by Matt Wedge
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Nosferatu was released in 1922. While I’m sure that there were vampire tales committed to film before this classic was produced, it’s widely acknowledged as the first great vampire film, inspiring filmmakers to this day. So you would assume that a documentary covering the history of the vampire legend in films would give more than a minute’s time to F.W Murnau’s version of the Dracula legend. But you know what they say happens when you assume: you make an ass out of lazy Starz network documentary producers. And if you watch this shallow, empty-headed exercise in program-filler, you might as well throw your name in that ass category.
With so many great vampire films that have been filmed in different languages and formats all over the world, you would think the producers could have found more interesting subjects to focus on than Van Helsing, Blade, Underworld, Queen of the Damned and BloodRayne. Yes, that’s right. BloodRayne. I’m going to sit back and let that sink in for a moment.
At first I thought it was a joke. To go from discussing Coppola’s flawed, but usually entertaining Dracula to Uwe Boll’s occasionally flawed, but usually just terrible BloodRayne seemed beyond the capacity of a normal functioning adult to comprehend. But the powers behind Bloodsucking Cinema took that leap with gusto, even giving Mr. Boll ample camera-time to explain why his film was so original and full of images he had never seen before. Well Uwe (if that is your real name), I have to admit: I’ve never seen a foppish vampire played by Meat Loaf cavorting on a bed with a gaggle of naked waifs before. And there’s good reason for that. Nobody wants to see it, except for maybe Mr. Loaf.
The sins of omission run deep in this production. Tod Browning’s Dracula has the briefest of mentions, as does the wonderful Hammer Films version with Christopher Lee. John Badham’s 1979 Dracula with a brilliant turn by Frank Langella as the Count isn’t even acknowledged. The same is true for the 1977 BBC production that featured Louis Jourdan as Dracula in one of the most faithful versions of the novel. Instead of packaging these adaptations together in their own category, time is taken to trace the Tarantino/Rodriguez genre-mixer, From Dusk Till Dawn back to the Mexican-produced vampire films of the drive-in era. Am I the only person that thinks that’s a stretch and a half?
The producers did turn the spotlight on some deserving films. It was nice to see John Landis’ under-appreciated Innocent Blood get a segment of its own. Ditto for The Lost Boys. But those are the only moments that the producers managed to get right.
The rest of the documentary (a term I use to describe this in only the loosest of definitions) is filled with interviews and film clips that were obviously culled from DVD extras and EPK’s. There is also the familiar parade of talking heads who seem to jump at every opportunity to get in front of the camera (Leonard Maltin and Harry Knowles, I’m looking at you) and give opinions on the cultural impact of the opening sequence in Blade. You have to admire them for being able to do it with a straight face.
If anyone is still interested, Bloodsucking Cinema airs on Starz, Friday, October 26th at 8 p.m. ET. I highly suggest you find something more entertaining and mentally stimulating to occupy yourself for that hour. Try sniffing glue or repeatedly hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. Both options are more rewarding than this waste of time.
Matt Wedge is a very cranky writer and film reviewer in Chicago.
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