Rehearsals began mid-March and since then I've been watching a lot of old horror films--especially vampire films (natch)--mining them for costume and set ideas. Last night I watched Vampire Circus. Vampire Circus is a seventies British horror film directed for Hammer by Robert Young and shot at good old Pinewood. It combines two things I've liked since I was a kid: the circus and vampires (Director's Note not withstanding).
I have big pupils. Permanently dialated eyes. Which means they fill with light and turn bright red in photos. In high school, this "condition" meant I was constantly and roughly shepherded down to the principal's office for doing drugs (which I wasn't), but in grade school it meant that I always looked great in Halloween photos (see pic below; and, yes, despite my fondness for fros, I did, twice, dress as a Drac).
I grew up on a horse ranch in Alabama. The closest movie theater was an hour away and across the state line; our TV got only three staticky stations. But twice a year our elementary school sponsored a carnival of sorts. They raised tattered tents in a field rented from a soybean farmer named Shep. My stepfather was neighbors and friends with Shep, so my brother and I could go every night for free. We anticipated these two occasions, one in October, one in May, each three days long, with an eagerness that rivaled Christmas. It wasn’t scary and mysterious like, say, the demon guillotines and dust witches of Ray Bradbury's Coogan and Dark (RB's Something Wicked this Way Comes was a childhood favorite). Instead, the performers were men from town. Mechanics and dogtrainers, hunters and pulpwood haulers. The tents were blue or green, a precariously poled arrangement of tarps used during the week to cover hay bales or bucked logs in the back of truck beds. Their white tights all had dirty knees and looked like old baseball pants used for sliding and never washed. Some wore Halloween costumes or singlets in patriotic colors (blue, with red and white piping). They were too fat or too thin. Nothing fit. One man juggled split wood, another stood, unitard peeled, straps dangling at the waist, full of tattoos. Not the “phosphorescent beauties” and “lightning scribbled carnivores” of Bradbury’s stencilled ringmaster, but confederate flags and football logos, the diapered Hot Stuff devil and the strutting, huge-footed “Keep on truckin’” guy.
Even so, it felt, well, magical.
In any case, VC was a little cheesy--the vampires all had feathered Barry Gibb hair--but also experimental and surprisingly effective. Some striking scenes, and some really avant-garde circus performances (including a pretty great dance between a tiger tamer and a mostly naked woman painted with stripes). As in NOS: FV, the plague plays a prominent part, and I got some good ideas for the costume of the Cart Man (Jason Stewart, who also plays the Captain of the Demeter), a character that wheels a wooden wagon, collects the diseased dead, and, ultimately, dies extravagantly (not from the plague; 'nuff said).
That's it for today. Thanks for reading. More soon.
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