Today I watched an adorably grainy VHS version of this 1975 favorite. This was a Commander USA episode from 1986 or so, and honestly, I can watch this documentary all year long. I think hearing Wallachia mispronounced last weekend got me in the mood to hear Sir Christopher Lee get right – a lot – because he’s back, hosting this one as well. This predates the awesomely weird Leonard Nimoy show by two years, and is actually based on a book that was published in 1972. The film explores vampire legends and myths, leading into Bram Stoker’s reliance on the story of Vlad Tepes Dracula as inspiration and model.
There are some really, really great Vlad re-enactment scenes with Lee as the notorious ruler and Hammer why didn’t you make that film? I’d watch the hell out of it. Before the Vlad section there is a truly weird retelling of a 70s medical case in involving a guy named Bill who thought it was a real-life vampire. Bill isn’t played by Christopher Lee, but rather by a very 70s dude who looks a bit like Robin Gibb.
The case was published in a psychology journal in 1964 and subsequently in a bound collection that, yep, I had to track down and read and let me tell you, it did not get any less weird when I got more details.
It’s a strange and compelling documentary overall, that gets a little lost toward the end, specifically in section about the use of the term “vamp” in early silent films. What? Where did this come from? I think perhaps it came from the filmmakers’ inability to license more than a few scant minutes of actual Dracula-related film footage to show in a section that’s supposed to be about film depictions of Dracula. So, we’re stuck with several long segments of a Theda Bara film….but it did introduce me to Theda Bara, so I’m not mad at it. I really long for that unmade Lee as Vlad movie, though.