A superhero is nothing without an archnemesis. Likewise each detective needs a crime. For vampires, they remain pale-faced immortals without someone upon whom they feed–the Victim! Behold a list of ten exemplary victims in vampire films. Keep in mind the criteria here involves much more than a good bite. That’d be a different list. Here are victims who’s whole story involving a vampire drinking their blood make for compelling stories and characters, rather than really cool scenes. More, this list refers to motion pictures, not television. In no particular order:
- Veronica Carlson in Dracula Has Risen From The Grave. The Monseignor’s niece who becomes the focus of Christopher Lee’s revenge for exorcising his castle. Unlike too many of Dracula’s victims in Hammer films, she survived being bitten and so continued as a character. Her iconic good looks coupled with such lovely details as the way one hand tossed aside a doll as the Count’s fangs sank into her neck, plus the central way she figured into the plot, puts her on this list.
- Nan Grey in Dracula’s Daughter, the official sequel to the Bela Lugosi classic. Arguably the most daring such scene of its day, with its heavy hints of lesbianism. But Lili, the character, was no random waif. She seemed a real person, and her three tiny scenes conveyed more character than did Helen Chandler’s entire performance in the first movie.
- Madaleine Smith in The Vampire Lovers. As written, Emma in this first of the so-called Karnstein Trilogy, seems a typical Hammer heroine with little or no personality. But Smith made her more, largely because she had a genuine smile and managed to convey the warm feelings Emma had for the vampire slowly killing her.
- Lupita Tovar in Spanish Dracula. Barely of age when filming this version, Tovar varied between the innocent ingenue and the predatory vamp with great skill. Even her laugh, under the Count’s growing influence, came across as vague bestial while her horror at the changes in herself were heart-breaking.
- Susan St. James in Love At First Bite. Vampire comedies rarely work but this one did, and how! Much of it was because her character of Cindy Sondheim, the flighty supermodel, came across as someone insecure and then quite truly in love with George Hamilton’s Dracula. Her comic timing, grounded in character, made for a crowning touch.
- Nancy Barrett in House of Dark Shadows. Long before Tim Burton had graduated high school, or Chloe Grace Moretz born, Nancy Barrett played Carolyn Stoddard on the big screen (as she had on the small). Entranced by “cousin Barnabas” once bitten she proved jealous and possessive in the extreme. She wanted her undead lover all for herself, and it cost her all the blood she had left when she made an issue of it.
- Nicholas Cage in Vampire’s Kiss. Men rarely get to play this kind of part. But Cage’s performance demonstrated the hypocrasy involved, because his character was an arch-chauvinist transformed into vampire Jennifer Beals’ sex slave by a bite. In truth, she treated him precisely the way he longed to treat women, a marvelous twist.
- Sadie Frost in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. No other Lucy Westenra ever made quite the impression as this lady, with flaming locks and exuberance. She played so well the flirtatious aristocrat compared to her oh-so-middle class best friend, but transformed into something very different until the sway of Vlad the Impaler! More, she also conveyed how frightening/exciting her transformation seemed to her personally.
- Brad Pitt in Interview With the Vampire. Although he spent much of this film (the vast majority of the time) as one of the undead, his Louis seemed very real. The sad, rich young man bereft of family, looking for death, and in a weird way welcoming it as it appeared. More, even as a vampire in a real sense he remained that sad young man though out–still a victim even after centuries.
- Kirsten Cerre in Vampire Journals. One of those wonderful small vampire films without a major studio backing them, this one (filmed in Budapest) featured Cerre as a wonderful pianist targeted by a vampire longing to preserve her talent for himself, forever. For much of the film, she is first stalked then imprisoned and slowly made to agree. She will become a vampire, in order at least to live. Too few stories actually dwell on this aspect of vampire stories, and even fewer films. In this one, it formed the frame around which the entire story played out!
Okay, your turn. Which vampire victims were your favorites?