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The Castle of Dr. FettersteinSucking Cinema
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, December 7, 2013    Share

Now is the time for me to dig back into my memories and come clean about my favorite vampire movies. And there is no better time for this then right now. As the annoying Twilight series is dominating vampires in pop culture with Emo whiners who are afraid of their own shadows; I proudly present my favorites intended for vampire fans that are real horror fans.

The first vampire movie for me was the classic literary character with the black cape, those staring eyes, and those long sharp fangs and the man who made Transylvania the vampire capitol of the world, the one and only Count Dracula. Like most fans my first Dracula movie was Todd Browning’s 1931 Dracula starring the immortal and iconic Bela Lugosi. When I first saw Lugosi as Dracula he became Dracula for me forever. Lugosi just has such intense eyes that burn into you that I found myself being hypnotized by his gaze. If he wanted to drink my blood there is nothing I could have done to prevent it.

In fact, due to seeing Dracula at a young age I immediately started reading Leonard Wolf’s The Annotated Dracula at 5-years old. At that time I couldn’t really understand the text so I would look at the pictures that set my imagination on fire. The next step was to create my own horror art with pens and paper. Soon, I picked up a children’s version of Dracula and read it from cover to cover one lonely Saturday afternoon. Reading the novel, everytime Dracula is mentioned, the image of Bela Lugosi popped up in my mind. Even today when re-reading Dracula I still see the Count as Lugosi. Sadly, this would be Lugosi’s greatest performance and he would soon be typecast and reduced to B movies. I still love him for what he was able to accomplish in his later years.

After reading through Dracula I started on The Vampire Cinema by British horror critic David Pirie. What struck me about Pirie’s writing is how passionate he was about horror and how he described horror as “fairy tales for adults.” The Vampire Cinema contained a photo of a grotesque bald vampire with hideous teeth from the movie Nosferatu. I made a mental note of that image. Years later I bought Nosferatu on video cassette based on how that picture had once affected me. Nosferatu was the first video that I ever owned and I didn’t even have a VCR yet. Still, I had to have it. I went to a friend’s house to watch it. Nosfertau was my introduction to German Expressionism that was a huge influence on all the Universal horror movies.

Released in 1922, Nosferatu was so close to Bram Stoker’s Dracula that Stoker’s window sued and all prints were ordered to be destroyed. Fortunately for movie lovers one print survived.
When struck me about Nosferatu was how scary a silent movie can be. Max Schreck plays Count Orlok with a sinister elegance that can still send little pinpricks of fear into today’s modern horror audiences that have been desensitized.

Sometime back in my early years I fell in love with Hammer Horror and couldn’t wait to see all the movies starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

My favorite in the Hammer Dracula series is Horror of Dracula (1958.) Christopher Lee was good as Dracula but he wasn’t better than Lugosi. Lee came across to me as a hissing cat.

What sold me on Horror of Dracula was Peter Cushing’s energized performance as Dr. Van Helsing.

You can forget about Edward Van Sloan’s weak Van Helsing from Dracula (1931,) when you see Cushing in action. Cushing was so dramatic and intense in Horror of Dracula that he was the perfect rival for Lee’s Dracula.

There are many fine vampire movies from Hammer but Horror of Dracula I believe towers above all the others. Especially when seeing the interesting idea in Vampire Circus that never really took off for me or how bad a vampire movie can be after first seeing The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. The later gets my vote for the worst example of a Hammer vampire movie.

In this ridiculous piece of trash, Dracula steals the body of a Taoist Priest and moves to rural China where he commands Chinese vampires. Peter Cushing returns as Dr. Van Helsing who is lecturing on vampires in China. He teams up with a kung fu expert to save a village from a vampire invasion. Entertaining to those who appreciate bad movies and I do but I really have to be in the right mood to suffer through repeated viewing of The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires.

Now there have been numerous vampire movies throughout the years that I have either hated or couldn’t get interested enough to keep watching like Innocent Blood (1992) and Wes Craven’s awful Vampire in Brooklyn.

However, instead of focusing on the junk, I will end on my last favorite vampire movie that played on TV as a miniseries as that is Salem’s Lot (1979.) Ignore the poorly edited 2-hour version that contains numerous plot holes and seek out the longer version and the recent remake with Rob Lowe.

Try to remember back in the 70’s when Stephen King was still relevant and was a horror writer who was on a mission to scare before he became the self-parody he is today.

Salem’s Lot is my favorite non Dracula vampire movie. In it David Soul, who I loved from Starsky and Hutch, plays the writer, Ben Mears, who has an idea about writing about the Marsten House that terrorized him as a child. He returns to his hometown in Jerusalem’s Lot and rents a room at the local boarding house. Soon after Mears arrive, the mysterious Richard Straker played by James Mason, opens up his antique store. Little does the town realize that Straker is preparing the way for the arrival of his business partner, Mr. Barlow. Straker buys the Marsten House before Mears can and so the two eventually cross paths. Soon Barlow is in town and children and adults disappear. Can Ben figure out the mystery before it is too late? What will be the fate of Salem’s Lot?

What struck me about Salem’s Lot is how Mr. Barlow, the main vampire, was an obivous homage to how Count Orlock looked in Nosferatu.

In both cases, the idea of a handsome vampire who can seduce and charm their victims is demolished with how hideous and ugly vampires can be. I like the idea of the vampire as a disgusting monster instead of a smooth talker. Each time I set aside four hours to watch Salem’s Lot it has this power that captures my imagination and is such a great story.

Well enough of my yapping, I hear the sound of fingernails scrapping against my window and looking out I can see a familiar face floating in the fog, asking me to let him in.

"The Castle of Dr. Fetterstein" is ©2013 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2013 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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