I wonder what would happen if we brought back murderous vampires to the screen. Forget the sexy vampires, the reluctant vampires, the angsty vampires, the lesbian vampires, the funny vampires, the parody vampires, the energy vampires, and the metaphorical vampires, and give me a bad motherfucker who jumps out of a dark alley and rips out your throat.
It’s easy to sit here in 2012 and see what was right about 70s TV movies, not only because we’ve seen what has held up and what has been rightfully forgotten, but also because we’re able to characterize 70s film and put it in a box with 70s culture and attitudes. We know the tone of 70s movies and the cause for that. We don’t know, however, what will be remembered from the present time, and we’re too close to everything that happens to us to be able to say “this is how we all feel in 2012, and how that comes out in our movies.” Once we can do that, vampires, and film in general, will have moved on to reflect something else anyway.
Who can say why vampires have lost their fangs? Maybe it’s a product of the culture that says no matter what weird shit a person does with his life, it’s okay. Maybe our vampires, like us, are overly self-reflective. Maybe it’s because we want to pretend that we’re all living in a perpetual shade of grey. Lines were more clearly drawn in society in 1972, although they were starting to blur. I wouldn’t want to return to living behind and between some of those lines, but I would like the scary vampire to rise from his coffin once again.
Am I reading too much into a screenwriter’s motivations? Maybe all it would take is for someone to simply write us a killer vampire, one who doesn’t care about anything but getting the blood he needs to survive. There could be no better template for a vampire movie than the Richard Matheson-penned, John Llewellyn Moxey-helmed, Dan Curtis-produced The Night Stalker. This is great TV served under foil on a shiny folding tray, with a salisbury steak, some mashed potatoes, and apple cobbler for dessert.
For my money, Janos Skorzeny is the perfect vampire. He doesn’t care about making minions, and he doesn’t hesitate to drink blood. It doesn’t matter if it comes from the jugular in the neck of a cocktail waitress who shouldn’t have been walking home alone at night, or from a bottle stolen from the fridge at the hospital, he’s going to strong arm rob you of some blood before the sun comes up. Kolchak is the perfect tragic hero, pridefully going after the vampire only to get what he wants most, a story and a more prestigious reporting job, and because of his pride losing everything but his life in the end. He’s a more serious version of the goofy investigator he would become in the series, ballsy and fearless rather than mugging and hapless. And Las Vegas, where the film takes place, is the third main character. It is sleazy and political, full of gamblers and other opportunists who also stalk the night, sitting there on the edge of the desert without any family-friendly amusements to divert from the business of sinning.
People are nostalgic for the Kolchak series, and it was enjoyable in its own way, but it can’t compare to the original movie version of Kolchak’s story. If you added a few car chases, some boobs, some gore, and maybe a pimp, you’d have a crime thriller that could go up against any gritty 70s theatrical film. With a scary as hell vampire.
The closest thing to a scary vampire I’ve seen in my lifetime was Bill Paxton’s character in Near Dark, and even he did a little too much mugging and was fleshed out too well. What do you think? Am I overlooking someone? How has the culture changed since 1972 in a way that has made our vampires go soft?