Spanish Villas and 70’s Vampires

Instead of writing this paper on human accountability in cases of “natural disasters” I’m watching Christopher Lee (whom I love, even though he terrified me in The Wicker Man) in Pere Portabella’s 1970 Spanish Film “Vampir”.

An odd but interesting film about the making of a horror film. As with “Irma Vep” I love movies about movies.

The film starts out with a misty stagecoach scene pulling up to a Spanish villa.

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The look is a fusion of caped Victorian, vaguely Edwardian, peasant/villager, and modern dress with 70’s feathered hair and a Studio 54 eurocratic essence.

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Shot in grainy black and white, we already know in the first minute that this is going to be artsy, with an experimental soundscape that replaces dialogue. There are moody shots of inanimate objects that show up randomly, as if cinematographer Manel Esteban was saying “let me show you my photographs” in the middle of the movie. I like it, it’s weird. There is also a lot of focus on a very cherry car in the beginning that must be an important part of the plot line (?) or is it just the delicious sheen of this vintage Dodge, brought over to Spain, that we are indulging in? Intriguing….

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Dry-icing for the misty stagecoach scene.

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Making spiderwebs

Throughout the modern experimentation we get the classic Count Dracula tale.  The story is told in silence- we see that Lee is indeed a vampire when his guest (Jonathan Harker?) arrives and looks in the mirror. No Christopher behind him! The guest realizes he is imprisoned in the villa and late in the night the brides of the Count come out for a feed. In the book Harker does not get bit but instead escapes from a window.

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Silver Fox
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The hickey that keeps on giving.

Then, we break back into real life with the Christopher clowning around as he climbs into his casket for the shooting of the next scene.

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The crew tucks him into his casket with a nice coating of fake spiderwebs.
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The makeup artist tries to evoke a look of perspiration on the actor’s face by applying glitter, which makes him look like he just woke up from a coke bender and can’t remember which disco he was at the night before. So 70’s!
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Tired and impatient, waiting to shoot the scene
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In the 70’s all women went to bed with huge eyelashes and blown-out hair- very much like I do now.

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We get into some beautiful gothic shots (still no dialogue) which suddenly cuts to a bullet train rushing by…no reason!

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Perhaps it is to show how difficult it is to shoot outdoor scenes that are supposed to take place 100 years prior when there is modern everyday life teeming behind you?

As a rule, I think vampires are evil and it troubles me that today’s youth see them as ideal and attractive figures. But would I be mad if Christopher Lee bit me on the neck? Probably not.

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Rehearsing the scene in a leopard-print coat (not Stoker correct, but looks cool)
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I guess they hired this German Shepherd to represent the Transylvanian wolves that appear near the end of Stoker’s book?
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Christopher Lee reads to us the murder of the Count scene from Dracula. The man could read off a list of malignant skin diseases and still sound incredible.

An interesting, artistic jaunt that shows how much fun people have making movies and also how much work and hours it takes. But who cares, they are in the Spanish countryside. Good times.

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So sick with the flu, it hurts to move my eyes but I did manage to watch a few movies and am currently binge-watching Black Mirror season 4, which is consistently amazing.

Irma Vep, 1996, is about the making of a movie, complete with dramatic personalities, quirky and difficult artistes, people dancing wildly in striped t-shirts to Serge Gainsbourg, and of course, Maggie Cheung looking insanely hot in a latex cat-suit.  It’s not that deep but fun to watch.

Radio Mary, 2017 This film is mostly mega-closeups of the leading lady’s pained face, then her wandering around in a nightgown, still looking pained. It’s not clear what happened, we just know that something did because for some reason everyone is concerned. Then there’s this guy that is real/not real? Well, somehow he floats around in the sky and then comes down again. He’s also a serial killer? And if he touches you, you become infected? Oh, and Mary: there’s music in her head and she is telepathic? See all these question marks? That’s how I feel about this movie. It made no sense.

La Fidelite, 2000 directed by Andrzej Zulawski. I have seen this one before but I still enjoy it. This move is so classically French, it is almost as if they are making fun of themselves. It has everything: budding romance in Parisian flower shops, torrid affairs, magazine industry hijinks, bougie mansions, creepy organized crime, and the incredibly chic Sophie Marceau. Just when you think it’s wrapping up it takes you down another road with more story. This film is the equivalent of eating an entire box of eclairs in one sitting, and it’s not terrible.