Sad news…Vampira has died. She was very young for a vampire, only 86, and there’s no word on whether it was a stake or sunlight that ended her long career as one of the rare Finnish vampires (real name: Maila Syrjäniemi). You may recall her from her important role in Plan 9 from Outer Space.
It’s the last sad whimper to the lingering death of an old tradition. When I was a young’un, there were horror hosts everywhere—you knew that if you turned on the TV anywhere at about 11 on a Friday or Saturday night, there’d be somebody in a Halloween costume introducing some old black-and-white horror movie. It was campy, it was predictable, the movies tended to be awful (although when one of the old Universal classics with Karloff or Chaney, or anything with Vincent Price, was scheduled, I made a special effort to watch it), and it was always fun. Rmember those cheap Japanese monster movies? Roger Corman’s low-budget rip-offs of Edgar Allen Poe titles, with content completely divorced from anything Poe ever wrote? That phenomenal wave of British horror coming out of Hammer Studios? Them, The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Amazing Colossal Man, The Blob—all that 50s paranoia about nuclear bombs?
Many of us godless people still identify as cultural Christians because that was the background of our upbringing, but I think my late night inoculations with classic horror and sci-fi movies had a deeper, more long-lasting influence on my life than those boring, unentertaining, unengaging Sunday mornings spent in church pews. I am a cultural Frankenstein, Jekyll, Moreau, Morbius, Pretorius, Phibes, and even Vampira — and they were all the more important as shapers of my perspective because there was no pretense that they were real, and because their portrayals were open to criticism and mockery.