My five-year-old sister told her many thoughts about what she wants to be this year for Halloween. She proceeded to swing back-and-forth between a unicorn, an African wild animal, and what I think is still her number-one choice, Draculora. The latter a protagonist from the famous TV kid’s show, Monster’s High. This prompted my mom to reminisce about spending Halloween of her teenage years as Count Dracula, donning a mom-made costume, makeup and all. My mom proceeded to follow up with “Where did Vampira come from, anyway?” Good question.
The first wives club
It all started with motion pictures. Specifically TV in the 1930s. I don’t know what it was about that time period that made people want to marry off iconic horror icons. Safe, possibly, to assume the horror genre was as big a watering hole for amateur directors as the International Film Festival is now. Maybe? Perhaps the film industry at the time would say otherwise. In came the first legendary wife, the Creature’s Bride. This is the point where it got tricky, because within the decades following the film The Bride of Frankenstein and its prequel, the public somehow started to free associate the characters with the titles of the films.
What do I mean? For those who may not know, Frankenstein is not analogous to the Monster that they might picture in their heads. Originally, Victor Frankenstein is the scientist who creates while the creation itself was plainly referred to as Monster. Even the movie portrays the two characters separately, so I don’t how that changed all of a sudden. I blame kid shows and marketing for indicating otherwise. Kind of like the public concept of voodoo— portray something wrongly for too long and it becomes common knowledge or a niche of some sort. No? Anymore I’ll see the same Halloween costumes advertising the spooky madams: Frankenstein’s Bride, a witch; a banshee…Vampira.
Trademark Aloof Vixen
Dracula’s wife. Perhaps Vlad the Impaler could have used some nurturing. Perhaps not. Maybe a domesticated woman’s survival rate would’ve plummeted in his proximity. But that’s the “husband’s” origin. What about the wife? A small part of me figured the story of this character had much in common with the previous one. Kind…of. There were some key differences. Less of a cult film influence and more of a cult figure. In came Miss Maila Nurmi, the Finnish-American bombshell who had an appreciation for the strange. Hands down, she would’ve thrived during today’s time and culture, in my opinion, had her birthday arrive some decades later..and were she to foster the same interests. Sadly, the film industry didn’t appreciate her forward thinking. Time needs place, always the case. I mean, look at Disney. Fantasia had no IMAX theatre. She held her own though. Nurmi introduced the Vampira character for a show appropriately dubbed the Vampire Show and created it after many trial runs and experimenting with her looks.
She was pretty much an underground actress, which I think really suited what she was going for: mystery, sex-appeal, a tease, but she must have had sharpness about her, and charm for sure. Nurmi wasn’t at all afraid to get into a character. Some might argue that she revitalized the Gothic genre in a traditional sense, where romance meets horror. The actress somehow fused the female fashion sense of the 50s to her dark aesthetic, in this sense. It just worked. Hollywood was fickle though, as usual. Company’s pulled the plug, because reasons. There started a domino effect of other studios backing out, resulting in Nurmi’s show getting canceled (despite popular viewership), and — what’s a tragic end without a scapegoat—somehow the woman being suspected in James Dean’s death due to their friendship. Like I said, timing was an issue. In a way it worked in her favor eventually. Halloween has echoed her image for YEARS.
The almighty television. After researching iconic women of the horror genre, I again see the love-hate relationship people the world over have with motion pictures. It tends to suck because it shows people an edited piece of the world. But then it also positively changes the world—history! Better to judge a tool by its use and not its creation?
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