Video is overrun with vampire movies

November 25, 1994|By Ellis Widner | Ellis Widner,Knight-Ridder News Service

Are you batty about vampire movies?

This is a fantastic time for vampire-lovers, with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise starring in Anne Rice's "Interview with the Vampire" in theaters.

You should, as the optimistic vampire said, B positive about this rich artery of the movie industry. There have been more than 100 films over the years that have featured vampires -- high camp, low camp, cheap horror, Euro-trash, lavish costume spectacles.

But if you don't want to cross those long theater lines, you can stake your fun on vampire movies at your video store. Here are our choices for some good ones to sink your teeth into:

* "Nosferatu," with Max Schreck (1922). German director F. W. Murnau's early version of "Dracula" is a classic -- imaginative and terrifically creepy. Schreck's monstrous vampire is movies' scariest and ugliest.

* "Dracula," with Bela Lugosi (1931). Lugosi's blend of European aristocrat, a mesmerizing stare and comic timing ("I don't drink . . . wine.") makes him the Count of all Draculas.

* "Dracula," with Carlos Villarias (1931). A scene-for-scene, line-for-line Spanish-language adaptation that was filmed at night the same sets where Lugosi's was filmed during the day. In some ways a better film, but Lugosi was a better bloodsucker.

* "Dracula's Daughter," with Gloria Holden and Hedda Hopper (1936). How did this get past the censors? This moody, well-directed film's homoerotic subtext did, though, despite female vampire Holden's taste for female victims. It is said this film was an inspiration for Anne Rice's books.

* "The Horror of Dracula," with Peter Cushing (1958). First of the Hammer Studio's Dracula films was the first to try being faithful to Bram Stoker's novel.

* "Blacula," with William Marshall (1972). What happens when the Prince of Darkness bites an African prince? You get a black vampire and the first black horror film. A lively script and a well-shot film. (The sequel, "Scream, Blacula, Scream," was disappointing.)

* "Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter," with Horst Janson (1974). From England's Hammer studios, a real winner. Surprisingly good swashbuckling twist on the vampire tale finds our sword-swinging hero stalking a new breed of vampire around the European countryside. It's got atmosphere and real chills.

* "Dracula," with Frank Langella (1979). The vampire as a handsome seducer got its start here. Langella, undeniably sexy, nibbled pretty girls and made them swoon. Based on the Broadway play.

* "Nosferatu, the Vampyre," with Klaus Kinski (1979). A German-made remake of the 1922 classic "Nosferatu," with Kinski turning in a terrific performance. There is an English-language version available, but it's not as good as the German original.

* "Love at First Bite," with George Hamilton (1979). Hiding his tan beneath cape and makeup, Hamilton's parody of a vampire "doing" New York City and his romance with a fashion model (Susan St. James) is hilarious.

* "The Hunger," with Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon and David Bowie (1983). Kinky, sleek Euro-trash treatment of the vampire tale is Bowie's best movie role. Deneuve and Sarandon are lovers and vampires. Bowie's aging scene is a marvel.

* "The Lost Boys," with Keifer Sutherland and Jason Patric

(1987). A local teen-age gang turns out to be a bunch of vampires. Slickly made flick is aimed at teens, but absorbing nonetheless.

* "Near Dark," with Adrian Pasdar and Jenny Wright (1987). In this better-than-average vampire flick, a cowboy (Pasdar) gets the bite (from Wright) and joins a pack of white trash/hillbilly vampires who ride the roads in a van.

* "Bram Stoker's Dracula," with Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder (1992). Francis Ford Coppola's lavish costume drama oozes sensuality and sumptuousness. Won Oscars for costume design, makeup and sound effects editing. Oldman plays the 15th-century Romanian warrior who lives on and descends on Victorian London.

* "Cronos," with Federico Luppi and Ron Perlman (1993). Creepy Mexican vampire film is a real treasure. A white-haired antiques dealer discovers the secret of immortality -- the Cronos, a gold bug created by a 16th-century alchemist that turns people into blood-craving undead. Perlman is wonderful as an ugly American willing to do anything to get the Cronos for his dying, evil uncle. Guillermo del Toro directs with macabre gusto and humor.

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