Hollywood Halloween Hijinks - Count Dracula As An Extraterrestrial?
Dracula, Lord Of The Undead or Invading Alien?
“Listen to them, the children of the night. What sweet music they make!” Count Dracula in "Dracula" - by Bram Stoker
Loyal fans of the insidious exploits of the king of the vampires have been listening to haunting music played as a foreboding symphony from the bloodthirsty undead for decades. Ever since actor Bela Lugosi first put on the iconic cape in director Tod Browning’s 1931 landmark film, Dracula, movie audiences have lovingly embraced the coolest blood sucker of them all - Count Dracula. Before the Hollywood classic flick from Universal studios, readers immersed themselves in the bleak world of author Bram Stoker’s breakthrough novel, chronicling the wild adventures of the world’s most infamous vampire. Once Hollywood got a hold of Stoker's creation, the nefarious prince of darkness went through innumerable permutations, and Tinseltown is still morphing the world's favorite fang master.
For all the fun, fantasy and Hollywood movie magic surrounding him, the legend of Count Dracula is based on documented history and a real man - Vlad Tepes. He was a real Romanian Prince who went by the rather graphic nickname of Vlad The Impaler. It wasn’t a metaphorical or hollow reference. Tepes became known for his preferred method of capital punishment - that of actually impaling his enemies on stakes. Bram Stoker married Vlad Tepes with the supernatural mythology of the vampire - corpses coming back to undead life to feed on the blood of the living. The vampire myth has its disturbing roots in a religious tinged narrative - that of the curse of the undead, an evil plague delivered upon the blasphemer, the nonbeliever or the wicked and the sinful among the otherwise noble humanity. However, there’s other theories behind the proliferation of the notion of corpses becoming reanimated. What if an unearthly force fueled the wicked fires of vampirism? What if an alien intelligence was the cause of vampires? Is the vampire concept more the product of science fiction or mythology?
Bloodsuckers In Space
Planet of the Vampires (1965)
This Italian and Spanish co-production, directed by horror master Mario Bava, is a low budget chiller. Despite its low profile and cultish appeal, it has become a powerfully influential movie for big, Hollywood filmmakers.
The movie is based on an Italian short story, One Night of 21 Hours, and follows the horror filled tale of two spaceship crews which have become stranded on a mysterious planet. The crewmembers are soon taken over by alien beings which turn them into murderous, vampire like creatures. Dripping with fun, freaky atmosphere, Bava achieved an amazing look and feel with his flick, rising high above his financial limitations.
Even if you have never watched Planet Of The Vampires, you probably have felt its hypnotic influence, since it’s regarded as the inspiration for British director Ridley Scott’s masterwork, Alien. Despite the low budget, or perhaps because of the financial limitations of what Bava had to work with, the film is awash in creepy ambience and projects a vibe of real dread and despair.
Vampires - The Final Frontier
The Last Man On Earth (1964)
Hollywood veteran Vincent Price became globally synonymous with the weird, strange and supernatural during his incredible entertainment career. Price may have been more connected with the horror and supernatural in movies like the Roger Corman Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, such as Fall of The House of Usher or Masque of The Red Death, but with this Italian film, based on Richard Matheson’s popular novel, I Am Legend, he took part in one of the most interesting examples of science fiction vampirism.
In the compelling, yet supremely tragic tale, Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan, a scientist whose world has been gripped by a disease plague which mimics vampirism. We see just how our planet was ravaged by this horrific sickness, which may have been the result of bacteria from vampire bats or other animals. After being bitten by a vampire bat himself, Morgan is now immune - and must now watch helplessly as all those dear to him succumb to the plague until it reaches true global epidemic proportions.
Author Richard Matheson took the familiar and well trod supernatural curse of the vampire and brought it, fangs and all, into the 20th century by using science fiction as a narrative backdrop. Transforming it from a mythological tale or religious curse to a fairly realistic, even viable notion of a contracting a communicable disease - a plague of vampires. In his novel, The Legend of Hell House, Matheson did something similar. He took the concept of ghosts, and wove a tale of science around it, instead of falling back on the old notion of supernatural preeminence being the explanation of spirits surviving the mortal realm - or life after death. Will Smith took on the lead role in the 2007 remake, after Charlton Heston did the same with 1971's TheOmega Man.
Ridley Scott may have been influenced by Planet of the Vampires, however his first foray into alien terror is now wholly occupies its own iconic entity. With mega hit, box office sequels like James Cameron's Aliens, cinematic crossovers like Alien Vs Predator, Scott - with the great help of visionary artist H.R. Giger - crafted a true landmark of cultural significance.
Structured like a spooky, haunted house tale set within the frozen desolation of outer space, Alien introduces us to a species which simply sees us as cattle or livestock. This predatory alien species doesn’t actually attack humans - or other species - in the same manner as a classic vampire, but they turn us into living incubators and food for their young.
Sigourney Weaver plays the ever resourceful Lt. Ripley, and in the first outing, she begins the journey fans would come to celebrate as the birth of a true super heroine. Later, she finds herself following the path of another creature hunter - Dr. Van Helsing. Ripley will become one of humanity’s great alien fighters, and in many ways, it’s almost as though she’s fated to excel in this protective role.
Buck Rogers In The 25th Century - (1979)
Actor and star Gil Gerard fleshed out the Captain Kirk and Han Solo like lead of his hit sci-fi TV show, which chronicled the adventures of a man out of his own time - namely the 20th century.
Buck and Colonel Wilma Deering (Erin Gray) encountered many weird aliens and phenomenons as the patrolled the spaceways together, but one of the weirder and more frightening was coming face to face with a space vampire. Called a Vorvon in the episode, Space Vampire, the nasty alien predator turns his dominating sights on Wilma and quickly turns her into his loyal servant. It’s up to Buck to save the day, and of course he does, because doesn’t he always?
What’s perhaps most interesting about this sci-fi romp is the mind bending notion that vampires exist on other planets. But this one isn’t about drinking human blood. The vampire or Vorvon sucks the life energy out of a person, by absorbing it through his long nailed fingertips. The whole concept of a ‘psychic vampire’ is sort of explored here, albeit in a pulp fiction manner. When the Vorvon strikes, his victims are drained of their life essence, and become hollowed out, shambling creatures who follow his every whim and desire.
Ghosts Of Mars (2001)
Horror master director John Carpenter did tackle vampire lore when he made a traditional vampire movie with his aptly entitled, John Carpenter’s Vampires. Here though, Carpenter does a sci-fi spin on the old horror trope.
Natasha Henstridge from Species fame and rapper turned actor Ice Cube (Barbershop) play futuristic Earthlings parading around a mostly colonized Mars. After an ancient Martian door is breached, Martian spirits or energy beings are released to wreak havoc on the shocked humans. These ghosts of mars possess mostly everyone in sight and turn them all into bloodthirsty killers.
Much like in The Last Man On Earth or Planet of the Vampires, the horror of a murderous plague doesn’t have an origin with supernatural curses or Earthly religious origins, but arises in a more scientifically attributable way. Science blends conveniently with science fiction and a slightly more plausible, albeit still utterly fantastical cause of vampiric like proceedings is presented.
Space Vampires In The 25th Century
Vampire Hunter D (1985)
Japanese anime is long known for its serious and intellectual exploration of technology and its impact on people and society. Here, we have a story exploring what the world would be like if it was plagued by vampires - over ten thousand years from today.
Our hero is known as D - a fearless vampire hunter, and actually a half vampire himself. He’s of a hybrid race known as a dhampyr - one half human, the other blood lusting vampire. To add even more science fiction goodness to the proceedings, D uses a symbiote hand - a kind of cybernetic artificial intelligent limb to assist him in his ever vigilant struggle against the dark and destructive part of his racial heritage. The symbiote hand is so powerfully dynamic and entertaining, it could justly be showcased in its own series of movies. Poor dhampyr D would just have to play 2nd fiddle to his five fingered assistant.