Although I’m been doing the Inside Pulse/411mania gig for nearly 3 years now, I realize that 95% of the IP audience assumed I just showed up one day, wrote Retrograding and two years later, branched out into Folklore and Cultural Anthropology. But in fact I’ve spent eleven years now as a published folklorist (thanks to some lying about my age at 17-18) and also ran a folklore web zine similar to Nyogtha from October 1997 to Early 2000. I also have spent a lot of time writing essays and research papers for “Interested Parties.” No, that doesn’t mean college students in need of a term paper. It means I’ve become well known enough in regards to research ability and as being one of the best in the world on certain topics, that people looking for information on those topics have hired me. Whether it’s dramaturgy, a movie/TV studio looking for historical information on a subject/setting, or some Occult nut offering me 5-6 digits to spend the night in a would be haunted place, I’ve done it.
I know that quite a few of you have asked for me to reprint issues of the VC, but alas Listbot.com and WBS.net, the two archives for the Vampire Classifieds both crashed, and my original computer with them all died unexpectedly the day after I moved back to America from England. I believe Disney has a full archive still stored on their servers, as they bought wbs.net to be part of the Go network (and as arrogant as it may sound, they really did by WBS simple for the VC and its readership. Mickey Mouse owning an occult/folklore site. Insane.), but I can’t get to an actual human being that would have the documents. And Listbot purged their server while I was in England without the internet for a period of time, so I could warn them not to.
So alas, yes, the VC and all it’s works are lost as one big collection. There are however, people I know that have issues. Chris “Lucky” Lopez, over at Online Onslaught was a big VC fan, and I know he has some. Neil Gaiman, Anne Rice, Katherine Ramsland, Norrine Dresser and a few others also have some issues. But primarily they’re night impossible to find, and aside from Lopez, the only people I know that have several issues in their possession have to be contacted through their agents.
However, there are VC related things I have saved. Today’s issue is a reprint that Lion’s Gate Film and Shadow of the Vampire Ltd asked me to write back in late 1999/early 2000 on behalf of the film, Shadow of the Vampire. It was to work as a non formal press release for Gen X’ers/occult debunking so people didn’t think this film was even remotely based in truth. Plus they probably thought it was cute to have A, Lucard write about Max Schreck. In fact, IMDB.com has a slight reference to this paper and the VC in their trivia section for the film, but with the VC down, the link has been removed as well. Still, it’s a nice teeny tiny bit of legacy.
Anyway, here’s a nice snippet of the VC style writing I used to do, and a chance for you to see how my writing style has evolved in the past six years. And remember, someone paid me to write this. Amazing, considering how flippant and very informal my voice was back then. Ah well, behold the power of now being 28 I suppose.
Seventy-Nine years ago came the film that forever changed the legend of the vampire. Many know this film as “Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens,” or simply “Nosferatu.” It is hard to believe that any one work of art could permanently transform a legend that is built into our collective unconsciousness, one that is older than any current religion practiced today. But such is the power of this silent German film. And with the release of “Shadow of The Vampire,” what better way to celebrate than by jumping in Mr. Peabody’s wayback machine and looking at the film that inspired not only the newest of all vampire pictures, but also every vampire film ever made.
Many of you who have read my writing before knows that there is no faster way to watch me convulse in a rather unflattering manner than to misuse the word “Nosferatu.” That’s right. Nosferatu never has and never will mean vampire. Use the word in Eastern Europe for vampire and you may get an odd look. You see, Nosferatu actually is a Slavonic word that roughly means, “Plague of Rats.” It is derived from the Greek word “nosophoros,” which means “plague carrier.” So if you go to Romania and ask them to show you the home of the nearest Nosferatu…well, I’d be more worried about rabies and Black Death. And in case you are wondering the words for “vampire” in Romania are “Strigoi,” and Vukodlak, although the latter is more Croatian.
So how did this word erroneously become synonymous with everyone’s favorite undead? Well, it goes back to simple misunderstanding. Remember that folklore vampires were not the well-dressed and incredibly seductive creatures we have today. Less than 200 years ago, they were still rotten, unclean, ravagers of humanity bringing pestilence and grief to all those who encountered them. The romance just isn’t there where Klaus the local butcher rises from the dead and tears your throat out to sate his all-encompassing hunger, no? Because vampires and plagues were so interrelated, people foreign to Eastern European countries assumed the words were interchangeable.
Then came the first of three major mistakes that would forever associate this word with Vampires. The first was by Emily Gerard in 1885. Her travelogue, “Land Beyond the Forest,” was the same book that Bram Stoker used to help write the descriptions of Transylvania. “More decidedly Evil is the nosferatu, or vampire, in which every Roumanian peasant believes in as he does in Heaven or Hell.” It was from the sentence that Stoker would pen a very well known line by Abraham Van Helsing in his own book. “The Nosferatu do not die like the bee when he stings once. He is only stronger, and being stronger, has yet more power to work evil.” Needless to say this was mistake #2. And Stoker’s book, being the Bible to all Vampire fans whether they want to admit it or not, forever immortalized not just his famous Count, but this very word.
And mistake #3? Well, it was actually an attempt at using the word correctly. And it was by the very film we speak of today. Freidrich Murnau and Henrik Galeen were respectfully, the director and writer of this silent masterpiece. Mr. Galeen freely plagiarized Stoker’s book. He used the phrase Nosferatu for two reasons. One; because it was associated with vampires now, and two; because he knew the true meaning of the word. For those that have not seen the original film, Count Orlock (the vampire in “Nosferatu”), was a folkloric vampire who brought the black plague to Bremen, Germany via his arms of unclean rats. Plague of rats? Nosferatu! MY GOD! The word’s correct definition was used. But here’s where irony kicks in. Nearly everyone who sees the film walks away thinking “Nosferatu” means “Vampire.” They don’t explain the title as Galeen wrongfully gives humanity too much credit for their intelligence. After all, the average film watcher thought, “Hmmm. A vampire movie. Wonder what the title means? I know! Vampire. Hey, there’s a lot of rats in this film.” Those that read Stoker’s book first went in already misled, and those that read it after the film joined the same mindset. And this is where we are today. It’s as if a Ukrainian came to America, heard the word “John” a lot, and assumed it was English for Human. Then all of Russia starts teaching their students that John equals Human. Imagine the confusion. However Nosferatu is now irrevocably linked in the English language to vampires, with every vampire writer, role playing game company (Damn you, White Wolf!), and movie unaware of this trivial little error. Of course, by your reading this essay, you give me full legal right to beat you to death with various types of flounder if you misuse it ever again.
But besides this word, what else did the film do to change the vampire forever? Well, two things. One was that the undead reclaimed their shadow. Previously, a way to tell if someone was a vampire was by his or her lack of shadow and/or reflection. Both shadow and reflections were indications of a soul, and everyone in your local hamlet knew that vampires had no souls. They were mere animated corpses. But in order for Murnau to do his usual Expressionist film work, the vampire regained his shadow. And anyone who has ever seen the film would agree that a good part of Count Orlock’s creep factor comes from the long creeping shadows slowly and silently moving through the night. But the last change had even more of an effect of the vampire than gaining a new synonym. Through this film, the vampire gained his most famous weakness of all: SUNLIGHT.
That’s right. Before 1922, sunlight was like bayou mosquitoes. Sure, the Undead were sometimes weakened by sunlight, or slept during the day, but this was the film where they not only had to start paying attention to Daylight Saving’s Time, but vampires also would disintegrate when the dawn came unless snug in their resting place. Even Stoker’s Count and Le Fanu’s Carmilla had no problem with sunlight. Dracula was seen walking around in England by Harker soon after he and Mina are married. Carmilla spends days talking to the narrator about everything from botany to death. So where did Galeen get this idea? As mentioned earlier, “Nosferatu” is a loose plagiarism of Stoker’s book. So the idea had to have come from there. However, the only spot it is even remotely hinted at that Dracula may be hurt by sunlight is when Harker writes, “I have not yet seen the Count in the daylight. Can it be that he sleeps when others wake that he may be awake whilst they sleep?” Of course, this just implies predatory nature, not a need for Sunblock 666. Regardless of the reason, sunlight is the eventual killer of Count Orlock. But again, Orlock’s death seen is as memorable as the previously mentioned shadow scenes, so lets view the change as a modernization of the legend or artistic license, instead of nitpicking about changing a millennia old legend.
The most notable aspect of this film is its impact on the vampire as a whole. Aside from Orlock’s gruesome visage, what we know consider to be a vampire springs from this film. However, until 1984, it was believed that Bram Stoker’s own widow, Florence, destroyed all the original copies of this film. You see, there was a little matter of copyright infringement. And the fact that Florence Stoker was a notorious crank. She was never the same after that fling with Oscar Wilde…. Regardless, Stoker sued the company Murnau worked for, and in order to avoid the astronomical costs, Prana films declared bankruptcy. Of course, the English judge ruled they still had to make restitution and ordered all copies of the film destroyed and the negatives burned. Guess they were still a mite touchy over that WWI mishap.
However, much to Stoker’s chagrin and to filmgoers around the world’s delight, copies of the film kept popping up. Just a year after the film’s burning, the Dutch-American film society contacted her about gaining support for their showing of “Nosferatu.” She refused, and they showed it anyways and also refused to say where they had obtained their copy. To make things worse for Stoker’s widow, Universal Pictures gave permission for “Nosferatu” to be shown again after they had received film rights to the Novel. This permission was quickly retracted after Florence threatened to null the contract between her and the American film company. And imagine if she had! No Bela Lugosi film. He would’ve stayed on Broadway. Finally in 1929, the Film Society was forced to turn over the last known copy of the film and it too was destroyed. A year later (running theme here folks…), an edited version of the film popped up. The names on the credits were changed, sound was added, and even two new scenes and a new character were added. Major splicing had occurred. The film was called, “Die Zwolfte Stunde,” and little more is known about the film. According to notes a massive death mass and dance scene were added. How you could add a dance to “Nosferatu” remains a mystery to me.
Florence died in 1937, and not surprisingly, copies of the film began to pop up. Sadly, these films were edited or condensed. Some even changed the story cards of the silent film and the characters names were changed to their Dracula equivalent. In 1972 a rather badly damaged but complete copy of the film was found and released by Blackhawk films. And in 1979, a color-talking remake starring Klaus Kinski was made. But then came 1984, and voila a restored perfect copy of the film was showcased at the Berlin film festival. Now of course, you can buy a copy of the film for ten bucks at Wall-Mart, but considering the history of the film, it’s a miracle we have more than photos of it. Now, if we could only get a copy of London After Midnight…(The movie, not the most excellent Goth band.)
Three and a half pages later, we get to the basis of the new movie, “Shadow of the Vampire.” This film focuses on the relationship between Murnau and Schreck, who is a REAL vampire in the film. Most likely the film will base its characters very loosely on the real people. After all, it’s Hollywood. Reality sucks. But as this is America, most people will walk away assuming what they saw was real and exactly how it happened. “Gods and Monsters,” was proof enough of that. And don’t get me started on “Blair Witch.” Ick.
F.W. Murnau was born in 1888 under his real name of Fredrich Wilhelm Plumpe and is considered one of the great masters of German Expressionism. Ironically, his directing career began with propaganda films for the German Army to bolster the moral of troops in World War I. He had a rather interesting career, known for his shadowing techniques, and what would pass for special effects in those days. Perhaps the most interesting film of note to vampire fans other than “Nosferatu,” was his 1920 release, “Der Januskopf.” It was another plagiarism of a famous Novel. You might know it as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Conrad Veidt played the good doctor. And Mr Hyde? None other than Dracula himself, Bela Lugosi. Murnau eventually went to America and directed some films over here. There’s no real need in me covering this, as I’ve found over a dozen biographies devoted to the man, and it wouldn’t kill you all to pick up a book instead of a small essay.
Schreck however, is the folklorist’s dream. All the urban legends and rumours about him! Some say “Nosferatu” was the only film he was ever in. Some say he was never seen without his makeup on and that he disappeared after this film, never to be seen again. And some, like “Shadow” points out, claim Max was a true member of the Undead. And this is of course, pure claptrap.
It is true the real Max Schreck has a mysterious past and little is known about him. But all of the above rumours are untrue. Max Schreck was born in Berlin during the year 1879. He starred in 30 films, and had a long stage career before his days on the silent screen. You can read his filmography on the last page of this essay, as well as view two pictures of the man without his makeup. Not a handsome man, but certainly bears little resemblance to Count Graf Orlock.
Those of you that know German may recognize his last name. “Schreck” is the German word for “fear,” or “Fright.” This adds to the conspiracy theory of the man being a vampire. Of course, those people fail to realize that people can have peculiar last names, even ones that are actual words. Some people theorize that Schreck was a pseudonym for the actor in “Nosferatu.” Many theorized that Schreck was actually actor Alfred Abel, famous for his roles in Fritz Lang’s films “Doctor Mabuse,” and the ultra famous “Metropolis.” But this again is hopeful fantasy. Most of Schreck’s films were comedies or dramas. “Nosferatu” appears to be his lone journey into the realm of terror. And surprise! His last name stayed the same before and after the film he is most famous for. Besides the fact there is little if any physical resemblance, both Adams and Schreck had two different wives. Schreck married one Fanny Norman. Sadly her name is the only information available to the author. Less is known about her than even Schreck.
Schreck got his start in the Max Reinhardt stage troupe. Interestingly enough, Murnau too learned from Reinhardt. Schreck’s first film role was apiece entitled, “Der Richter von Zalamea.” It was his first film, and it gained him fame for being one of the actors at the time that could make the leap from stage to screen and back successfully. “Nosferatu” of course gained him a great deal of renown, although at the time of the film, most of it was infamy, due to the scandal surrounding the film, and the fact that most critics, not to mention the average person, walked away bewildered by the cinematography.
Most of Schreck’s films are lost to the world forever due to time or other mishaps, but two are known to still be circulated on a limited basis. The first is the 1923 film, “Die Strauss,” where Schreck plays a blind man using children as his guide dogs. This film is rather acclaimed by silent film fans and is worth a look, especially for it’s early ‘Film Noir’ style. Drugs, hookers, and death rather describes the entire plot of the film. Although Max has a small role, it is worth seeing. The second film is another 1923 film, “Die Finanzen des Grossherzogs,” where was again directed by Murnau. The film is very bad, to put it bluntly and even the director lambasted it after watching it. In fact, most of the comedies Max Schreck made were considered poor. I won’t even go into the military comedy “Krieg in Frieden.” I want you to enjoy this man’s works. Not watch your liver explode.
Little more is known about the man. He continued acting until his death in Munich on November 26th, 1936. The cause of death was a heart attack. One could blame on spotty records from the time period, or maybe Max just lead an unremarkable life. He left no heirs, but there is a Max Schreck living here in the US. He’s a Ceramic artist and does bear a very strong resemblance to the B&W actor. Of course, I’m not giving out any more information than that, lest a horde of Sean Manchester (re: The Highgate Vampire scare in England roughly 30 years ago…) break down his door and stake him. Oops. There I go adding to the fantasy world of Gothlings everywhere.
So there you have it. The sordid history of “Nosferatu” wrapped up in a nice little essay. As good as “Shadow of the Vampire,” may be, remember that it’s merely fiction. And that the truth can be just as interesting as the legends and fantasy surrounding it.
I’m not one for mixing real life with my columns, but as I’m doing it this week, I do want to mourn the loss of New Orleans. Especially for a French/Creole cook such as myself. There’s something wrong with the world when Poppy Z Brite loses her 2 dozen cats, every Emeril LaGasse restaurant is wiped out…and Anne Rice is left untouched by the devastation. In fact, I’ve donated a C-Note to the following charity:
Emeril Lagasse Employee Disaster Relief Fund
c/o Emeril’s Homebase
7575 Dr. Phillips Blvd., Suite 310
Orlando, Florida 32819
What can I say? These are restaurant wage slaves. Waitresses, bus boys, and dishwashers. People who are paid hourly and probably have no savings. Thus that’s who my money went to, and I will KNOW it goes directly to them. I know there’s a ton of professional chefs and cooks who aren’t the biggest fans of Emeril for various reasons, but one has to respect his enthusiasm, energy, and the fact he nearly single handedly made cooking “cool” to an American public of which the majority thought McDonalds was a special place to eat at. Thus I’ve decided to do a lovely Cajun recipe by Emeril himself for the occasion this week.
From Louisiana Real and Rustic: TURTLE SOUP
In the early 1700’s when the French Colonists arrived in New Orleans, freshwater turtles were plentiful in the bayou and streams. By adapting their French cooking techniques to local ingredients, the colonists created the new version of an old favorite. This turtle soup is not a thin watery broth, but rather a deep brown potage, smooth and pungent with a whiff of sherry. A single spoonful will show you the magic that can be done when turtle meat is combined with onions, bell peppers, celery, tomatoes, garlic, and other seasonings. In some restaurants, this soup is served as a first course. In rural areas, it is more often served as a main course. If turtle meat is unavailable, substitute veal or beef for a mock turtle soup. It’s not quite the same, but it comes pretty close to the real thing.
1.5 lbs turtle meat
2 and three-fourths teaspoons salt
Three-fourths teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 cups water
1 stick butter
One-half cup flour
1.5 cups chopped onions
One-fourth cup chopped bell peppers
One-fourth cup chopped celery
3 bay leaves
One-half teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 cup chopped, peeled, and seeded fresh tomatoes
One-Half cup Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
One-half cup dry sherry
One-fourth cup chopped parsley
One-half cup chopped green onions
4 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped
1. Put the turtle meat in a large saucepan with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4th teaspoon of the cayenne pepper, and the water. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a platter. Let cool for a few minutes, then cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Set aside. Reserve the stock. You should have about six cups.
2. In a large saucepan, combine the butter and flour over medium-high heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon for 10 to 12 minutes to make a dark brown roux, the colour of chocolate. Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery. Stir occasionally for 2-3 minutes until the veggies are slightly limp. Add the bay leaves, thyme, and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and turtle meat. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5-6 minutes. Add the Worcestershire, the remaining 1 3/4th teaspoons salt and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, the reserved turtle stock, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sherry. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the parsley, green onions, and eggs and simmer uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Remove the bay leaves.
3. Serve in soup bowls, garnished with lemon wedges to taste.
Alright. Enjoy your Labour day weekend and remember to read:
Madolan’s Wine Column
Spike’s Cooking Column
Bat’s Ebola Column
Carla’s Small Press Column
Sinead’s Literature Column
Ellie’s Italian Cooking Column
Mark’s Literature Column
Rachael’s Fashion Column
That’s it. I’m out.