Met by Moonlight 

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Met by Moonlight A look at the sexy and the sedate in cinematic vampires.

By Maryann JohanSon comments@cityweekly.net

Have you ever seen the 1931 Dracula, with Béla Lugosi as the Transylvanian bloodsucker? Holy Satan in Hades, is it sexy. This was before Hollywood’s Hays Code—the precursor to the MPAA’s rating system, which was implemented in 1930 but wasn’t enforced with any gusto until 1934—effectively de-fanged movies, and Lugosi’s vampire is handsome, elegant, debonair and very, very dangerous. When he wraps a demure virgin in his cape, there’s no doubt at all what director Tod Browning—the Tim Burton of his day— wanted us to imagine the Count is after. It ain’t the poor girl’s creamy neck. Cinematic vampires always make me think of Susan St. James in 1979’s Love at First Bite: on “Are sale now you biting at: me? That’s so kinky!” It makes smithtix me & sad to see how, today, in our wiseguys schizophrenic ogden culture that is both overly eroticized and strangely puritanical at the same time, vampires have been stripped of their sexual overtones.

Maybe I’m just a freak, but the intimacy of a vampire’s attack … it’s just wrong to try to deny that that’s the essence of their dark appeal. Yet the immense popularity of Twilight (currently scheduled to land on DVD March 21), which removed all the sexual bite from those predatory immortals, suggests to me that audiences simply don’t want to see that aspect of fantasy vampirisim any more. Maybe that’s why CBS’s 2007 vampire detective series Moonlight was so shortlived.

Sixteen episodes of Alex O’Loughlin’s sexy Los Angeles vampire trying to woo mortal Internet journalist Sophia Myles (who was more than willing), and then it was over—and we’re lucky it lasted that long. The complete series, such as it is, arrived on DVD Jan. 20, and if you, like me, lament the apparent end of vampires who are truly perilous—in all senses of the word—then you’ll love this show. At least we have DVDs of earlier films to sustain us until the fashion in vampires swings back in the other direction. (Perhaps we’ll know the cultural attitude is ready to change if HBO’s sexy vampire series True Blood can break out of its pay-cable niche the way that The Sopranos did.) Although, come to think of it, perhaps genuinely sexy vampires have always been rare. There are many very good vampire movies, but very few of them can be said to be more romantic—if even in a naughty way—than violent. Men, who often make these films, tend to see violence as sexy. Tony Scott’s 1983 film The Hunger is arguable sexy, but not romantic; the bloodlust is more about blood than lust. Many vampire movies—such as 1985’s Lifeforce and 2002’s Queen of the Damned—would like to be sexy, but are just silly.

None of the vampire movies I would recommend as the very best— other than ’31’s Dracula—could be considered particularly sexy, though I’ll recommend them anyway: n It’s brand new but looks to have a long-term impact on the genre: the 2008 Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In arrives on DVD March 10, and in an English-language Hollywood-ized version in 2010. n Shadow of the Vampire (2000) is a smart satire on moviemaking and the creative process, positing that the star of the classic 1922 German film Nosferatu really was a vampire.

- Oh, yes, and the actual Nosferatu (1922) surely is one of the creepiest movies ever made. n In the way-under-the-radar indie Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2001), the ultimate undead guy—Jesus—is back, and he’s kicking ass. Bonuses: charmingly low production values and creative use of entrails.

- Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987) is a surprisingly haunting, if never entirely sympathetic, portrait of the loneliness and torment of the eternally undead, in an unexpected milieu: the American Southwest.

Quentin Tarantino, John Carpenter and Robert Rodriguez stole the locale for their subsequent vampire flicks. Not sexy, though, not a one of them. Maybe it is just me who’s the freak ... CW

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MaryAnn Johanson

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