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Blood Relations… Mezco Revisits Roots with Nosferatu One:12 Action Figure Bundle

Just another Spooky Sunday

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Mezco Toyz announces Nosferatu One:12 Collective Bundle (images courtesy of Mezco)

Fangs for the Memories…
Mezco Toyz is harking (or is it Harkering?) back two score years to their gnarly roots with a very special One:12 Collective figure of Orlock, the vampire Count of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s 1922 silent film Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror.

Before becoming the world renown creators of Living Dead Dolls Mezco Toyz released a small series of action figures called Silent Screamers. Under the business banner of Aztech Toyz the company paid homage to two classic films of the early 20th Century, the aforementioned Nosferatu and the expressionist thriller The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. (1919).

Graf Orlock was the first of the four characters. He was companioned by a highly stylized rendition his insectivore minion Knock Renfield. Caligari was represented in the collection by the corpulent doctor and his gaunt night stalking henchman Cesare.

The original Silent Screamers came with oodles of extras, setting the quality bar high. The unique blister packs offered historical details, film sprocket framed graphics and package art by Alex Ross. Style appropriate dioramas made a perfect display for each of the figures. So, it’s no surprise Mezco has gone whole (wart)hog on this 20<sup>th</th> Anniversary revisit. The One:12 Collective Nosferatu comes in a metal lunchbox loaded with accessories, including a wooden coffin, lantern, crypt keys, his natty turban, and plenty of plague rats. There’s even a screen printed commemorative T-shirt.

Sculptor Chu Ka Wa’s brand new renderings of Nosferatu include three replaceable head portraits in varying moods and of course there’s a group of creepy claw-like hands, all faithful to the still scary visions of original designer/producer Albin Grau.

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Original Silent Screamers from 2000, were released under the Aztech brand name.(photos/collage Peter Parrella)

In a Historical Vein…
As a thinly veiled and wholly unauthorized version of Bram Stoker’s 1895 novel Dracula the film Nosferatu has a history riddled with intrigue. Florence Stoker, the author’s widow and heir to the copyright (licensing of which kept her financially afloat) launched a suit against the producers of the movie and won a verdict that included the order to have all prints destroyed worldwide.

The film’s total obliteration was averted by copies squirreled away in private collections which, legalities aside, ultimately proved to be a gift to cinematic history. By the mid 1960’s film buffs and monster kids like myself could actually purchase a version of the by then public domain movie on 8mm film.

For a work that was nearly lost, Nosferatu has enjoyed a protracted artistic journey and earned an iconic place in popular culture. It was remade by director Werner Herzog in 1979, perfectly casting Klaus Kinski as the rabid count. The same year, actor Max Shreck’s rat-fanged make-up was mimicked for the TV version of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot.

The original film has seen latter day scoring added. Most notably by Peter Steele & Type O Negative. Blue Oyster Cult penned a song detailing the germanic vampire tale for their Spectres album, with the chorus “Only a woman can break his spell. Pure in heart, who will offer herself – to Nosferatu”

My personal favorite riff on the original is director E. Elias Merhige’s (Begotten) Shadow of the Vampire (2000) which fictionalizes/reimagines the film’s production. It features John Malklovich as Murnau and Willem Dafoe as its very suspect lead “actor.”

Adding to this long list the Mezco gang has created an animated promotional video for their collectible that is itself a mini-masterpiece. It’s a labor of love tribute that bolsters their motto “for collectors, by collectors” to be true.

SkeletonPete Says…
[Editor’s Note] As of this posting (July 2020) the first limited edition bundles have sold out, but you can join the waitlist for the next round which is scheduled for November-December 2020. I think this figure a must have for any horror film buff and/or toy collector and will be worth the wait.

For those who would like more historical detail about Nosferatu and the theatrical life of Count Dracula I highly recommend David J. Skal’s still definitive Hollywood Gothic: the Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen, as a source book on the subject.

And… yes, I still have 3 of the four original Aztech Silent Screamers in my toy collection. Knock Renfield managed to escape my clutches. Yes, they’re still boxed. I should have bought 2 of each.

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Tinker, Tailor, Baker, Joker: Famed Movie Makeup Artist Creates Exclusive DC Collectible

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Makeup artist Rick Baker’s amazing 1:1 rendition of The Joker for DC Collectibles.

No Laughing Matter…
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The Shadow of Your Smile: Criterion’s “Vampyr” Box

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The 2008 “Vampyr” Criterion Box Set. Loaded with historical goodies.

SkeletonPete Says…
Though I normally end a post with the “SkeletonPete Says” section I think it appropriate to preface this particular blog entry with some introduction to its genesis.

This piece is only one small part of the Criterion Blog-A-Thon that officially began yesterday. The Criterion Collection is noted for its restoration of aging film elements, and attention to detail in its bonus features, often producing what most consider definitive DVD and BluRay releases.

Thanks and kudos to Aaron (Criterion Blues) Ruth (Silver Screenings) and Kristina (Speakeasy) who created and are administering this massive, 200 plus post, Blog-a-geddon. It is unlikely I would have endeavored to revisit Vampyr or Carl Theodor Dreyer’s ethos had it not been for the impetus of this online event. Film buffs who trawl the Criterion Blog-A-Thon should have enough to read until December 2020. Please send the blog posts you like some social media (#CriterionBlogathon) and comment love, and follow the ones that you think will float your boat in the long run.
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Vlad, Not Vlad: Will the Real Dracula Please Stand Up

“Dracula, The Vampire and the Voivode”
Documentary DVD, Region 0, 84 minutes
Release Date: October 4, 2011

At this moment in time, over one hundred years after its first publication, “Dracula” is so ingrained in the cultural conscious that it seems hard to imagine a time when the tale of the blood quaffing Count did not exist. In its seven year gestation the story began life as a stage play with the choice role intended for the actor Henry Irving whom author Abraham (Bram) Stoker revered and managed. Bram was crestfallen when Irving passed on mounting the play but completed his vision as a novel which has never been out of print since. The eventual adaption of the book via stage and film versions has since made Count Dracula a familiar character to nearly everyone on the planet.

Totally Stoked
“Dracula, The Vampire and the Voivode”, a documentary DVD from Virgil Films and Walking Shadows, is an enjoyable look at both the mythological entity of Stoker’s imagination and the actual historical figure, Vlad Tepes, who has become intwined with it. Part biography and part travelogue it serves as an excellent visual companion to Dracula overviews like David J Skal’s “Hollywood Gothic” and Florescu & McNally’s “In Search of Dracula”, though it stands to refute some of the assumptions of the latter. The film was written and directed by Michael Bayley Hughes.

Viewers are taken on a scenic jaunt through the areas of the world intrinsically tied to the lives of author Stoker and Voivode (Prince) Vlad, as well as key sights described in the book including the 199 church steps in Whitby, England and the town of Bistrita where Jonathan Harker spends the night before his trip to Castle Dracula. We also see The Stoker’s residence at 27 Cheyne Walk in London’s Chelsea section (neighborhood of contemporary author Oscar Wilde and one hundred years later Rolling Stone Keith Richards), and Bram’s family home in Dublin Ireland where he spent a sickly childhood.

Throughout the film members of worldwide Stoker and Dracula societies lend their scholarship and insights to the settings. I was fascinated to hear commentator Tina Rath suggest that Pre-Raphaelite Artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s scandalous exhumation of his wife Lizzie (nee Siddal), in order to retrieve a book of poems he buried with her, likely became tied to Lucy Westenra’s exhumation/staking, as well as a plot point in another of Stoker’s stories, “The Secret of the Growing Gold”. Transylvanian Society of Dracula President Nicolae Paduraru describes the finer points of the folkloric stregoi, a ghostly “negative emanation from the grave”, versus the physical figure of the vampire and their cultural lines of demarcation.

From the Land Beyond, Beyond…
The film also candidly deals with the dichotomy of historical veracity versus bottom line tourism necessitated in post communist Transylvania, the “land beyond the forest”. In actuality, Stoker never visited that part of the world but instead relied heavily on travel tomes by authors like Emily Gerard, the wife of a Romanian army officer who spent two years there, for his information. Combining a freewheeling imagination with his civil service skills for cataloging and description, Stoker’s interpolation of folklore, sense of place, and creative license has led to many fact versus fiction conundrums, which the documentary attempts to untangle. As we see commerce often trumps accuracy. The building of a tourist placebo, the Stoker inspired Castle Dracula hotel, at the Borgo Pass in Romania is just one example of the life imitating art circumstances that have followed in the story’s path.

What’s Missing…
On the down side, the DVD is without marked scene selections, so navigating for specific repeat play is daunting and it seems a shame its vistas are presented in 4:3 aspect ratio rather than widescreen. The “bonus slide show” is superfluous at best, giving an unfortunate “sell-through” feel to what is otherwise an excellent product.

SkeletonPete Says…
Ah, Fall has arrived and it was fun to get the witching season off to such a great start. Minus the few missteps mentioned above, I wholeheartedly enjoyed this dual biography, especially the description of Stoker’s writing process and the “where ideas came from” points of view. In fact it led me to purchase a copy of “Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula” as transcribed and annotated by Robert Eighteen-Bisang & Elizabeth Miller. I can recommend the film for both its historical depth and entertainment value as an addition to the video libraries of vampire aficionados and novices alike.

Happy Birthday Dracula

In was on this day in 1897 that Bram Stoker’s tale “The UnDead”, retitled “Dracula” by publishers Archibald Constable and Co, found it’s way into the hands and minds of the general public for the first time.

Those interested in the vampire king’s convoluted history should seek out a copy of David J. Skal’s “Hollywood Gothic, The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen“. Originally published in 1990 the book still offers the definitive account of Stoker and his creation, its precursors, stage presentations and film adaptations.