Netflix is planning a vast purge of vampire movies, slated for the end of the year. Some I’ve already seen but will watch one more time while I can. Others I’ve never seen before. Even more, there just won’t be time to view before they all disappear.
First up on my viewing list was Interview with the Vampire, which I think I saw in the theater when it came out. I haven’t watched it again since, and didn’t exactly rank it as a film classic after I saw it. It did, however, get me reading the novels.
Interview with the Vampire was written in 1976. This was well before it was cool to be a vampire in the 1980s. So does this mean Anne Rice start the vampire-chic craze among goths? Probably not. The second book (The Vampire Lestat*) took nine more years to come to fruition and was more in line with the cool vampire subculture. In Interview, Louis obviously considers vampires to be evil rather than cool, heroic, or aspirational. Those who long to join the ranks of vampires are shown to be misguided, tragic figures. Rice wrote the book while coping with the loss of her own child, and so it is a very different, rather nihilistic, vibe compared to the books that would follow. Still, the vampires are shown to be beautiful, powerful, and (of course) sexy.
By 1994, when the film was made, the beautiful, sexy vampire thing had been pretty solidly established. Thus the decision to choose Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt for the dual leads in the film. Again, some context is useful here. Tom Cruise was near his box-office-draw peak. This movie is seated between A Few Good Men and The Firm, just before, and Mission Impossible and Jerry Maguire, just after. Cruise is seen as the name that will guarantee box office success. Pitt, on the other hand, was well before his status as a Hollywood icon became established. He had Thema and Louise and A River Runs Through It behind him but, to my recollection, he was known mostly as a pretty face. For me, it would take 12 Monkeys for me to start to appreciate any acting talent, and that would come until a year later. In Interview with a Vampire, he shows some of his future star power, but mostly looks sad and pretty.
Neflix has insisted that I should also rewatch Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I have not yet decided whether or not to indulge them. This movie came out two years before Interview and I also watched it when it hit the theaters. At the time, I assume that Coppola could do no wrong and the idea of a “serious” interpretation of the original work really appealed to me. When I eventually watched it, it was a little too over-the-top stylized for me. I have to admit that, years before that, I made an attempt at reading the original Dracula and got tripped up by the style in which it was written. This all leaves me unqualified to comment on the quality of the interpretation besides my own enjoyment.
Interview with a Vampire sequel The Queen of the Damned is also on the pull-list, but I’ll be Damned if I watch that again. For those blissfully unaware of its existence, it is a movie which mixes the stories from The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned to create a silly mess.
What I had never seen, up until the threat of removal forced my hand, was Blade. This was an action movie staring Wesley Snipes, one that I remember well when it was released but for a combination of reasons never grabbed me.
What I didn’t know was that this film was taken from a comic book series, where the character was initially introduced in 1973. Created in the odd regulatory web of American comics, Blade first appeared in Vampire Tales which, being technically a “magazine” and not a “comic book,” could be darker and feature violence, profanity, and nudity (to a point) that would never fly in Superman. Blade was one of the earlier** film presentations of a “dark” comic book themed character and, in fact, was only Marvel’s second conversion of its intellectual property to the big screen. The first was the 1986 Howard the Duck, an experience that Marvel and, indeed, all of us would probably rather forget. Given that, Blade was the first successful presentation of a Marvel comic book character on the big screen.
As a movie experience, it is not bad but it is hard to see much in the way of greatness here. Snipes has a good screen presence and Stephen Dorff*** does a good job with the villain. At its heart, I call in a martial arts movie with a supernatural twist rather than the reverse and I’ve never been that in the the martial arts genre.
As I’m watching, though, I start to notice first a familiar feel and then a déjà vu emanating from my multiple viewings of The Matrix. Obviously there is going to be some similarities with the dark, leather-clad leading figure dispatching enemy hordes through a mastery of weaponry and martial arts. Beyond the incidental, though, there are scenes that nearly identical between Blade and The Matrix. The most obvious to me was the one where the respective heroes enter the ground floor of an office high-rise and are met by the SWAT-team-styled minions of the bad guys. There are a handful of such scenes that are remarkably similar.
Naturally my first instinct was that Blade was either ripping off or paying tribute to The Matrix. Then I checked the dates. Blade preceded The Matrix by 7-8 months. Clearly if anyone did the borrowing, it was the The Wachowski Brothers. Thing is, the short time between the two releases makes it unlikely there was time to outright copy Blade. I foresee a future project for me; attempting to find the common root of those common scenes.
*Why doesn’t “Lestat” rhyme with “état?” I’ve never understood why Rice pronounces the T.
**It followed nearly a decade after Tim Burton’s The Dark Knight -inspired Batman feature film, so there is really no claim on innovation here. Still, at the time, I see it more as the exception rather than, as is now, the norm.
***Occasionally I see him in a movie. Each time I do, it always surprises me that he’s not been in bigger roles than he has been. I wonder why.