Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Real Vampire Family

My 10 year old brain was working overtime trying to figure out how Village's "Blacula Protection Kit" worked. I hadn't seen the movie, of course, but as I sat in my 4th grade classroom on that cold Thursday morning in 1972, my mind was fixated on this vampire I'd never heard of -- although his name did have a familiar ring -- and the special kit that protected you from the scariest aspects of his movie.

You have to remember that this was twenty years before the internet (at least) and I hadn't even heard of "Famous Monsters" magazine (yet). I was getting no advance intel on anything. The newspaper WAS my horror film grapevine, my bible, although I wouldn't have told my Catholic mother that. That's why the Thursday edition of "The Sun" (new movies always start on Thursday in Australia) was such a source of excitement and anxiety for me. Usually, I'd rise an hour before my parents and run outside to rip the paper out of the letterbox ("mailbox" to some). I'd race back inside, jump back into bed, switch on the bedside light (waking my snoozing brother), and devour the Thursday listings. Those mornings were fifteen minutes of absolute heaven. Entire worlds of possibilities were presented to me. Images that fired my imagination, fed my sense of wonder, and stirred cravings of a more biological nature, came at me with the fury of vampire bats. It was almost too much for my young, Catholic mind to take.

I admit that I didn't fully understand the reasoning behind the "Blacula Protection Kit". Who was it protecting? The audience? That didn't make sense. If you had paid to see 'Blacula', why would you want to be protected from him? It seemed self-defeating. Perhaps the kit was meant for people who fought vampires in the movie. Now that made sense. It also gave me some idea of what the "kit" probably contained -- a stake, some garlic, a crucifix, perhaps a bible. I didn't want to be "protected" from a black Dracula, but I could have done with some official vampire-fighting items.

It took me some time to notice the last item on the screen above -- an announcement that you could "meet the vampires" at the Albany cinema. No doubt about it, the Albany was where it was at in those days. A year earlier, 'Frogs' had been showing with 'Chrome and Hot Leather'. Now, you could meet live vampires there. Correction: not just live vampires, but a "family" of live vampires for Pete's sake. That meant mum, dad, and their kids? Jesus! There was no way I was going to miss this. Meeting real life vampires was not something a kid did every day. It was one of those once in a lifetime things.

"Can we go and meet some vampires?" I asked my mother the minute I got home from school that afternoon.

"What are you talking about?" was her reply. She said that a lot.

I enthusiastically showed her the 'Blacula' ad mat and stabbed my forefinger on the part about meeting a family of vampires. "They're real vampires," I said with 100% conviction. "They have kids, too."

My mother donned her glasses and leaned in close to the ad mat.

"Where's it on?"

"In the city."

She looked at me slowly, her brain in decision mode.

I looked back, full of hope, and smiled a puppy smile that I hoped would tip the scales in my direction.

"What a load of absolute rubbish!" she said, and returned to making dinner.

I never did get to meet the vampire family, but I did encourage other kids at school to pester their parents into taking them (and me) to see them. Unfortunately, none of those bozos shared my passion for white or black Draculas. One kid, David Hagen, did talk constantly about 'The Blob', a film I hadn't seen. It had screened on "Awful Movies With Deadly Ernest", a late night horror show hosted by a deformed undertaker with a clawed hand named "Claw". A year later I'd throw myself into his arms at a school fete, but that's another story. Hagen talked about 'The Blob' like a converted Christian rhapsodizing about finding Jesus. There was always such reverence in his tone, and his passionate description of the movie got me salivating and checking TV listings. Eventually, the film did return, and I was more than impressed. The creature wasn't as destructive as I had imagined, but it did possess the "gelatinous immensity" that the disappointing "Frogs" (see my "RWC" blog) sorely lacked.

Even today, I think about the contents of the "Blacula Protection Kit" and how, in order to if be effective, it needed to be used "in accordance with directions". What had happened to those poor souls who had not followed the directions to a tee. Were they still amongst the living?

Whenever I was denied a movie, which was often, opening the newspaper a week later was a traumatic experience. Usually (and especially with horror flicks), what I had failed to convince the pares to let me see was gone from screen already, quickly replaced by something far inferior like the seventeeth return season of 'The Sound of Music' .

I finally saw 'Blacula' on TV and enjoyed it immensely. William Marshall made a great black Dracula and there were plenty of scary scenes and beautiful women of various exotic shades.

But what of the vampire family? Where are they now? The kids would be grown up and mum and dad would be quite old, I suspect. But I'm comforted by the knowledge that they'll never die. Unless, of course, they meet someone still holding a "Blacula Protection Kit".

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