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VideoHound Examines Vampires on Video
book review by Gary Johnson

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the official web site for VideoHound

Among the multitude of movie guide books, VideoHound has fought to the head of the pack. Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide is the only more authoritative guide around, but VideoHound offers tons of extra indexes and appendices that overall make VideoHound arguably the best one-book movie reference guide on bookstore shelves.

Now VideoHound is branching out further with video guides devoted to specific topics, such as science fiction, cult flicks, and family movies. The newest addition to the VideoHound brood is VideoHound's Vampires on Video, a huge selection of over 600 vampire movies.

The broad scope of the book allows for much more than simply the most renowned vampire flicks (such as Dracula with Bela Lugosi or Horror of Dracula with Christopher Lee). You'll also find listings for vampire movies from around the globe, including Mexico (The Vampire, The Vampire's Coffin, and the masked wrestler movies), Italy (I Vampiri and Black Sunday), Hong Kong (Chinese Ghost Story and the hopping-vampire movies), and selections from many other countries.

You'll find documentaries, made-for-TV movies, cartoons, Japanese anime, and adult movies. In addition, this book isn't just a collection of capsule reviews. You'll find pithy one- to two-page entries on dozens of topics related to vampire movies, such as Elizabeth Bathory, blaxploitation, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher, Hammer Films, the women of Hammer, Italian vampire movies, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Ann Rice and many others.

All the mini-essays make Vampires on Video into not just a reference book but a book that you can sit down and read. And the story they tell is a fascinating one, for the vampire is indeed one of the great archetypal monsters of the 20th century, embodying our fears of sexuality and mortality in a single totemic figure that we alternately loathe and desire, or as author J. Gordon Melton says, the vampire "was one of the most powerful metaphors for the uneven power relationships between humans."

Vampires on Video also includes a plethora of indexes and appendixes. You'll find a listing of over 50 horror Web sites, a huge list of North American vampire organizations, and a list of independent vampire periodicals, in addition to the cast, director, and category indexes and the video distributor guide.

VideoHound's Vampires on Video isn't without its problems. It contains several glaring errors, such as the claim that Peter Lorre hums Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies" before committing murders in M (he actually whistles Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King") or mistaking White Zombie to be a Universal production. Several of the mini-essays also degenerate into generalizations while mentioning few movies. For example, the entry on Hammer Films discusses Horror of Dracula and then leaps to Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, while leaving out 15 years of vampire movies in between. (To be fair, though, you'll find plenty of information on all the other Hammer vampire movies elsewhere in this book.)

In addition, nearly every photograph in the book is accompanied by a cheesy, sophomoric caption. Some people might enjoy the hokey humor ("Don't Go Breakin' By Heart" says the caption for a still of Udo Kier getting staked in Andy Warhol's Dracula), but I quickly stopped reading the captions (and, in fact, avoided them like a vampire avoids garlic). Yeah, a couple of the jokes aren't bad, but overall they reminded me of the idiots who ruin great old sci-fi movies in repertory houses by shouting out moronic comments.

Even with its shortcomings, VideoHound's Vampires on Video is a welcome addition to anyone's movie reference library. The capsule reviews frequently left me making notes about which movies to see. (I'm looking forward to finding copies of Dance of the Damned and Vampire Hunter D.) And the quotations that fill the margins are fun reading. I only wish the book gave us more choice quotations in lieu of the jokey photo captions.

VideoHound's Vampires on Video by J. Gordon Melton, Visible Ink Press, $17.95, softcover.

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