandon.
(For you guys, the female sexiest vampire is probably Salma Hayek in Dusk Till Dawn. Her part was pretty short, and she transformed into one horrifically ugly vampire. But her snake dance beforehand will have just about any man willing to open a vein.)

Best Modern Classic Vampire: Prince Vlad from Bram Stoker's Dracula
Gary Oldman was really two vampires in this movie - the very creepy, sadistic old Dracula and later, a romantically seductive younger version.
Now, Gary Oldman is not a sexy guy, but his Romanian accent combined with his vampire angst over his conflict with God and love for Mina made this such an unforgettable performance that even the embarrassing addition of Keanu Reeves couldn't drag the movie down.

Vampire with the Worst Luck: Count Vladislaus Dracula from Van Helsing
OK, so this movie is hardly a classic, but Richard Roxburgh did such a good job in this role as the Count that it was hard not to be a bit sympathetic. Here's a guy with three beautiful vampire wives, a steady supply of peasants to kill and a plan to populate the earth with more blood-suckers. But between uncooperative werewolves, a recalcitrant Frankenstein and two dedicated vampire hunters, his scheme goes straight to hell. He raises his voice a lot, and is hardly composed by classic vampire standards. But that just makes him more fun to watch.

Best Vampire Geek: Max from The Lost Boys
"One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach, all the damn vampires."
So reveals the eccentric grandfather at the end of this movie, following the best ever vampire free-for-all.
And who knew their undead leader would be a uptight-looking video store owner.
The hapless teenaged vampire hunters in this cult classic suspect Max, but make a few errors in their attempts to out him during a hilarious dinner scene. So the viewer is later genuinely surprised to learn that Max is indeed to head of this California town's vampire underground.
This movie is full of good quotes, by the way. Besides Grandfather's deadpan revelation, my other favorite line is the one delivered by Sam after he realizes his brother is turning into a dangerous creature: "My own brother a goddamn, shit-sucking vampire! Oh, you wait 'til mom finds out!"

I'm sure there others may have their own favorite, but those are my top picks.


Elaine said...

Hi Morgan,
Are you at liberty to say what screenplays they were/are?
I enjoy reading your blog - you make everything sound so interesting!
I thought I might have read somewhere that you wrote books - but that might have been an assumption on my part. But if you have, I would love to know where I can get my hands on one - I love to read and I thought it would be nice to read one of yours.

Morgan said...

Hi Elaine,
Thanks for the nice comments.
I'd probably rather not say since both projects are currently in production.
What's more, there are bitter people in the blogosphere who - lacking their own success - would likely seek to interfere with the success of working writers. So I prefer to keep things vague for that reason.
I write across a wide range of genres, from freelance magazine articles to erotica to screenplays and - yes - I'll be working on a book this winter.
It's non-fiction and not a "sexy" topic, but my idea's being courted by a publisher and have I have reason to be optimistic. :-)

jcw said...

They're not big screen stars but Angel and Spike from Buffy and the subsequent Angel series.

Morgan said...

Thanks, JCW!
Now see, I knew I was forgetting some other good ones. Angel and Spike are definitely awesome. And of course, no one hunts vampires like Buffy. I have friends at work who are obsessed with that show.

That Cleaning Lady said...

Well, George Hamilton in Love at First Bite is an oldy favorite of mine. Sexy, tan and pale all at the same time!
Oh, a favorite Werewolf movie is Wolf with Jack Nicholson. Violent, but I loved that his sense of smell lead him across town to find his wife in an affair with is rival at work.

Morgan said...

I'd completely forgotten about Wolf! Wasn't James Spader in that? Both he and Jack Nicholson were awesome in that movie, if memory serves.
I don't know if I ever saw "Love at First Bite." It rings a bell, and I can certainly see George Hamilton as a vampire!

That Cleaning Lady said...

Well, now that I'm awake a bit more, I can add another name to that list. George Hamilton was the count and Susan St. James was his love interest: Cindy Sontime. Arte Johnson was the count's insane helper, and what a hoot of a movie, kinda old though...80's movie. Maybe you're too young!!
Spader was in Wolf, but I don't remember him in George Hamilton's movie... have to see if it's rentable in the oldies section sometime.

Morgan said...

Spader would have been too young to be in Hamilton's movie. He was just in "Wolf." He was also in "Secretary," one of my all-time favorite movies.