A black screen and some credits, nothing more. I settled comfortably into my favorite corner of the couch, then…a scream! Not a regular scream but one that curdles your blood. I spilled some of my popcorn as I jumped. I looked intently at the screen, the credits continued. That was the really unsettling thing, a scream without an explanation. The film opens in a dark, foggy cemetery, as a grave digger is burying a body. A second man enters the cemetery, and, without warning, knocks the grave digger unconscious. We see that the deceased is a young woman, and before any other information can be processed, the stranger reaches out and caresses her face. Not in a dearly departed way, but in a heavy breathing, sexually forceful kind of way.
I was rewatching Van Helsing recently and wondered, why did this film fail? What went wrong? It was a fun film that…wait a minute, did I say FUN? Ah, yes I did, and that’s the problem. It was fun. Not fun in the way that say Evil Dead is fun or say The Howling is fun. These films are fun in the sense that they relieve tension and that release is a good thing, Kind of orgasmic really.
The key thing that creates tension is realism. That is where the problem lies. Now before you say “Hey Mr. Trevor, sir, these films are supposed to be fantastic, what are you talking about?!” let me explain. When we saw Eddie Quist turn into a wolf in The Howling before our very eyes, we were spellbound, or more honestly, we shit our pants! We believed and screamed or laughed, just to get the tension out. Modern films don’t give us that. They give us impossible CGI monsters that don’t register with our emotional or physical receptors. We don’t believe for one second that they are a threat, all we can say is…”that looked cool”.
In the late 1980’s, I discovered one of the more enduring horror characters of all time. A beautiful, raven haired, vampire from outer space, a woman named Vampirella.
Vampirella was created by Forrest J. Ackerman in 1969 for James Warren’s publishing company which was already responsible for horror magazines Eerie and Creepy. The company had hit some hard times and was trying to come up with something that would recapture the imagination of the audience. Forest worked his magic, and the rest is history, Vampirella saved the day. Mr. Warren saw the potential for big screen adventures ala Jean-Claude Forest’s Barbarella which became a big budget film from De Laurentiis pictures starring Jane Fonda. Well, there was once a big screen Vampirella film in production, but there is little information on it, even in the digital age. The script is extremely hard to come by, but does exist; it remains one of the most beloved and oft talked about films never made. What follows is the story of Vampirella and Hammer Films.
I was watching the brilliant 2007 film Trick R Treat yesterday. Every time I watch it I am reminded of what Halloween should be. No, not the murder and sacrifices, but the Witches, Vampires, Zombies, and the like that used to bring such cautious wonder to us all. Things used to be so much more mystical and mythical by nature. In the world we live in now, if it’s Halloween, it must be SAW! I like the SAW films, don’t get me wrong. But they just don’t scream Halloween to me like Tick R Treat did. I missed the classic monsters and lurid tales. Now mind you, movie wise, the pickings are few when it comes to that kind of entertainment, outside of Universal and Hammer films, there are very few classic monster tales that are any good.
So with that in mind, I looked through my vast comic collection and reacquainted myself with my first great comic love, Horror comics. In the 1970’s, horror comics were all the rage, hell; half of Marvel’s entire output were horror comics. I distinctly remember my mother buying me my first issue of Werewolf by Night at the local 1st St. Pharmacy. It was issue #5 and I was hooked. Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, the Living Mummy, the Zombie, I eagerly picked up everything I could when we went out.