Saturday, May 23, 2015

Honourable Mention: Die Einsteiger


Directed by Sigi Rothemund and released in 1985 this German comedy was a vehicle for Thomas Gottschalk and Mike Krüger, who had become stars due to their popular radio show. The resultant film (one of several) was, unfortunately, not that funny.

The basic premise was that Mike (Mike Krüger) had invented a device called the video integrator that allowed him to project himself and Tommy (Thomas Gottschalk) into movies that are playing on video cassette.

Tommy and Mike
The process has dangers, beyond the fact that, for instance, in the Western they enter – which is their first adventure – we see them appearing on a gallows with nooses round their necks. The remote control that allows their entry and exit in and out of the film needs to recharge for three minutes between uses (until it’s convenient to forget that) and should the power go or the machine be switched off whilst in a film they will be trapped forever. Meanwhile Tommy has used the machine as a talking point to a woman he fancies and that has led to news of it leaking and a Japanese company trying to steal the idea.

Udo Kier as Graf Frackstein
From our point of view it is the vampire film they enter that is important, and not just any vampire film – this is clearly a spoof of the Fearless Vampire Killers. Tommy and Mike arrive at the castle (the process clothes them appropriately) and are mistaken by Graf Frackstein (Udo Kier) and Gräfin Frackstein (Thea Gottschalk) as guests and are taken through to the vampire ball, where the Graf curses the name of their enemy Professor Liborius (Ossy Kolmann) of the University of Karlsbad.

who ordered a bloody Mary?
Having turned down a drink containing offal as garnishes (and asking for a bloody Mary, which leads to a woman being carried in to drink from), Tommy ends up dancing with the Gräfin and Mike with a gentleman vampire (Kurt Weinzierl) – this is an on-running joke as the same actor appears in every film they enter and is always attracted to Mike. During the dance the lack of scar bite marks on their necks, their warmth and a reprisal of the dancing alone in the mirror gag, get them spotted as human. In his escape from the Gräfin’s bite, Tommy wedges the remote in her mouth – reminiscent of a similar escape using a book in the original film.

mallet rather than cross
They are chased until they run past Professor Liborius and his assistant. It has to be said that Ossy Kolmann’s Liborius looks spot on in a Professor Abronsius kind of way. The Professor asks for a cross and tries to ward the vampires with a mallet. When the right instrument is passed to him, the cross causes the vampires to freeze in place. The cross is left in place allowing the two hunters to chase after the two escaped “vampires”. Tommy and Mike hide in a crypt and, after the staking of a genuine vampire, do manage to escape the clutches of the hapless hunters and lock them in the crypt. They get the remote back from the Gräfin but the cross falls over unfreezing the vampires. In the confusion Tommy holds hands with the Gräfin (the two men have to hold hands to enter and escape the video) and brings her into reality. He immediately remote controls her back into the film and then gets Mike out – completely ignoring the three minute recharge rule.

dancing in the mirror
The film clearly had some budget but it, as a whole, did nothing for me – using the song Agadoo in a set piece didn’t help either! That said the vampire section did actually amuse me. The imdb page is here.

Please note the DVD on Amazon does not have English subtitles but there are fan subtitles on the net.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Hiatus

It’s time for that annual, work-related hiatus and there won’t be a post on Taliesin Meets the Vampires until the 23rd May 2015. I will do my best to moderate comments during the week, however.

Highlights when I get back will be a look at Dracula making an appearance in early Doctor Who, Udo Kier parodying the Fearless Vampire Killers, a review of Bolivian film Dead but Dreaming and a look at Sabine Baring-Gould’s Margery of Quether.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Taliesin Meets… …Wiktor Plitz

Today on Taliesin Meets the Vampires we meet Wiktor Plitz, a French artist who produces vampire killing/hunting kits and makes them available to buy.

TMtV: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

WP: I am a multidisciplinary visual artist working under the name of Wiktor Plitz, in France. On one hand I work on pictures of visual communication of my clients (graphic design, videos, organization of exhibitions and events). On the other hand, I work for myself by producing artwork and handmade boxes – especially the kits of vampire hunters.

TMtV: How long have you been making vampire hunting kits?

WP: I have been creating those kits for a year. Their conception needs a lot of time, especially to find the best price for each component, in order to offer to the public the most affordable prices. That’s why I can’t work all year long on those boxes. I work on them each for three months in my workshop. Generally, it takes almost a month to create a few pieces to add to the rest of the collection.

TMtV: What inspired you to start making them?

WP: By organizing the third edition of the Salon du Vampire (Vampire Show) (the only show with this thematic in France) with the association to which I belong The Lyon Beefsteak Club (chaired by Adrien Party, from the website vampirisme.comwe noticed together that it would be good to have a stand with the vampire hunters' kits. We didn't know anyone who could make the coffers, so I threw myself into the adventure and I found I enjoyed the manufacture of the kits.

TMtV: Do you make the exterior boxes yourself?

WP: It depends. Some of the boxes are handmade, others have been found through antiquing and recovered or bought nude. According to the theme I use this or that coffer. Sometimes a given box is needed, sometimes the box offers inspiration. A big part of the process is to restore and customise the boxes when I don’t make them.

TMtV: How many of the components do you hand make and what pre-made components do you use?

WP: The principal handmade work is the formwork for the kits' components, and the customisation of the coffer. I mostly use balsa, fabric, and leather for the formworks. I use antiquing, find, and recover the rest.

TMtV: Do you ever use antique materials in your kits?

WP: I try to incorporate a maximum of antique materials in the kits. There are 130 year-old missals, 90 year-old vials, 100 year-old rosaries. It all depends what I can find. But when I don’t find what I am searching for, I turn to others directions, which lead me to buy some new parts.

TMtV: What do you think about the supposedly antique kits on the market?

WP: Although based on the beliefs and oldest folklores, the first vampires we could meet in society were in the books from the first half of the 18th century (like "Der Vampir" by Heinrich August Ossenfelder in 1748). It seems logical to me that some kits could be manufactured when the vampire myth mingled into public perception, and it could be possible that some of them are still intact today. Although I think that a part of the population could find truth in these stories and would like to defend themselves by fashioning their own kits. I also think that those kits are close to mine; they reflect the mutual passion between creator and the public for this vampire myth. However the oldest boxes seem to be fake, to me. The vampire myth as we know it, and as it was reflected in the antique coffers, is based on the literary development of the vampire’s figure, and they are essentially big hoaxes if they are older than the first apparitions in books.

TMtV: Can you tell us about the different styles?

WP: It’s true that there are different types of coffers, they range across medieval boxes, through Victorian and the beginning of the 20th century, to steampunk. There are coffers for everyone: family kits, travel kits, and personal ones for the sailors, for the scientists, for the Christians and for the atheists… but I, above all, separate them into the categories : protection kits, defense kits and attack kits. Each one has his utility and his own function.

TMtV: What is your personal favourite kit?

WP: Without hesitation: the Blood Sucker! It’s the only one I made that can be used by the vampire himself. Although it finds inspiration in Victorian medicine, with the procedure of extracting and studying the vampire’s blood, it’s perfect for a 19th century vampire who wants to go party with his humans friends with no risk of hurting anybody. It’s a coffer whose principal function is to hide from human eyes. Indeed, what’s better than to come equipped with this one when he accompanies his guests? A sip of absinth for you, a sip of A+ for me. After a few absinths, I think everyone will want to give his blood to his vampire friend, who has all the equipment to behave like a perfect gentleman.

TMtV: I noticed you have a fang extractor kit, what inspired you to create that?

 WP: The kits have been created on the basis of a character that I create in my mind. I imagine myself being a sailor crossing the seas who needs a defense kit in case a vampire comes on board, at night or on a dark dock (Ocean’s Hunter). I imagine myself being a Christian family father, deep in the countryside, who needs to protect his family for a possible vampire threat (Christian Protector). I imagine myself being a soldier fighting through Europe who all the time has his kit on hand to fight against a vampire that he could encounter (Gun Fighter). For the Fang Extractor, I had in mind a vampire hunter, a former dentist in the early 1900s in France who the police have asked to study a headless body. I imagined that this former dentist finds out the existence of the vampires and becomes a vampire hunter using his kit to extract the fangs from the vampires that he kills. That’s why this kit consists of two authentic dentist pliers of the early 20th century, contained in a carrying case.

TMtV: Are you a fan of vampire movies and which is your favourite?

WP: I am actually a big fan of vampire movies. I like everything in the vampire genre, from Count Dracula played by Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee to the romantic vampires from the Anne Rice books. From the blood contaminated vampires of Guillermo Del Toro to the ridiculous vampires in teen movies. But the one that I prefer is my childhood's first love : Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola. The dark world, violent and Victorian... It’s the one I like most in all the vampire world. This is related to my passion for the Universal Pictures classic monsters movies, and also to uchronies like Steampunk and Dieselpunk. The adaptation to our world is a recurrent theme when we talk about vampire, but in this film, I found an animal side and a madness which is beautifully incarnated by Gary Oldman. Even if I like to see the vampire myth move together with the zombie myth - from an esoteric and mystical creature to a victim of a blood contamination - it’s the dark side of mankind, the psychological appeal of the vampire and our own personal questioning as we face this character, which I prefer. The atmosphere of this movie has always fulfilled my expectations.

My thanks to Wiktor for his time. You can check out his kits here and they can be purchased here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sexandroide – review

Director: Michel Ricaud

Release date: 1987

Contains spoilers

This is strange, so very, very strange. From what I can work out French (the very sparse dialogue is in French, though the lack of subtitling isn’t an issue as it is that sparse and there is little in the way of story) but I have seen claims that it hails from Belgium.

What it is, very much, is Grand Guignol… and, if we want to give it a cinema label, torture porn. But I actually think the former is the more accurate descriptor. It is an anthology of “acts”, unconnected (except thematically), and it is the third one that concerns us. However to mention the first one has a drunk woman stripped and tortured by voodoo. The second is the most Grand Guignol of the three and has a woman sadistically tortured by a monster (I’ve seen him described as a zombie, but I wasn’t so sure about that). Interestingly, despite the screams she also seems to garner masochistic pleasure from the events.

the mourner
Number three is our vampire section and I kind of lied about the thematic connections in that, whilst there is a little bit of sexual violence towards the head of the piece, it really isn’t the theme of this last scenario. It starts with an unseen person removing the lid of a coffin. Inside it is a man. A woman enters in mourning clothes and sits by the coffin. We see his fingers twitch and his eyes open. She stands and leans over the coffin.

the vampire
He starts leaking a milky fluid from his mouth as he grabs at her. He’s out of the coffin and starts violently ripping her clothes off (although, as a tell, we can see the actress actually tries to accommodate this at times). He holds her from behind and we notice that she already has a heavy makeup to imitate the living dead she will become – unnoticed really under her veil but too obvious here. He bites her, blood spills and then he leans her against the coffin and he gets back in.

do not disturb
She awakens as a vampire and… starts to dance… to (a very muffled) Tina Turner (2 tracks)… oh Lawdy, its bad. Despite her nudity it is probably one of the most unerotic dances you are ever going to see and it goes on and on and on. This is what I meant about this not being thematically the same as the previous sections. In those torture was inflicted on the female lead, to which we were voyeurs, and whilst the effects weren’t always the best per se they were quite effective. In this we are tortured by bad interpretative dance. However the vampire seems to appreciate it. She climbs into the coffin, dry humps him and the lid is lifted back on. The last thing we see is the hanging of a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the side of the casket.

blood at mouth
That’s it. The first two parts were disturbing in their sadistic edge, and effective at what the film maker was trying to do (whether that’s your cup of tea or not). The third piece was just poor, from the makeup to the dance. As its an anthology I’m only scoring the vampire section, as per normal, and that can’t deserve more than 1 out of 10. The imdb page is here.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Me and the Devil – review

Author: Nick Tosches

First published: 2012

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: An aging New Yorker, a writer named Nick, feels life ebbing out of him. The world has gone to hell and Nick is so sick of it all that he can't even have a glass of champagne. Then one night he meets a tantalizing young woman who agrees to come back to his apartment. Their encounter is the most strangely extraordinary of his life. Propelled by uncontrollable, primordial desires, he enters a new and unimagined dimension of the forbidden and is filled with a sexual and spiritual ecstasy that is as intense as it is unholy.

Suddenly Nick's senses are alive. He feels strong, unconquerable, beyond all inhibition and earthly morality. He indulges in life's pleasures, pure and perverse, sublime and dangerous, from the delicate flavors of the perfect tomato to the fleshy beauty of a woman's thigh. But Nick's desire to sustain his rapture leads him to a madness and a darkness far greater and dreadful than have ever ridden the demon mares of night.

Writing in a lineage that includes Dante, William S. Burroughs, Charles Bukowski, Hubert Selby, Jr., and Hunter S. Thompson, Nick Tosches may be America's last real literary outlaw-a fearless, uncensorable seeker of our deepest secret truths and desires, from the basest to the most beautiful. Me and the Devil is outrageous, disturbing, and brilliant, a raw and blazing novel truly unlike any other. Like the man said: Read him at your peril.

The review: The third paragraph of the blurb offers Nick Tosches prose an enviable lineage. As I read this novel I must admit that Bret Easton Ellis came to mind as did Burroughs. Perhaps Burroughs was the most obvious, on a superficial level – and I say that not to denigrate this novel but because the rhythm of the prose, the background music found in the sentences and structures, was actually very different.

What we have is a fictional biography – the main character is a writer called Nick Tosches – an exploration of aging, addiction and the seedy underbelly of human desire. The addiction, by the way, is alcoholism more than it is blood. The observations around the displacement of the need for alcohol to the need for sobriety that are made within are insightful. That said Nick does discover the joys of blood play within this and in doing so Tosches explores some of the sexual and sensual themes of the vampire genre and, in doing so, I was reminded of the excellent novel Throat Sprockets by Tim Lucas.

The character of Nick is not a pleasant character, casually racist, misogynist at times and self-centred. The imbibing of blood would seem to have physical effects on his libido and his physique, making him feel younger and causing his muscles to tighten, shifting his blood type (from A to AB), causing his eyes to change colour. Nick’s ego is shown in the fact that he feels he is becoming a God, however we become unsure as to what is reality and what is not. The apparent murder of two women, that he cannot remember, may or may not have occurred (or had his involvement). Nick’s beliefs and actions might all be part of a psychotic break.

If I had a complaint about the book it is that, towards the end, I felt it lost its way. Meandering where it had strode purposefully, the direction becoming almost lost. However that might have been a reflection of what Tosches was doing with the character, but for me it just felt a little adrift. That said the whole experience was very worthwhile. 8 out of 10.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Olalla – review

Director: Amy Hesketh

Release date: 2015

Contains spoilers

One of the interesting things about this film is it is Bolivian in origin (though star/director/writer Amy Hesketh is, I believe, American). I ordered the DVD direct from Vermeer Works as it was a touch cheaper than the Amazon US price (especially when shipping to the UK was taken into account) but was slightly disappointed that it arrived without packaging of any sort – not that this has affected the score or takes away from the film, and it will have saved on shipping I’m sure – but if you like DVD packaging you might want to take it into account.

The title might be familiar to you. Olalla was a story by Robert Louis Stevenson, from 1887, and has been translated into film before as Black Passage, an episode of the TV series Suspense. This was another reason to become excited about the film, as it isn’t an often shot story.

Olalla and her boyfriend
The film begins with a couple, Olalla (Amy Hesketh) and her boyfriend (Pablo Paravicini) sat watching Nosferatu. He begins to speak, mentioning aspects of the film, whilst she sits in silence. He notes this eventually and suggests that she has been silent through the film and seems fascinated by it. When Hutter cuts his finger on screen she climbs onto his lap and they kiss, he begins to carry her but she bites him, shocking him, and then viciously bites at his neck – spitting a plug of flesh away.

phone home
The attack is visceral and violent. She coughs, almost choking on the blood that sprays copiously from the damaged artery and blood spills out across the floor. Her white dress becomes red stained and, as she stops, she appears scared and panicky. She picks up the phone receiver and dials. When it is answered she says “It’s me” and “I did something”. She arrives bloodstained in her family home. Her sister, Ofelia (Mila Joya), slaps her and then warns that they have a guest, Nathan (Luis Almanza). We should stop a second and look at the family.

the family home
Living in the house with Ofelia are a collection of uncles and an aunt. We have Aunt Aurora (Maria Esther Arteaga), Uncle Bruno (Erik Antoine) and the “twins” Uncle Edgar (Roberto Lopez) and Uncle Aurelio (Fermin Nuñez). Nathan is there recovering – from PTSD one would guess, the film is not explicit but he was a photo journalist covering war stories – and is unaware of the family’s nature. It is clear that Nathan is due to be on the family’s menu, at some point. Ofelia calls their Uncle Felipe (Jac Avila), the family patriarch, to come and deal with Olalla.

the priest and Roberto
The film then tracks two parallel stories. The modern one with Olalla and the story of her mother, also called Olalla (and also played by Hesketh). In the historical story – set one would guess around the time of Stevenson’s story – a young man, Roberto (Christian Del Rio), is sent by his doctor to stay with a family. The local priest (Rhobess Pierre) warns him generally to keep a distance from Olalla. The family consists of her, her brother Felipe (played young by Alejandro Loayza) and her two children Olalla (played young by Valeria Huanca) and Ofelia (played young by Rosario Huanca).

Felipe arrives
In the modern day we see that Felipe has aged but not dramatically so (given the time that must have lapsed) and that the two young girls have only aged as far as being young women. The story follows parallel tracks with the mother and Roberto being attracted to each other and her daughter and Nathan suffering the same attraction. When Felipe arrives at the family house Ofelia’s first reaction is to kiss him deeply – we thus get an understanding that the family is incestuous. His method of re-educating Olalla – so her actions don’t draw attention to the family – is to keep her bound, whip and rape her.

a wee dram of blood
The vampiric lore is sparse. They are clearly long lived, blood drinkers (though such drinking doesn’t seem to need to be as often as many vampire films portray). They can certainly be in sunlight, and they both photograph and cast reflections. The vampires seem to be born as such, and Olalla and Ofelia are looked on to carry on the family line. It would seem they can die through methods that would kill any mortal. In Black Passage the children did not drink blood, something that only began in adulthood. In this we see the aftermath of the child Olalla (younger, clearly, than Ofelia) drinking the blood of a dove, in other words we see a dead bird and blood at her mouth. This went to underscore the fact that, even as a child, Olalla had self-control issues.

the 'twins'
The film is in Spanish with some English – Olalla and Bruno both speak in English (Olalla preferring to communicate to Nathan in that language) and we do hear that she and Bruno had spent time with another part of the family in the North (presumably the US). And this brings me to one of my frustrations with the film. There was a huge amount of expansion that could have been drawn around the family, we get to see Felipe and Ofelia’s sexual proclivities and we know that Bruno likes to bake but little else. I called the two uncles twins because they dress the same, groom the same and move the same – but we find no more out about them. Aurora seems to be a matriarch – but again the film is frustratingly silent. This sits with the fact that the two stories were actually fairly simple and a deeper exploration of some of the side characters would have off-set this. I found the climax of the 19th century section was perhaps a tad drawn out and could have been edited down.

attack
There were some technical issues as well. There seemed to be a degree of wobble on depth of focus, mainly on outdoor shots. There was also a point where a scene got a little choppy film wise as the dialogue continued – but that might have been a dvd issue. On the other hand I was rather taken with the very Spanish soundtrack, which suited the film very well indeed.

young Olalla post dove
The technical issues I have mentioned were not enough, I do have to say, to lower the score and the simplicity of the stories was offset by the atmosphere. I was reminded a little of La Maison Nucingen, this probably was down to the eerie family members as much as anything and, for some reason, the film brought Tremendo Amanecer to mind also. The pace of the film was languid at times but it suited that pace and the atmosphere of the house, which seemed out of kilter time-wise, with only Nathan's tablet (and the contents of Olalla's flat) betraying the true date of the modern setting.

I have been a little torn, score wise. I settled on 7 out of 10 but with a caveat that it nearly dipped just a little lower. However there is a style to this and with some further characterisation it could have built itself to being a classic. As well as Amazon and Vemeer Works the film is available on demand at Vimeo.

The imdb page is here.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Vamp or Not? Knights of Badassdom


This was a 2013 movie directed by Joe Lynch, though I understand that the final cut might have been somewhat out of the director’s control. It was mentioned to me by Everlost as having definite ‘Vamp or Not?’ potential.

It starts with a prologue voiceover that suggests that Dr John Dee created a way to summon angels but got, instead, demons. He tried to destroy the tome of spells he created but failed – however the tome has been lost through the centuries…

spell tattooed on face
Out in the woods a group of robed figures indulge in what appears to be a sacrifice – except they are quickly revealed to be live action role players (LARPers). Their in-game-argument comes to an abrupt end when they are attacked by a group of guys with paintball guns and chased out of the woods. One of the LARPers, Eric (Steve Zahn) drops the (online bought) book he was going to us as a prop. The paintballers find it but can’t tear it open and then it suddenly opens of its own volition and affixes itself to one of their faces. By the time it drops (and vanishes to reappear in the LARPers van) it has tattooed the paintballer’s face with Enochian symbols (Enochian being the language John Dee claimed was the language of the angels).

Ryan Kwanten as Joe
Joe (Ryan Kwanten, True Blood) is singing along to a doom metal song (of his creation) in the garage where he works. He’s written it for his girlfriend, Beth (Margarita Levieva), however she has different plans for their relationship. Given his lack of (should we say) corporate ambition she’s leaving him. He returns home to the castle shaped house owned by Eric, where his friends Eric and Hung (Peter Dinklage) realise that something is amiss due to the fact that they catch him playing a power ballad. They get him wasted.

Eric and Hung
Joe awakens wearing armour. He had never been part of the LARP scene, though he had been a legendary Dungeons and Dragons player. He isn’t too happy about the kidnapping but eventually decides to go along with things – especially having caught sight of LARPer Gwen (Summer Glau, Angel). The Gamesmaster, Ronnie (Jimmi Simpson, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter), insists a “summoning spell” must be performed to bring him into the game. Eric does this, complete with pentagram, from the book and (unbeknown to them) summons a demon.

flesh eating
This is the source of our ‘Vamp or Not?’ The demon takes the form of Beth (as Joe had a picture of them at prom with him in the pentagram) and is later identified as a succubus. As you’ll know there is much crossover between succubae and vampires. However she doesn’t seem to do too much that would be deemed atypically succubaen behaviour. We see her go down on one guy – and then rip his jaw off, and kiss passionately with a girl whilst killing her. We get the impression that she eats part of the victims – we see little of this but she has constant gore around her mouth. She does get accused of being a vampire LARPer.

demon form
Later we are told that she eats souls – though this may only be in the form she takes when Eric tries to banish her with a passage from the book and manages to actually transform her into a more powerful (and monstrous) form. The Battle of Evermore (the climax of the LARP weekend) is described as a buffet for her but she does only seem to slaughter. However, if she is eating the souls (and an indication of that would have been nice) then I guess she is a soul eating energy vampire as well as a demon succubus.

I’m going to give this one a pass, on the basis of the dialogue. The film itself is ok but could have been so much better. The imdb page is here.