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David Bianculli previews the last new TV show of the season Sleepwalkers that premieres tomorrow on NBC. And with fall line up in place, David gives us his assessment of the new TV season.

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Other segments from the episode on October 31, 1997

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, October 31, 1997: Interview with David J. Skal; Interview with Christopher Lee; Interview with Raymond McNally; Review of the television show "Sleepwalkers" and other fall…

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: OCTOBER 31, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 103101NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Hollywood Gothic
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "DRACULA")

BELA LUGOSI, ACTOR, PORTRAYING DRACULA: I am Dracula. I bid you welcome.

SOUNDBITE OF WOLF HOWLING

Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make!

GROSS: On this archive edition, in the spirit of Halloween, we've brought garlic into the FRESH AIR crypt to scare out the vampire interviews which we will present to you today.

David Skal is an expert on vampires and horror films. He's co-editor of the 100th anniversary edition of "Dracula," which reprints Bram Stoker's novel along with reviews and essays. Skal is also the author of "Hollywood Gothic: The Monster Show," and "Dark Carnival," a biography of Tod Browning who directed the Lugosi version of "Dracula."

Last year, I asked Skal why he thinks we're so captivated by the idea of vampires.

DAVID J. SKAL, FILM HISTORIAN, AUTHOR, "HOLLYWOOD GOTHIC: THE TANGLED WEB OF DRACULA FROM NOVEL TO STAGE AND SCREEN": Well, there hasn't been a human civilization in recorded history that has not had some variation on the theme of the vampire. And our reasons for reviving the vampire theme over and over again in the literature and popular culture over the centuries have -- there are many different reasons, I think.

In our current age, I think it is rather obvious that the -- this huge vampire renaissance in the last 10 years has had everything to do with the parallel AIDS epidemic, and our cultural fixation on frightening things having to do with blood and blood contact.

And I think Anne Rice, of course, whose novels are very much one of the driving engines of this vampire revival, is aware of this consciously, and she's played with the metaphor of the vampire as disease.

She started writing her Vampire Chronicles following the death of her young daughter from a blood disease, leukemia. But I think she's also spoken very eloquently about the metaphor she sees connected to the AIDS epidemic -- the idea of the vampire as a kind of a symbol for an alternate, supernaturalized kind of sexuality.

GROSS: Let's look at Dracula, the 1931 Bela Lugosi version -- the first American vampire film. Whose idea was it to make the film?

SKAL: Well all the studios in Hollywood were interested in the idea of doing Dracula as a film, but in the American film tradition, there were terrifying characters and creatures in the 1920s, but there were no supernatural monsters. If there was a haunting or a horrible character, it would always have to be explained away as the result of a human agency, you know -- usually a criminal, somebody trying to steal an inheritance or embezzle a fortune.

And this is very unlike the European tradition, where the irrational and the fantastic were really part of the European filmmaking tradition from the very beginning, especially in Germany where we had the prototype horror films like "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (ph) and "Nosferatu."

But in America, it was just assumed that the public would not accept these bizarre stories. So even though Dracula as a stage play was making a lot of money, the studios took a long time deciding to -- whether or not it was worth the gamble. And it was considered a gamble.

GROSS: Now, how did Bela Lugosi get the part? He had been in the stage version -- yes? -- of Dracula?

SKAL: Yes, Bela Lugosi came to America as a political expatriate from Hungary in the early 1920s, and -- where he was very active in the stage. He was a member of the National Theater in Budapest, but got on the wrong side of the revolution. So he ended up here in New York, playing all kinds of roles -- most of them exotic heavies and foreigners.

He learned his roles phonetically because he really never mastered English the way he should -- one syllable at a time, which you know, accounts for that amazing and deliberate manner of speaking that we forever associate with Dracula. But he first played Dracula in 1927 on the Broadway stage.

GROSS: Bela Lugosi gave a performance that has left an indelible mark on the American imagination. What do you think works so well about his performance of Dracula?

SKAL: Lugosi's performance kind of sums up the entire history of vampire impersonations in the theater and on film. Stoker's Dracula was nothing like the character Lugosi plays, except that he was -- he was certainly evil, but he was a horrible old man who got younger as he drank blood. He never really became attractive and was really a largely off-stage presence throughout the book.

When they did Dracula on the stage, they had to clean up the character because to follow the conventions of a drawing room mystery melodrama, which is how it had to be produced, Dracula had to be rethought as the kind of character you'd plausibly invite into a drawing room. And that's where we got the evening clothes and the slicked back hair and the unctuous Transylvanian charm.

And -- but with Lugosi, we see both the charmer, the Valentino-like lover from beyond the grave, but also that hint of pure evil. There's nothing sympathetic about Lugosi. He can charm, but just look at those eyes.

GROSS: The studio that produced Dracula was concerned about homoerotic overtones in the story. What kind of communication did they have with the writer and director about that?

SKAL: There were some very interesting annotations on Karl Lemley, Jr.'s (ph) script. Karl Lemley, Jr. was the producer of Dracula -- the son of Karl Lemley, Sr., who inherited the reins of the studio at the age of 21 as a birthday present.

And he was very concerned that Dracula was attacking not only women, but some of the sailors on the ship that took him to England, and of course, Renfield, the solicitor who comes to his castle. And he wrote frantically in the margins, you know: "Dracula should only go for women and not men."

But Browning seemed to ignore this bit of advice and so we -- we do have an aspect of a homoerotic seduction in that scene where Dracula invites Renfield up to his quarters in his castle. And the sexual undercurrents of Dracula have been the subject of a lot of very interesting criticism, mostly in the last 20 years or so, and especially the homoerotic aspects.

GROSS: Now the director of Dracula, Tod Browning, he has a little vocal cameo in Dracula where he's the harbormaster who goes aboard the ship that had brought Dracula to his castle. And looking in the shadows, we see that the crazy Renfield, who has this unearthly laugh...

SKAL: Hmm-hmmmm-hmmm-hmmm.

GROSS: Well, you got it perfect.

SKAL: Well, I've seen the movie more times than I have to -- than I really I should admit. But...

GROSS: You got it perfect. But, as perfect as it is, I'm going to play the clip from the film so we get to hear the laugh and also the voice of the director, Tod Browning.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "DRACULA")

DIRECTOR TOD BROWNING, PORTRAYING HARBORMASTER IN DRACULA: They must have come through a terrible storm.

ACTOR PORTRAYING RENFIELD: Hmmmm-hmmmm-hmmmm-hmmmm.

BROWNING: What's that?

SOUNDBITE OF FOOTSTEPS

BROWNING: Why? It's coming from the hatchway.

RENFIELD: Hmmmm-hmmm-hmmm-hmmm. Hmmmm-hmmmm-hmmm.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Why, he's mad!

BROWNING: Look at his eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Why, the man's gone crazy.

GROSS: That's the voice of Tod Browning from his film Dracula. A really interesting sidebar of Dracula is that after that movie was made, there was a Spanish-language version of this same movie. Why did they do it? How did they do it?

SKAL: In the days of the early talkies, half of Hollywood's revenues were coming from the foreign market, and the appeal and novelty of these films was the chance to see actors speaking in their natural voices. So there was great resistance, initially, to the idea of dubbing films.

So for a period of several years, when Hollywood was the only place in the world making sound pictures, simultaneous foreign language renditions were done of the films -- not just the soundtracks, but the entire films. They'd be done with different casts, different directors, different photographers. And the Spanish-language version of Dracula that was made at night on the same sets as the Browning film was one of the most ambitious.

They had an actor -- a Spanish actor named Carlos Viarias (ph) play Dracula. He was the only actor who was allowed to watch the rushes, because they wanted him to imitate Lugosi as closely as possible.

GROSS: So was he supposed to give a Spanish version of an Eastern European accent?

SKAL: That's an interesting point. One of the reasons these films didn't last all that much longer is that Spanish-speaking audiences around the world were annoyed that Hollywood would just throw together every kind of Spanish accent into one picture. So you'd have actors from Argentina, from Mexico, from Spain -- with the clash of all the different accents.

To my ear, he sounds pretty Castilian. Whether he was trying to sound like Lugosi is another mind. He did wear the same hairpiece as Lugosi in the film -- the identical number. So it really never got a rest. It came off Lugosi's head at dusk and went on Carlos' head until dawn.

GROSS: Did Dracula start a horror craze in the movies?

SKAL: Oh, yes. It was a surprise to Universal. They didn't know what to expect, and it ended up saving the studio from bankruptcy. Universal was tottering on the edge of insolvency, as were many of the studios. I mean, this is still in the wake of the stock market crash, of course, in 1930 when the film was filmed.

But immediately, they rushed into production "Frankenstein." Lugosi turned down the part of the monster -- something he regretted for the rest of his career, and of course he made Boris Karloff a star.

GROSS: Did Boris Karloff want the part? He was typed as mummies and monsters for years afterwards -- or he was doing something in the laboratory.

SKAL: Yes, unlike Lugosi, Karloff had a much more prosperous career playing monsters. I mean, he was struggling and struggling. He appeared in something like 80 films before he made Frankenstein, as a bit player and doing character roles -- character parts; played a lot of gangsters and things like that.

And Frankenstein put him on the map, and he really had no professional difficulties for the rest of his life. He made a lot of money. He managed his career very wisely and was -- always expressed gratitude, you know, to the monster; never complained about being typecasting. Oh, he didn't like the word "horror" movie. He liked to call them "terror" films.

Lugosi, on the other hand, with Dracula, which was his first big break in Hollywood, it was also his -- the beginning of the end of his career because audiences never really accepted him in other -- perhaps if he had worn some transforming makeup or something in Dracula, he would have had more versatility. But Dracula's face was Lugosi's -- the voice of Dracula was Lugosi's. And he really couldn't escape it.

In fact, he was buried in makeup and costume as Dracula when he died in 1956. I think it's the only time in theatrical history I know of that a character actor was so identified with a part that he went to the grave in costume.

GROSS: Did he ask to be buried that way? I hope he wanted it.

LAUGHTER:

You know, it'd be pretty miserable if he didn't want that.

SKAL: Apparently, he did mention -- it was not in his will as was reported in the newspapers, but apparently he did mention the wish to friends and the family decided to do this. It's a very poignant -- very poignant act.

GROSS: David Skal is the author of "Hollywood Gothic" and "The Monster Show." He co-edited the 100th anniversary edition of Dracula.

Coming up, the star of zillions of vampire movies, Christopher Lee.

This is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: David J. Skal
High: Film historian David J. Skal. He's an expert on the horror film genre. His books include "Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen" and "Dark Carnival: The Secret World of Tod Browning: Hollywood Master of the Macabre" -- written in collaboration with Elias Savada. Browning was a film director who earned the reputation as "the Edgar Allan Poe of the cinema." He directed Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi and made such films as "Dracula" "Freaks." Skal edited his latest book "Dracula."
Spec: Movie Industry; Horror; Hollywood Goth; Books Authors; Tod Browning
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Hollywood Gothic
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: OCTOBER 31, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 103102NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Christopher Lee
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:20

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC

CHRISTOPHER LEE, ACTOR, PORTRAYING DRACULA: Mr. Harker, I'm glad that you've arrived safely.

SOUNDBITE OF FOOTSTEPS

ACTOR: Count Dracula.

LEE: I am Dracula, and I welcome you to my house.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Many horror movies say -- many horror movie fans say that Christopher Lee created the definitive Dracula. Lee is perhaps the only actor who played Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, and "The Mummy." He was the star of the British horror films made by the Hammer Studio in the '50s and '60s. These movies were credited with reviving the horror genre and with helping to revive England's movie industry.

Lee has made over 150 films, including "The Curse of Frankenstein," "The Horror of Dracula," "Dracula Has Risen From The Grave," "The Mummy," "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors," and "The Wicker Man."

In 1990, I asked Christopher Lee to describe his vision of Dracula.

CHRISTOPHER LEE, ACTOR, STAR OF HORROR FILMS: I never thought of him as a vampire, ever. I mean, the blood is the life. That's one thing you have to bear in mind. And it is for all of us, isn't it? Here is a man who was immortal.

Here is a man who through being immortal is a lost soul. Here is a man who experiences the loneliness of evil -- something he can't control -- who wants to die. But there is a force in him -- a malific force -- which drives him to do these terrible things.

The character is heroic, based on the real man, a war leader and a national hero, I may say, in Romania to this day. Vlad the Impaler -- certainly a bloodthirsty character, without a doubt -- the character is romantic, so he is as far as women are concerned, and erotic. And there is, of course, the obvious association with the bite in a sexual sense, if you like.

So, I tried to put all those particular characteristics into the character. It appears that I succeeded, even with some of the material, and even when I didn't say anything.

GROSS: Wasn't there one film where you thought that the lines were so bad that you refused to read any of the dialogue?

LEE: That was the second one.

GROSS: That was the second one?

LEE: Yes, "The Prince of Darkness." I read the script and I said I won't say anything in this picture. I cannot possibly say these lines. They are not only unsayable, but they'll have everybody rolling about for the wrong reasons.

This is the difficulty, of course, about making a film of this kind. You're treading such a very, very narrow line between credibility and absurdity. If you slip on the wrong side, you've lost the audience, and the picture's dead. And consequently when I read this dialogue and read this script, I said to them, oh, come on, you know, I'm not going to say any of these lines.

Can you imagine somebody in front of a camera actually saying: "I am the apocalypse." Now, unless you're making a religious picture or a picture like "The Exorcist," this would sound ridiculous.

GROSS: Well, was there a friction on the set between the people who had a more campy approach to the movies and the people who were really more serious about it -- and the people who were hacks and the people who really had a vision?

LEE: I don't think anybody had a campy approach. I think we all took our work seriously when we came actually to shoot it. That doesn't mean to say that we didn't have a lot of laughs during the rehearsals, and sometimes indeed during the shots when something went wrong. Obviously, we did have a lot of laughs.

I frequently plunged past the camera with my contact lenses in because I was almost blind and couldn't see the person I was supposed to grab or assault or whatever it was. And there was an occasion when I had to pick a girl up off the ground and charge across this open space and throw her into a grave. And in one take, I succeeded in doing that. It's rather difficult picking somebody straight up off the ground. It's rather like being a weightlifter.

And I tottered on the edge of this grave and fell straight in on top of her. So of course, one had a lot of very amusing incidents. But if anybody regards those pictures as camp, I think they're doing a disservice to the very experienced professional people involved.

GROSS: Oh, I mean, I agree. You've made films in many different countries, and you once said that every country has a different image of who you are as an actor and what kind of roles you play the best.

LEE: The people -- the people, yes.

GROSS: Yeah. Can you give us a sense of how you're regarded in different countries you've worked in?

LEE: Well obviously, in the more primitive countries -- I'm not going to name them -- where people have more primitive beliefs, in any kind of Gothic-type of picture, they are very close to believing what they see, and sometimes they are actually afraid of approaching me -- or where. I don't think that's the case anymore.

I've had people making the sign of the evil eye against me in Spain for instance, in remove villages and places like that, and taking their children off the streets as I walked down the road.

GROSS: Christopher Lee, recorded in 1990. Here's Lenny Bruce on enchanting Transylvania.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- COMEDIAN LENNY BRUCE DOING COMEDY SKETCH "ENCHANTING TRANSYLVANIA")

LENNY BRUCE, COMEDIAN: All the pictures used to motivate from Transylvania, and Boris Karloff narrates them.

LENNY BRUCE, PORTRAYING BORIS KARLOFF: Yecch, Yecch -- Oh, Bela, Bela, do you realize we haven't had a gig in six months?

LAUGHTER

I don't know what is about -- we could work the Vegas, the lounges better than the (unintelligible), you know?

LAUGHTER

Oh, I don't know what's coming over the industry. But soon the train will break down, and Bela will be walking up looking for lodgings for the night, and we hear the knock on the door and the woman answering.

SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING ON DOOR

SOUNDBITE OF LENNY BRUCE MAKING CREAKING NOISE/DOOR OPENING

LENNY BRUCE, AS WOMAN: Who are you? I've never seen you before. You're a stranger in Transylvania. What is your name? Who are you?

LENNY BRUCE, PORTRAYING BELA LUGOSI AS DRACULA: Permit me to introduce myself --- my name is Count Dracula.

WOMAN: Oh, you sound pretty wild. Come in, come in, come in. This town is the squarest. No one's come through here that's been far out for years.

LAUGHTER

LUGOSI: We -- myself, my family are looking for lodgings for the night, and we don't want to be disturbed. Here's 10 years rent in advance.

WOMAN: Leave me alone. That's all. Do you want the room? Cool it. Split.

LUGOSI: All right. I will take my family out of the boxes.

BRUCE IMITATING SQUEAKING NOISE

LENNY BRUCE, PORTRAYING WIFE OF DRACULA: Oh, papa, papa, papa -- pop, it's so good to be out of the box.

LENNY BRUCE PORTRAYING CHILD OF DRACULA: Papa, papa.

LUGOSI: Shut up and drink your blood. And bite mama good night.

WIFE: I can't stand to look at you. Yecch, yecch.

LUGOSI: Don't bug me.

WIFE: Don't give me "bug me, bug me" -- all the hip talk. (Unintelligible) you.

LUGOSI: Get off of that. I've being (unintelligible) the bus. We lost the arrangements, everything. You know leave me alone, will you? One time, leave me alone.

WIFE: Sure, look at you. Supposed to be sensitive and handsome, with the Vaseline on the hair, dirtying up all the pillow cases. I can't stand to look at you. Peep you. Yeech. Yecch. Yecch. Yecch. You're so low.

LUGOSI: All right. All right. I am trying to bring home a little bread, (unintelligible), so I don't play jazz. I'm not a swinger. I try. I'm trying. I'm trying. I'm not a be-bopper. What do you want from me?

Ah, I know I got it. Music business keeps changing, that's what it is. Sure, that Russ Morgan (ph) took all my key men. (Unintelligible). If we could only get a good rhythm section.

LAUGHTER

Is getting light out. I'm getting weak. Excuse me, madam.

GROSS: Lenny Bruce, recorded in San Francisco in 1958. More vampires in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Christopher Lee
High: Veteran film actor Christopher Lee. A British actor whose "tall, dark and gruesome" persona has been featured in scores of sinister roles, beginning in the early 1950s. Lee's gallery of villainous portraits includes his famed Dracula impersonations, a handful of outings as Fu Manchu and a memorable turn as Rasputin -- the Mad Monk. He has been based in the U.S. since the mid-'70s and became a familiar TV presence in the '80s.
Spec: Entertainment; Media; Movie Industry; Christopher Lee
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Christopher Lee
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: OCTOBER 31, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 103103NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: In Search of Dracula
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:36

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

On this archive edition, we're celebrating Halloween by paying tribute to vampires. It is, after all, the year of the vampire. It's the 150th birthday of Bram Stoker and the centenary of the publication of his novel "Dracula."

Raymond McNally is celebrating with a Stoker Undead Conference November 8 and 9 at Boston College where he teacher. McNally is the author of several books about the history of vampire legends and he's president of the International Dracula Society.

He discovered the original Castle Dracula while traveling through Transylvania in 1967 on a Fulbright research grant. McNally discovered that Bram Stoker named the vampire in his classic novel Dracula after the 15th century Romanian prince Vlad Dracula.

The prince wasn't a vampire, but he terrorized his subjects by punishing his transgressors with impalement on wooden stakes, which is why he was also know as "Vlad the Impaler."

I spoke with Raymond McNally in 1985, and he told me about Vlad's cruel and sadistic reign.

RAYMOND MCNALLY, PROFESSOR, BOSTON COLLEGE, AUTHOR, "IN SEARCH OF DRACULA": Well, he lived from 1431 to 1476, and the time period was when the Turks were moving up through the Balkans, a very turbulent period. And it was a very cruel period, too, in which he lived.

As a child, he was given as a hostage to the Turks by his own father on the promise that the father, who was named Drakul (ph), would not go to war with the Turks. And what did the father do? Father turned right around and went to war with the Turks while his own son was held their hostage.

No, I -- my assumption on that is look, if I was left by my own father among these Turks as a hostage and I hear my dear old dad has gone to war, violating the treaty, thereby putting my life in jeopardy, I'd think life is pretty cheap as a teenager, if that's the way your own father treats you. So it was a rough time.

Then when he came to the throne, his brother had been buried alive by the gentry, the Boyars, and his father had been assassinated. It was a rough time. It's no wonder he took vengeance initially. But then he pushed it far beyond that. He was frankly a sadistic kind of cruel person.

GROSS: Can you describe a little bit the torture that he became known for?

MCNALLY: Well, impaling is, of course, a lost art, fortunately for most of us. It's -- classic way of impaling is to take the victim and tie one horse to one leg, one horse to the other leg, the victim is on the ground, take a stake or pole, oiled, rounded at the end -- that's important, so it won't pierce your innards. It's inserted in you slowly, the horses move forward, and you're hoisted up on it and you die slowly from exposure to the elements. It's a very cruel way and slow way to die.

GROSS: This Vlad the Impaler, also known as Dracula, was terribly sadistic, but he wasn't a vampire.

MCNALLY: No, he wasn't. He -- his story -- I mean, he was a horror figure, basically; real horror. And his story was very, very popular in the late 15th century. In Leningrad, they looked at this manuscript which talks about him. In Russia, this manuscript made in several copies. It's well known.

And then there were some German stories about him in manuscript, written by monks and also pamphlets. So his reputation spread around a great deal, as a horror figure; as someone who was cruel. They often added this business of cruel "but just," given the time period. Tough time period -- he took extreme measures. That's -- I don't agree with that, but that's the explanation that's usually given.

GROSS: How do you think the Bram Stoker novel connected to Dracula?

MCNALLY: Yes.

GROSS: 'Cause -- there's a whole other body of vampire folklore...

MCNALLY: Exactly.

GROSS: ... which we'll talk about. But Bram Stoker used the name of Dracula, who...

MCNALLY: Exactly.

GROSS: ... you've researched and then he wasn't a vampire.

MCNALLY: No, that's correct. What happened is Bram Stoker was impressed with a story called "Carmilla" (ph), written by another Irish author, Sheridan Lufenew (ph), which is a very bizarre story, actually, for that period -- the Victorian period. It's about -- it's a vampire story with kind of quasi-lesbian overtones, undertones and things like that.

Anyway, that story impressed Bram Stoker. He wanted to write a vampire story himself. He wasn't sure where he was going to set it. Then, in a book by Emily Gerard (ph), he came across the whole chapter on Transylvanian superstitions, and there he found all the material for his vampire folklore, which is all authentic Transylvanian folklore. He did not make up anything -- garlic, all that businesses -- stake through the heart -- he took that.

So he incorporated that. So often -- and then he came across the legend of the Blood Countess -- this Elizabeth Batury (ph). You remember in the novel, which you don't see in the movies, when Count Dracula first appears, he has a white mustache and white hair. He's an old man in the novel, unlike Frank Langella or Christopher Lee or, you know -- they all look young.

No, no, no. And then as he gets the blood treatments, his hair turns iron gray, darker, his cheeks turn ruddy. So it's the blood for cosmetic purposes, to make you look younger and younger. That he got from this story he read about of Elizabeth Batury. There were a couple of pages about her in this book of werewolves, written by Sabine Bering Gould (ph), who is most remembered for his rousing hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers." But he wrote a book on werewolves, too.

And in that, he talked about this Elizabeth Batury who did these -- butchered 650 girls in order to bathe and shower in their blood, because she had this notion that this kept her skin looking white and young, like the skin of the girls.

So he took that whole business of the blood -- blood for rejuvenation purposes -- and connected that all up with folklore.

GROSS: You mentioned that all the folklore in Bram Stoker's book is accurate. Let's talk about that folklore and see what you found out about where it comes from. According to folklore, who becomes a vampire?

MCNALLY: Well, according to the folklore, it gets a little complicated. Someone who's a werewolf -- a werewolf is someone, of course, who believes that he or she has become a wolf. A werewolf can become a vampire upon death -- anyone whose led a violent life; in the Christian civilization, children who die unbaptized. Then the seventh son of a seventh son is doomed.

So that's the sort -- or, of course, the usual way is if a vampire infects you during life. That occurs in a very specific way. It's not the way it is in the movies -- you know, the bite on the neck and that sort of thing. The vampire must mix his or her blood with yours. You must drink the blood of the vampire so that your blood content changes. And so when you die, you will become united with that vampire in physical immortality.

GROSS: Is there any pattern in the folklore to who the vampire is likely to use as his prey?

MCNALLY: Definite pattern -- that's a very important question, too, because vampires never, generally, attack strangers. They always attack members of the immediate family, or those with whom they have been intimate in life. Only after they have taken care of the immediate family and friends and lovers and so on do they branch out.

Now, what goes on there is something psychologically very, very profound, I think. If someone you love dies, you don't want them dead, do you? If you really loved them, you're sorry they're gone. You wish they were back with you. That's a very, very old tendency, you know.

So there is this immediate wanting to have them back, you see, so that when, as it -- in their minds anyway, this person comes back from the dead, the initial reaction is: wow! How great to see you! Wonderful! You know, I'm so happy you're not dead. You're back.

Then, though, comes the fear. What is that creature going to be like who has gone through the experience of death? Will it be as a human as we are? Or will it be something different? And will it, of course, try to lure us into communion with it, and we know what that means. The only way you can join together with someone who has died is to become dead yourself; to go into the land of the dead. And that is the fear element.

So that element -- that's very strong in those -- all those folklore stories -- there's attraction and then fear.

GROSS: My guest is historian Raymond McNally. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

Back with historian Raymond McNally, author of In Search Of Dracula.

There are also in the movies and in the folklore ways to repel a vampire...

MCNALLY: Yes.

GROSS: ... with a cross or with garlic. What's the significance of that?

MCNALLY: First of all, let's take the old -- the oldest weapon is, of course, garlic. And garlic is a medicinal plant. Peasants use it to ward off disease. Anything that wards off disease is thought to have magical qualities, and hence can ward off evil such as werewolves, vampires, devils, and so on. So that's that element.

Now in a Christian civilization, they used -- is the cross, 'cause the cross is identified with the force of good and the vampire is identified with the force of evil. In other civilizations, they use other religious symbols. So that's the -- it can only ward off the vampire, of course. These symbols are not good to destroy the vampire, just ward him or her off.

Vampires, of course, can be male or female. I think that's rather important. They're one of the few night creates capable of sex.

GROSS: We talked a little about sexual imagery in vampire folklore. There's a lot of religious imagery...

MCNALLY: Oh, there certainly is.

GROSS: ... in it as well.

MCNALLY: Yes, it's a kind of anti-Christ figure, this vampire. Why? Well, first of all it promises what all of us who love life want: eternal life. But of course, eternal life, we don't want that if we're going to get old, do we? Who wants that. Right? You want eternal life where you can remain physically young, and that is the promise, the great promise -- physical immortality and to remain young and healthy. So, there's that element.

And the ceremony itself. You know, I -- we -- what are the two great taboos in modern civilization? One is we do not eat human blood anymore and we do not eat human flesh. Those are taboo. They're basically anti-social behavior, right? Because if we were to allow that to go on, somebody's blood has to be drunk; some one of us has -- blood has to be drunk and some one of us has to give up our bodies to be eaten.

However, in several major religions, this is done symbolically. You become one with the divinity by doing what is technically taboo. You drink the blood of the savior and you eat his flesh. You commit vampirism and werewolfism. And you join. It is communion.

Well, this is a kind of unholy communion. You drink the blood of the vampire. You become one with the vampire. You acquire physical immortality, at a great price, but of course immortality is usually -- there's a price tag attached to it.

So what I think the appeal of the story is -- say, oh wow, to live forever and to be young -- wonderful, but then sour grapes.

GROSS: Have you ever come across a story where you suspected there might be a real vampire in the classical undead sense?

MCNALLY: Yes, one. When I was in Transylvania, I was at the foot of Castle Dracula, and I met a woman there named -- her name was Tinka (ph). She's one of the local villagers. And she told me that her father had died -- this was 30 years before. She was telling me about something that happened 30 years before when her father died. And he was laid out to rest, and in that part of the world, as in other parts of the world, they keep the corpse in the house for two, three days before they put it in the ground.

They noticed after three days that the skin was skill pliable. Rigor mortis had not set in. And the cheeks bore a ruddy complexion, so the blood hadn't calcified -- signs of the vampire, the undead. So she told me, she knew what had to be done, but she couldn't do it because, after all, it was her father's body and she couldn't bring herself to do it. But the villagers went ahead and did it, and they did what is done in all the horror movies: they drove a wooden stake through the corpse, and then as an added insurance, they burned the body.

GROSS: Are there still places like Transylvania where the legends are circulating and people still live in fear of it?

MCNALLY: Oh, yes, definitely. I've visited places -- I -- with members of the Institute of Folklore, I went up into the mountains with a tape recorder and we sat down with the peasants and if you do it correctly, you have to talk about the crops, you know. You can't just walk up to a peasant and say hey, how about vampires or something. Peasant will lie to you, and the peasants are not stupid. It's a wrong assumption on the part of many city people, you know, to say: oh, these stupid peasants. They're not stupid. They're very clever, oftentime.

You have to get their confidence. You talk about the peaches and the cows and all -- and then you start -- start asking a little bit about, well: what do you know about the history of this place? And so on -- have you ever heard of anything like a walking dead and undead? You know, that sort -- and then they will open up once they know you're not making fun of them. And the belief is very much alive there.

GROSS: Raymond McNally is the author of In Search of Dracula.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Raymond McNally
High: Professor and writer Raymond McNally has studied the many portrayals of vampires in folklore and film. He has traced the origins of the Dracula story in Translvania. He wrote the book "In Search of Dracula." McNally teaches at Boston College.
Spec: Movie Industry; Literature; Gothic; Books; Authors; In Search of Dracula
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: In Search of Dracula
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: OCTOBER 31, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 103104NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Sleepwalkers
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:50

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Tomorrow night, NBC premiers a new series called "Sleepwalkers," the new entry in what the network calls its "Saturday Night Thrilogy" lineup. TV critic David Bianculli takes a look at the show and at the entire fall season, and doesn't find many thrills at all.

DAVID BIANCULLI, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: Ordinarily, I wouldn't waste my time or yours talking about a show like Sleepwalkers. The premise is good. It's about a bunch of scientists and psychologists who find a way to enter and interpret people's dreams and nightmares. But the two episodes I've seen aren't that good. The visuals are strong, but the scripts are weak.

And since on radio, you don't get the visuals, this is the impression you're left with.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, SCENE FROM TV SERIES "SLEEPWALKERS")

ACTOR: They told me I only have a few weeks left. My own body's trying to kill me. Nobody can tell me why.

ACTOR: Michael Engelberg from the VA called me about you a month ago.

ACTOR: I gotta be honest with you. I don't have a clue as to what any of this has to do with my dreams.

ACTOR: Well, dreams can manifest themselves in the waking world as tangible, physiological signs and symptoms. Now, we've seen cases where they've caused blindness, even paralysis.

ACTOR: So you're saying my dreams are killing me?

ACTOR: It's possible.

BIANCULLI: The only reason I'm spending time talking about Sleepwalkers is because of what it represents. As a new TV series, it's like a lot of other premier shows this year. It's the kind of show that's a lot easier for a network to promote than for a viewer to watch. For example, NBC's promotions for "Jenny" were clever. The Jenny McCarthy sitcom itself was the polar opposite of clever.

The other thing Sleepwalkers represents, besides its lack of excellence, is the final new card in this year's fall season deck. Sleepwalkers is the 37th and last new show to premier as part of the network's fall 1997 schedule -- a schedule that began rolling out back in August, with a UPN sitcom called "Good News."

That three-month roll out doesn't help the networks generate any real momentum. In fact, by the time the last of the new fall series' shows up tonight, five others already have been yanked from the schedules. UPN's "Head Over Heels," NBC's "Built To Last," and ABC's "Time Cop" are dead and gone. While NBC's "The Tony Danza Show" and Fox's "413 Hope Street" are suspended and on hiatus.

And this is in a year when the networks, by and large, are exhibiting more patience than usual. It used to be that all the fall shows would premier head to head in an actual fall premier week -- the same time Detroit would advertise its latest model cars on TV.

There was a lot of anticipation about new cars and new TV shows in the '60s. But in the '90s, Detroit isn't the only game in town and neither are the broadcast networks. Both have had their market dominance erode over the years by outside interlopers. In the case of TV, the culprits are first-run syndication and, especially, cable.

And the networks don't help the status quo either by making shows that just aren't that exciting or even that popular. If you take away NBC's must-see Thursday time slot hits, the awful "Union Square" and the funny "Veronica's Closet," you're left with only two new series this year that have won their time slots more than once: ABC's "Darma and Greg" and, incredibly, the same network's terrible "Teen Angel."

And out of the 36 shows to premier so far, only one has generated a lot of well-deserved conversational buzz: "Ally McBeal" on Fox, which hasn't done better than fourth place in its time slot since its premier.

But for my money, Ally McBeal is the only new fall series that you ought to be watching every week. And even in Las Vegas, one in 37 are pretty miserable odds.

GROSS: David Bianculli is TV critic for the New York Daily News.

Coming up, we remember film director Sam Fuller, who died yesterday.

This is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: David Bianculli, New York; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest:
High: David Bianculli previews the last new TV show of the season Sleepwalkers that premieres tomorrow on NBC. And with fall line up in place, David gives us his assessment of the new TV season.
Spec: Media; Television; Books; Authors; Stephen King; Sleepwalkers
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Sleepwalkers
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: OCTOBER 31, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 103105NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Sam Fuller Obit
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:55

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Film director Samuel Fuller died yesterday at the age of 86. Although he was a favorite of many filmmakers, including Martin Scorcese, Fuller's name was never that popularly known, maybe because most of his films were fairly low-budget, black and white action picture from the '50s and '60s.

He made westerns like "I Shot Jesse James" and "Forty Guns;" war movies like "China Gate" and "Fixed Bayonets;" and crime movies like "Underworld USA" and "The Naked Kiss."

He was praised as a primitive -- a punk poet whose films have a hard-hitting, pulp journalist realism. Maybe some of his dialogue will give you a sense of that. In The Naked Kiss, a prostitute-gone-straight falls in love with the town benefactor and discovers he's a child molester.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "THE NAKED KISS")

ACTRESS: Once before, a man's kiss tasted like that. He was put away in a psycho ward. Well I got the same taste the first time Brad kissed me. It was a -- we call it a naked kiss. It's the sign of a pervert.

GROSS: In "Pickup on South Street," Richard Widmark is a pickpocket who's just gotten out of jail. He picks the purse of a woman on a train, not realizing that she's running an errand for a spy and what he's stolen is secret microfilm. The cops want to get it back.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET")

ACTOR AS POLICE OFFICER: We just want your cooperation and the charges against you will be dropped. Isn't that right, Captain?

ACTOR AS CAPTAIN: You know, I'd like to make this rap, stick, but what he's got to do is more important.

RICHARD WIDMARK, ACTOR, PORTRAYING PICKPOCKET: Well you boys are talking in the wrong corner. I'm just a guy keeping my hands in my own pockets.

ACTOR: If you refuse to cooperate, you'll be as guilty as the traitors that gave Stalin the A-bomb.

WIDMARK: Are you waving a flag at me?

CAPTAIN: I know something in our sight you should get.

WIDMARK: And I know you pinched me three times -- got me convicted three times and made me a three-time loser. And I know you took an oath to put me away for life. Well, you're trying awful hard with all this patriotic eyewash, but get this: I didn't grist that film and you can't prove I did. And if I said I did, you'd slap that fourth rap across my teeth no matter what promises you made.

ACTOR: Do you know what "treason" means?

WIDMARK: Who cares.

CAPTAIN: Answer the man.

WIDMARK: Is there a law now I gotta listen to lectures?

SOUNDBITE OF A BELL RINGING

CAPTAIN: Get him outta here. Get him outta this building.

GROSS: Before Sam Fuller made movies, he was a crime reporter and wrote pulp novels. We called him at his home in Paris in 1991. He told me he had an affection for petty criminals. I asked him why.

SAMUEL FULLER, FILM DIRECTOR: About petty criminals, their word. Anytime I wanted to find out anything and all that, he'd "be there at 4:00 o'clock, I'll find out -- I'll get you the word, I'll get you the word." And if I'm not there at 4:00, they leave. They don't wait.

And you can't give a petty criminal the -- you and I -- you and you -- you and I, on this phone, we can kid each other, saying "oh, I'm sorry about that date at the restaurant. I was running late and I couldn't get a cab and the subway and I have -- I got late" -- normally -- the normal routine.

A petty criminal will say: "then you should have thought of that before you went to see me. Should have meant -- you should've gone five hours ahead of time. I'm doing you a favor. You're not doing me a favor. Anyway, I don't do business with you anymore."

That's it. That's how brief they are. If you're not interested enough, if you keep them waiting, they should -- there's no reason to keep them waiting, 'cause they would never have that low-type of a manner -- never, to keep you waiting.

GROSS: So you're talking almost about a code.

FULLER: It's a code -- that's the only code they have is their word -- W-O-R-D. They're very proud of that word. They -- I did a picture about one of them, and that's why I got a kick out of Zanuck. 'Cause see, he loved it and the picture was -- did very well.

It's -- I told him I have an idea for a story. It's about three -- what we called 'em "the gutter boys." A gutter boy or a gutter girl is just somebody born in a gutter, lives in a gutter, and will die in a gutter. And then is swept right into the sewer. You'll never hear of them again. Never.

They don't even get a number. If they ever find a body, they'll get a number and be buried in potter's field. And I told him that I have a pickpocket. I told him I have a police informer who's a woman. And I have an idea of a girl who's so dumb she can't be a whore, she can't be a mistress, but for $20 or $30 worth of dresses, she'll run errands for you.

And he fell in love with those three people. He said we never had any pictures done with anything like that now.

GROSS: The movie you're talking about is Pickup on South Street.

FULLER: Yeah, yeah, but that's just an example of -- I had so many, and he went in love -- fell in love with them, because he gave the green light for these three people to be the stars of the picture.

GROSS: When you cast an actor, especially in a crime movie, can you talk a little bit about what you're looking for in the face? And if there are certain characteristics that you really cast for in your films?

FULLER: Oh, yeah, yeah, sure. Well, I really look for something that I can try to guess without knowing what he does. That's number one. The average criminal does not look like a criminal. The average criminal looks like Einstein with a mustache to you. I pick what -- how I feel about a guy if I'm going to watch him for a couple of hours on a screen -- and if I can believe he will do this and do that, and keep a certain expression that he controls all the time.

Then there's another type of an actor that only has one expression, and those are the dangerous guys in real life. That's why you go with a fellow on a date, and he has never changed his expression, and you think he's sick -- he ate something. No, that's his expression is a no-expression. That's a dangerous man to fool around with in a romantic way, because you don't know what he's thinking.

So if I can get anything that gets the audience a little uneasy, I like that.

GROSS: Film director Sam Fuller, recorded from his home in Paris in 1991.

He died yesterday at the age of 86.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest:
High: Film director Samuel Fuller died yesterday at the age of 86. Fuller's B-movies of the '50s and '60s have influenced many other directors. His 1982 movie, "White Dog," about a racist who trains a dog to attacks blacks, was considered too controversial to be released in this country. It was finally shown in a retrospective of his work in New York. Among his works: The Big Red One, Verboten, and I Shot Jesse James.
Spec: Movie Industry; Sam Fuller; White Dog; Deaths
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Sam Fuller Obit
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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