Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Maddrey Misc. Shines Light on John Carpenter's Vampires (1998)

Joe Maddrey, author of Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film (and creator of the film of the same name...) takes a good long look at John Carpenter's Vampires (1998) at his blog, Maddrey Misc.

Since Carpenter's later career (the 1990s forward...) has been a source of some discussion and debate here following my review of Ghosts of Mars, I know Joe's thoughtful and well-researched piece would interest readers:

"Carpenter says that the VAMPIRES characters Jack Crow (James Woods) and Anthony Montoya (Daniel Baldwin) were inspired by the onscreen chemistry between John Wayne and Montgomery Clift in RED RIVER...

...Crow and Montoya’s relationship is limited to the mutual respect of fellow warriors – a far cry from the father/son relationship in RED RIVER. Crow’s relationship with Father Guiteau is even more strained, smacking of homophobia – hardly comparable to Thomas Dunson’s relationship with his loyal friend Groot (played by Walter Brennan).

Whereas RED RIVER was something of a “love story between men,” VAMPIRES does not allow for such affection because Carpenter’s world is not the Old West of Howard Hawks. Rather, VAMPIRES seems to take place in the cynical universe of Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah’s cold-blooded revisionist westerns. Carpenter has acknowledged his debt to Leone through Snake Plissken’s mimicry of The Man with No Name in A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. In the DVD commentary on VAMPIRES, he also notes that the first appearance of Jack Crow is shot as an homage to Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968) – one of Carpenter’s favorite films. Vlad’s first appearance, in a sequence that pits him against Jack’s team, is described as “THE WILD BUNCH meets Vlad the Impaler.” Thus I say that if ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 and GHOSTS OF MARS are Carpenter’s classic westerns, then VAMPIRES is his spaghetti western. It’s all flashy bravado, sound and fury signifying existential angst."

I have to admit, since I wrote The Films of John Carpenter (McFarland; 2000) back in 1998, I've been itching to go back and revisit Vampires. I don't really think I gave the movie the fairest of hearings in my review at the time. Now, reading Joe's expert analysis, I see that there was more there than I acknowledged. Fascinating stuff.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting that link. I will check it out.

    I always liked VAMPIRES and remember fondly of having a blast when I saw it in theaters.

    The opening sequence, esp. always made me think that JC was fusing the sensibilities of Leone and Peckinpah, specifically THE WILD BUNCH with Crow and his crew a grizzled bunch of professional bounty hunters/vampire killers.

    Have you ever read the book?