creature features: dracula's daughter (lambert hillyer, 1936)

Although it came 5 years later, this was the actual sequel to Dracula, starting off with the deaths of Dracula and Renfield. It's slow moving, and not particularly interesting, but the subtext has fascinated analysts to this day. There were suggestions of lesbianism in the script, but by the time the film made the screen, the Code had taken care of that. So you have to look pretty hard to see it. But once you've seen it, you can't shake it. Dracula's daughter, Countess Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden), wants to be freed from the curse of being a vampire, but her impulses get the best of her time and time again. A couple of her victims are women, and the element of seduction which underlies so many vampire stories is here as well. It has also been argued that the isolation from society the Countess feels reflects the status of lesbians at the time.

All of this is enough to get us through the short running time, but don't exaggerate its greatness. Eventually, movies got more explicit, and subtext often moved to context. I saw 1970's The Vampire Lovers at a drive-in, and it was filled with nudity and horseplay among the women. But in fairness, it wasn't any better than Dracula's Daughter ... nudity didn't guarantee quality.

Here is a scene from Dracula's Daughter, where the Countess takes a woman off the street to pose for a painting:

And something from The Vampire Lovers:

high sierra (raoul walsh, 1941)

High Sierra was Humphrey Bogart's breakthrough role. He was considered a supporting player before this ... in fact, the credits have Ida Lupino's name atop Bogart's. His Roy Earle established what future generations think of as Bogie: hard-boiled with a soft center, caring about others while trying to hide it, commanding his scenes. It was also a breakthrough for John Huston, who parlayed his work as screenwriter here into his first directorial effort, The Maltese Falcon.

Bogart makes his gangster real ... we care about his fate. Lupino is perhaps best known today as one of the earliest female directors, but she's good here as Roy's moll. High Sierra is a solid gangster picture, with an unusual setting for the genre (much of it shot on location in the Sierras). It carries historical importance, and is well worth watching, although for some reason I never really felt I was watching a classic.

music friday: 1979

Blondie, "Heart of Glass". At the time, categorization mattered ... I mean, it always does, but the years provide perspective. In the late 70s, there was still a perception that New Wave was different than Punk (and hardcore punks could claim to dislike New Wave because it was more "accessible") and that Disco was different from both ("Disco Sucks" being the operative slander). Disco was absorbed into the mainstream, and New Wave band Blondie did their part to smash barriers with this song.

Gloria Gaynor, "I Will Survive". This was released in late 1978, but got serious airplay in '79. This is unapologetically disco ... in fact, it won a Grammy for Best Disco Recording, the only year that award was given. (The other nominated artists: Earth, Wind & Fire, Rod Stewart, Donna Summer, and Michael Jackson.)

M, "Pop Musik". "M" was more a concept than a band, created by Robin Scott. If you're trying to categorize this one ... well, the title wants to claim Pop, I guess, I think of it as Synth-Pop, and really, who cares by this point.