Special Features
LOVE AT FIRST BITE: VAMPIRES AND EROTICA

                                                           By Laura Schultz


For over 100 years in almost every culture the erotic images of vampires have
stalked our consciousness in literature, television, the silver screen and more
recently on the internet. The vampire has evolved as the quintessential symbol of
eternal life who pursues his powerful desires without guilt or restraint. Vampires in
film, particularly Dracula, have become synonymous with domination and sexual
seduction.

These haunting iconic images of “the undead” have had a huge influence on both
children and adults as a result of portrayals in the media. Every generation is
familiar with the vampire persona that has been modified to fit the cultural values
of the times. Today, children watch “Count, Count” on  Sesame Street, eat “Count
Chocula” cereal and wear costumes with capes and fangs for Halloween. “Buffy
the Vampire Slayer” Television Series (1997-2003) directed at the “tweenager”
audience was voted the #3 show in TV Guide’s top 25 Cult TV shows of all time.
The success of the series has led to millions in sales of related products such as
novels, comics and video games. The HBO vampire series “True Blood” is the
biggest hit on tv since the Sopranos.

The current vampire phenomenon in films such as “Twilight” (2008) and its sequel
“The Twilight Saga: New Moon” (2009) has gone through the roof.  New Moon
made over $70 million in its first weekend.  2009 has been called “The Year of the
Vampire” by fans and critics alike with a deluge of these films and millions of
young people waiting to see them. In addition there are the foreign vampire
entries such as “Thirst” from Korea that won the Cannes Film award (2009).  The
Swedish film“Let the Right One In” (2009) has already been called a cult status
film. This film depicts the life of a lonely outcast who is regularly bullied by his
classmates until he meets and falls in love with a young girl who just happens to
be a vampire. In a soulful exchange, she teaches him to stand up to the bullies
while he accepts her for who and what she is. In a dramatic climax, she devours
his tormentors just as they are about to drown him. These contemporary hits
reflect the psyches of modern teenagers (mostly girls) who long for romantic cult
heroes that experience love and heartbreak similar to their own. The recent
vampire films containing magnificent special effects with fancy acrobatic moves,
are quite a departure from earlier melodramas.

None of these current movie extravaganzas would exist without the early vampire
films which established the legends and superstitions that defined the horror
genre, making it one of the most popular categories worldwide. The original
vampire film “Nosferatu” (1922) was adapted from Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula”
(1897) and created the authentic persona of the vampire.  Adapted for the screen
more than any other book, “Dracula” has spawned over 300 films and countless
television series, novels, etc. Reflective of the Victorian culture at the time the
book was written, “The Count” was portrayed as an elegant aristocrat with
personal inner demons, but still adored by women. To Freudians who later
analyzed him, he embodied the life and death principle with an erotic layer,
encased in a larger than life figure. However, it was not until Bela Lugosi’s  
mesmerizing debut as “Dracula” (1931) that the vision of Dracula’s face became
cemented in our minds as the most terrifyingly powerful and evil figure of all time.
Though many famous stars have played more erotically inclined versions of
Dracula, including Frank Langella, Christopher Lee, Tom Cruise and Gary
Oldman (in Frances Ford Coppola’s version, 1992), none have reached the cult
status attained by Bela Lugosi whose most famous line became “I never drink…….
wine”.

In “Nosferatu” (meaning “the undead”) we witness a silent, mystical, dark world of
the unknown for the first time on the silver screen.  Count Orlock (played by
German actor Max Schreck) appears as a repulsive figure whose features
resemble a rodent with long bony hands, extended dark fingernails and pointed
ears. He is intoxicated by blood and desire. It is from this film that we glean our
modern images of vampires from castles to coffins. The real-life actor Schreck,
submerged himself so completely into the Count Orlock character that he was
never seen by the cast unless he was in full costume make-up and character of
the vampire. Rumors persisted on the set that Schreck really was a vampire which
was so aptly conveyed in a critically acclaimed thriller entitled “Shadow of the
Vampire” (2000).  In this frightening tribute to “Nosferatu” starring John Malkovich
and Willem Dafoe as Schreck ,  Dafoe in full makeup as “The Count” catches a
bat as it flies by and sucks its blood.

In the documentary “Vampires: The Supernatural In history and Legend” (2000)
our fascination with vampires is explored as it traces the origins back to 16th
century Eastern Europe.  The film explains how “the vampire has become a
legend of Gothic romance in film as having a noble quality…. one who suffers as
he creates suffering and is a reflection of his own human frailties disguised in the
immortal. He is but a symbol of his own human frailties but lives forever, which
most of us have dreamed of achieving. At the same time, he is also an evil
creature of the night who preys on innocent victims as they sleep, remains
ageless, is irresistible to women, casts no shadow, is forced into a coffin by day
and must be killed by a stake to the heart.” Count Dracula in particular could also
change shapes such as morphing into a wolf that might disappear in a shadowy
mist. He taps into the deepest recesses of our psyches as we are drawn to those
wickedly erotic lips before the fangs bewitchingly appear.  

Our fatal attraction to vampires in the media has evolved on a parallel path with
current cultural and societal trends. The view of vampires as a classic Hollywood
creature has shifted to more accurately reflect our world where many young
people feel alienated and alone living in a fantasy that somehow, someone will
rescue and protect them while enabling them to remain forever youthful. In the
recent hit “Twilight”, the opening line uttered by the female character Bella Swan
is,  ”I never gave much thought to dying, but dying in the place of someone I love
seems like a good way to go.  She later says, “I knew he was a vampire and
thirsted for my blood and yet I was irrevocably in love with him”. These thoughts
reflect our current obsessive need to mesh with another in a fantasy that lasts for
eternity. The vampire Edward Cullen is hauntingly handsome with perfectly
sculpted eyebrows, perfect pale-white skin, ruby red lips, plays classical music
and refuses to drink human blood while the human girl he falls in love with is a
dark-eyed innocent who longs for love and protection.

And so….as we remain enthralled by the seductive myth of the vampire and our
desire to reach out beyond our mortal existence, the legend limited only by human
imagination, will continue.  We may leap from our seats in fear, but can’t seem to
help ourselves from returning time and again to the most erotically powerful
characters of all time.
For article Love at First
Bite: Vampires and
Erotica,
click here

For article Dancing
with Werewolves: The
erotic Beast Within,
click here

For Werewolves on TV,
click here

For Kids: Review of TV
show The Troop,
click
here