The Vampire Gallery: A Who’s Who of the Undead, by J. Gordon Melton. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press (a division of Gale Research), 1998. ISBN 1-57859-053-1, Trade paper, 500pp, $19.95.
J. Gordon Melton wrote the best-selling The Vampire Book. In The Vampire Gallery, he moves into a more select realm, with quite agreeable results. This is a well-researched dictionary of the undead with detailed biographies of nearly 350 fictional vampires from movies, television shows, literature both high (Anne Rice’s novels) and low (comic books), and even games. Included are vampire groups such as the Theatre des Vampires from Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and The Camarilla from the role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade.
Melton’s purpose in fleshing out this gallery was to provide a resource for students of the undead but also, in his words “to document the rise and evolution of the contemporary vampire myth.” To that end, he includes in his entries the minutiae of vampire life — sleeping habits, feeding techniques, weaknesses and strengths — and shows how they differ and grow from one era to another and from genre to genre. Readers who are not aficionados will be surprised at how pervasive the vampire image has become and at the multiplicity of guises and lifestyles the creature has adopted. There are gay, straight, and bisexual vampires, kid vampires and ancient ones. Some are from space (Seth, in the 1977 movie Caress of the Vampire), some prefer V-8 juice to blood (Cousin Murray in A Vampire Named Murray), some smoke pot (Jerry Nero in the underground comic Tales of Jerry), and some are unaffected by sunlight (the wonderfully named Jacula in the eponymous Italian comic book). This archetype is so accommodating that it even incorporates vampires who hate their own vampirism (Countess Zaleska in the movie Dracula’s Daughter, Louis in Interview with the Vampire).
Melton’s research is thorough, and he writes with authority on a subject obviously dear to him. Bibliographic and filmographic citations at the end of each entry are useful pointers for readers who want to get closer to the subject. Vampirologists will certainly want to buy this book, but the casual fan will also find much of interest.
VideoHound’s Golden Movie Retriever 1999: The Complete Guide to Movies on Videocassette, Laserdisc, and DVD. Edited by Martin Connors and Jim Craddock. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press (a division of Gale Research), 1998. ISBN 1-57859-041-8, Trade paper, 1815pp, $21.95.
Bookstore shelves are bulging with annual movie guides, some good and reliable, others poorly written and of dubious research value. There are only two that are must-haves: Maltin and the VideoHound. The ‘Hound has grown to mammoth proportions since its humble beginnings, over 1800 small-print pages in this new edition.
Editors Connors and Craddock were pioneers of the database-driven guide, and the result is a rich resource equally divided between capsule reviews packed with data, and elaborate indexes by category, “kibbles and series” (adaptations, recurring characters, screen partnerships), awards, foreign films, cast, director, writer, cinematographer, composer, digital formats, distributor, and web sites.
The reviews are fairly standard; some are merely plot synopses, others inject a bit of wit or passion. The editors’ enthusiasm for masters like Bresson, Dreyer, and Mizoguchi shows a welcome sense of proportion. Blake Edwards’ The Tamarind Seed is amusingly summed up as “dated, dull, and desultory.” Some capsules are a little misleading: anyone who rents Dusan Makavejev’s Sweet Movie thinking it’s merely a “provocative cult classic” may wonder why no mention was made of the film’s notoriously gross banquet scene where the revelers wallow in bodily byproducts. And the statement in the Jackie Chan’s First Strike review that Jackie is “half Bruce Lee and half Charlie Chaplin” will surprise his fans who know his mentor is Keaton, not Chaplin. But such quibbles are part of the fun the book inspires, like having a good-natured argument with an equally fanatic film fan. Considering its size and the wealth of information, this book is a bargain at $21.95.