Hooray! It’s June! 80 degree+ weather! Massive humidity! Birdies and baby animals abound! Sorry, but after a 7 month winter, I’m happy it’s finally warm weather here in Minneapolis. So what better way to start of the 26th Nyogtha than by answering a question that befits the longer hours and warmer weather we’ve been having.
Why does sunlight kill vampires?
In fact, the answer to this question might surprise a lot of you. You see, much like how Hollywood gave Lycanthropes a weakness to silver, it was the Silver Screen that gave vampires their most popular weakness of all: Sunlight. Before then, vampires had no problem going out in the daylight. Stoker’s Dracula, Le Fanu’s Carmilla, The Mysterious Stranger, Coleridge’s Geraldine, Varney the Vampire, and many others had no problem being out in the daylight. But a good horror story needs the shrouding of night, so even though they could meander during the day, most authors preferred to keep them as nocturnal hunters.
The first time it was ever hinted that a vampire could be affected by daylight was in a passage of Dracula, where Van Helsing states:
“His power ceases, as does that of all things, at the coming of day. Only at certain times can he have limited freedom. If he be not at the place whither he is bound, he can change himself at noon or at exact sunrise and sunset. These things we are told, and in this record of ours we have proof by inference.”
Now this paragraph was merely stating the limitations to Dracula’s shape shifting power. Remember that in the book, he could take the following forms: Rat, bat, mist, wolf, dust, and fog. (Yes, fog and mist are different. No, I don’t know why.) This paragraph relates to the fact that once Dracula has taken an alternate form, he must stay in that until either noon, dusk, or dawn, unless he returns back to his native soil. This is why he had 50 boxed of earth spread throughout London. However, slowly but surely, poor readers took the first sentence of that paragraph and made it change from “Weak during the day” to “Dies from sunlight.”
Another part of Dracula that erroneously led some readers to think Dracula could be hurt by the day was early on in Stoker’s novel when Harker writes in his journal, “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!” Again, this makes sense for a monster like Dracula to switch up his sleeping hours, and it is in fact later found out to be true. But in no way does it mean sunlight kills him.
Later in Dracula, the vampire hunters do encounter Dracula during the Afternoon in Piccadilly. He was weak enough that Helsing, Harker, Morris, and Seward were able to make Dracula retreat and lose himself amongst the throngs of humanity. There’s a huge scene of him out in the daylight just being a normal person. Well, as normal as an immortal corpse that feeds on blood can be. But hey, Stoker at least shows that as late as 1897, vampires were not hurt by sunlight.
So where and when did vampires develop spontaneous combustion into their repertoire of “How to get killed?” Well, it was in 1922 when Henrik Galeen wrote the script for a movie Prana-Film’s co-head, Albin Grau would pay Freidrich Wilhelm Murnau to direct. This film was called, Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Garuens. This movie was an unauthorized plagiarism of Dracula, and in hopes of avoiding a lawsuit, everything was subtlety changes. The location moves from London to Bremen, Germany. Dracula became Orlock. Renfield became Mr. Knock. Van Helsing became Dr, Bulwar. Harker became Waldemar Hutter and Mina became Ellen Hutter. It was all very transparent and obvious to anyone who read the book, what they were ripping off.
However, the one big difference between the book and movie was how Orlock and Dracula met separate fates. In Stoker’s novel, Dracula was decapitated and staked at dusk, and he turned to dust while looking directly at Mina and smiled. Stoker’s wife Florence would comment after his death, that Stoker left this ending open for the close intelligent readers as he stated several times Dracula could turn to death, and Dusk is one of the times when he could shape change. But that’s a story for another time.
In Nosferatu, the vampire was transformed into a purely nocturnal creature, affected by daylight. The heroes discovered that if a pure woman could charm a vampire, making him spend the entire night by her side, the vampire would loose track of time and perish in the coming dawn. Ellen Hutter did just that, sacrificing her life, so that Graf Orlock would Stay by her side. The vampire fed upon her, only to her the cock’s crow and as he tried to flee, sunlight hit Orlock and he dissolved into smoke and mist. Wonderful ending, and even 80-odd years later, it’s still considered to be one of the greatest moments in all cinematic history.
Of course, Nosferatu barely saw the light of day. It was released in March of 1922, and received great reviews. But Prana-Films was massively in debt and the creditors came to collect. Not only that, but the second the film reached Western Europe, Prana was slapped with a massive lawsuit by Florence Stoker and because Prana Films had neither asked her permission to use her late husband’s work, nor paid her anything, the courts eventually (July 1925) ruled in her favour, and all copies of Nosferatu were ordered destroyed and burned.
However, a few copies survived as was shown in October 1926, when the very organization that represented Stoker became the owners of a copy of the film, and refused to tell Florence how they received it, and refused to destroy it.
In 1928, Universal Studios purchased the film rights to Dracula. As the owned the film rights, this spread out to Nosferatu which years before was ruled property and part of the Dracula film rights. Universal Studios then gave permission for the British Incorporated Society of Authors to show Nosferatu.
Florence Stoker freaked at this, and threatened to sue AGAIN, this time the society, unless they turned over the copy of the film to her to be destroyed., In 1929, they complied.
In 1930, copies of Nosferatu showed up in New York City and Detroit. Truly this film refused to die, much like the vampires it was about. The same year, Stoker’s widow received these copies as well via threat of lawsuit, and destroyed them as well.
No copies were sighted from then on until 1937 when Florence Stoker died. From then on, copies slowly but surely began popping up, but these copies were either condensed, edited with the original Stoker names for the characters placed back in, and so on.
One true original copy of the film in its entirety survived through the years secretly and was restored in 1984 and shown at the Berlin Film Festival. For two decades now, the film in its purest form has been available for all, although DVD and VHS tape purchasers need to check what they are getting, as most of the time, it is the edited or Stokerized versions that are what you will be buying.
All that for an answer where the sunlight weakness came from, eh? Well guess what, we’re not done yet. After all, Nosferatu was only readily available for a few months before the purge against it occurred. So although it was the origin of this massive change in Undead folklore, it was only available to those that had seen it, or people in the film industry.
So in fact, Hollywood is still responsible, but the main film that has to be credited with spreading this belief is 1943’s The Return of the Vampire, featuring Good Ol’ Bela Lugosi. This film was widely distributed and everyone worldwide could see Armand Tesla (the vampire Lugosi played) melt to death from sunlight hitting it. TRotV ending was inspired from Nosferatu‘s but it was seeing Lugosi, who to all people on the entire planet during this time period, was DRACULA, and thus all vampires incarnate, melting from the rays of the dawn, it forever linked sunlight as a killing force towards the Undead.
From here on, sunlight became the preferred way to kill a vampire in Hollywood. If only for the awe factor and the abuse of special effects that the director and production companies could devise in order to make young children come back to the local cinema for the next vampire film.
In books however, sunlight may have evolved into a way of slaying the undead as well, but it is still primarily used to define when a vampire is active and to place boundaries on the creature.
However, modern writers and filmmakers keep coming up with ways around this weakness (which is funny, because anyone could just have the vampire say “Hollywood did it” to explain why their antagonist is running around on the beach). From sunscreen to that horrible ray-ban sunscreen commercial, getting around the 70 year old weakness of daylight has become something of a sport amongst the third rate writers of the Vampire genre.
As a final footnote on this topic, I should add that Polish and Russian vampires of yore actually were active mainly in the daylight, from the hours of noon until midnight.
Spring is a great time for going out and getting the grill. I know that when you’ll be reading this, I’ll be out cooking up a delicious cut of salmon to devour all by myself. And why not share the recipe I’ll be using. I do want to touch on the fact that there are capers in this. I love capers. I think they make most pasta and fishes dishes better. But there’s a lot of people who hate them. Capers seem to be one of those ingredients that people can’t be neutral about. They either love or loathe them.
If you’re a drinker, serve this with a nice pink French or Spanish wine.
Grilled Salmon with Tomato-Caper Vinaigrette
(For the Vinaigrette)
3 ripe beefsteak tomatoes, cored, seeded, and diced
One quarter of a red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons capers, drained
One-fourth cup aged sherry vinegar
One-half cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste.
1. Combine ALL the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let this concoction sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. (You can make the vinaigrette up to two hours before using. In this case, keep it in the fridge, and then bring it out 30 minutes before cooking so it can get to room temperature.
(For the Salmon)
4 eight ounce salmon fillets, making sure they are 1 to 1.5 inches thick, with the skin still intact
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat your grill to medium-high
2. Brush the fish on both sides with the Canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the salmon SKIN SIDE DOWN untilt he skin is slightly charred and crisp. This should take about 3-4 minutes.
3. Turn the fillets over, reduce the heat to medium or move to a cooler part of the grill and cook until just cooked through. This should again take, 3-4 minutes
4. Remove the salmon to serving plates or a platter and spoon on a few tablespoons on the vinaigrette over the fish. Serve immediately.
In Comics, Kevin Mahoney reviews a comic about Vampire Pirates, yet manages to completely miss talking about the plot at all. BOO! Meanwhile, Jessie Baker sneaks in some much deserved Bendis bashing into his review of a comic bendis doesn’t even write!
In Wrestling, I disagree with Gordi’s choice of the greatest rivalry of all time. I like both Misawa and Kawada, but fine them both over-rated by the American Puro fanboy. For me, I’d say the greatest rivalry was either Blanchard/Magnum TA, Dr. Death Steve Williams/Bamm Bamm Terry Gordy or Muta/Chono as a better overall feud. Muta/Chono lasted longer, made a LOT more money in its peak, and would appeal to a US audience far better than All-Japan bruising. But it’s all opinion and a lot of North American Puro fans would agree with Gordi.
Also, Eric S talks drugs.
In Music, Gloomchen looks at why all Britons need no be purged from society, and Cameron talks about Chuck D on talk radio! Ever see the episode of Newsradio he was on? It was funny! I was shocked to hear he’s 68 though!
In TV, Porter talks Euro stuff.
That’s it for this week. Any questions or comments you have, feel free to send them my way.