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Celluloid Vampires

Life After Death in the Modern World

By Stacey Abbott

Publication Year: 2007

In 1896, French magician and filmmaker George Méliès brought forth the first celluloid vampire in his film Le manoir du diable. The vampire continues to be one of film’s most popular gothic monsters and in fact, today more people become acquainted with the vampire through film than through literature, such as Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula. How has this long legacy of celluloid vampires affected our understanding of vampire mythology? And how has the vampire morphed from its folkloric and literary origins? In this entertaining and absorbing work, Stacey Abbott challenges the conventional interpretation of vampire mythology and argues that the medium of film has completely reinvented the vampire archetype. Rather than representing the primitive and folkloric, the vampire has come to embody the very experience of modernity. No longer in a cape and coffin, today’s vampire resides in major cities, listens to punk music, embraces technology, and adapts to any situation. Sometimes she’s even female. With case studies of vampire classics such as Nosferatu, Martin, Blade, and Habit, the author traces the evolution of the American vampire film, arguing that vampires are more than just blood-drinking monsters; they reflect the cultural and social climate of the societies that produce them, especially during times of intense change and modernization. Abbott also explores how independent filmmaking techniques, special effects makeup, and the stunning and ultramodern computer-generated effects of recent films have affected the representation of the vampire in film.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-x

This book is the product of many years research and writing and as such there are a great many people to whom I owe a debt for their assistance, contribution, and interest in my work, but also for occasionally bringing me into the light of day and reminding me that there is more to life than vampires. This book began as my PhD thesis and so my biggest debt is ...

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Introduction. A Little Less Ritual and a Little More Fun

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pp. 1-12

In 1896, one year before the publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, French magician and filmmaker George Méliès brought forth the first celluloid vampire in his film Le manoir du diable (The Haunted Castle). In this film, a bat flies into a Gothic castle, transforms into a man who then conjures up numerous visions to horrify the other inhabitants of the castle. He is van-...


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pp. 13-14

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CHAPTER ONE. Dracula: A Wonder of the Modern World

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pp. 15-42

When the vampires Louis and Claudia search eastern Europe for other vampires in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, they find only “mindless, animated corpses” haunting graveyards, ancient monuments, and tombs. In presenting a confrontation between new-world and old-world vampires, Rice draws upon the essential differences between literature ...

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CHAPTER TWO. The Cinematic Spectacle of Vampirism: Nosferatu in the Light of New Technology1

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pp. 43-60

In a pivotal scene in Shadow of the Vampire (2000), a fictional film about the making of F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922), the real vampire Max Schreck finds a small hand-cranked film projector amongst all of the technological equipment the filmmakers have brought into his castle. Like a child left alone with his toys, he curiously begins to crank the lever, which results ...

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CHAPTER THREE. From Hollywood Gothic to Hammer Horror: The Modern Evolution of Dracula

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pp. 61-72

From the earliest adaptations of Dracula, F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) and Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931), the cinema has harbored an intense fascination with the vampire and this filmic image has colonized the cultural representation of the vampire. The success of Browning’s film launched a new genre in Hollywood retrospectively called “Hollywood ...


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pp. 73-74

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CHAPTER FOUR. The Seventies: The Vampire Decade

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pp. 75-88

Bram Stoker’s nineteenth-century novel Dracula featured a significant metamorphosis in the traditional representation of the vampire that captured a cultural anxiety over the changing perception of the modern world. While Dracula embodied the ambiguity between the occult and the scientific, he also emphasized the transitory nature of modernity it-...

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CHAPTER FIVE. George Romero’s Martin: An American Vampire

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pp. 89-106

While most of the vampire films and television programs of the 1970s play with generic conventions, George Romero’s Martin takes a more overt revisionist approach to the genre. One of the film’s chief methods of doing this is to present the vampire as American. While The Night Stalker demonstrates how, in the evolution of the modern world, the past is fundamentally ...

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CHAPTER SIX. Walking Corpses and Independent Filmmaking Techniques

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pp. 107-122

In 1980, James Monaco wrote an article outlining the changes to the modern horror films that had emerged in the 1970s. He argued that contemporary cinema had become more violent and horrific. While not condemning the genre as a whole, he did critique the manner in which the films were made, their “technique,” and suggested that modern Hollywood had ...

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CHAPTER SEVEN. Special Makeup Effects and Exploding Vampires

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pp. 123-138

When a vampire buys it, it is never a pretty sight. No two blood-suckers go out the same way. Some yell and scream, some go quietly, some explode, While the vampire films of the 1970s were primarily located in an under-ground film movement, the success of this new wave of American horror films led to the legitimization of a graphic and realistic style of filmmak-...


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pp. 139-140

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CHAPTER EIGHT. New York and the Vampire Fl

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pp. 141-162

By relocating the vampire to a modern urban setting, Dracula and Martin are the first steps toward the release of the vampire from superstition and tradition, facilitating a reconfiguration of the vampire from a premodern monster to an urban fl

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CHAPTER NINE. Vampire Road Movies: From Modernity to Postmodernity

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pp. 163-176

In an inversion of Jonathan Harker’s memorable journey to meet Count Dracula, we now leave the East and enter the West. While Harker’s journey chronicled a shift from the modern West to the premodern East, this journey through the American landscape will trace the modernization and Americanization of the vampire through its integration with the western ...

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CHAPTER 10. Los Angeles: Fangs, Gangs, and Vampireland

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pp. 177-194

When Angel, the vampire with a soul, leaves Sunnydale and the television series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to pursue his own destiny and television program, he is drawn to the city of Los Angeles and its diversity of victims and villains, humans and demons.1 While Sunnydale was contained and unified, Los Angeles is sprawling and fragmented. Violence erupts onto ...


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pp. 195-196

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CHAPTER ELEVEN. Vampire Cyborgs

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pp. 197-214

Hominus nocturna; virus; disease; genetic mutation; genetic experiment; a genetically engineered superrace. In the vampire films of the late 1990s and early twenty-first century, these terms have come to replace classic descriptions of the vampire: bloodsucker; revenant; succubus; shape-shifter; fiend. Vampirism is increasingly explained through the language ...

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CHAPTER TWELVE. Vampires in a Borderless World

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pp. 215-220

From Dracula (1897) to Blade (1998) and its contemporaries, the cinematic vampire has undergone a process of liberation from the boundaries of space, time, and body and, as a result, embodies a legacy of transformation that expresses the experience of modernity. But where does the cinematic vampire go from here? As we move further into the twenty-first century, ...


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pp. 221-242

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 243-254


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pp. 255-258


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pp. 259-266

E-ISBN-13: 9780292794696
E-ISBN-10: 029279469X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292716957
Print-ISBN-10: 0292716958

Page Count: 278
Illustrations: 21 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2007