Vampira and Me Review

by William Burns

Vampira and Me (2012)

Synopsis:  A documentary on the original “glamour ghoul” Vampira

Our Thoughts:

Vampira is one of horror’s most iconic figures but the scarcity of original footage of her TV work also make her one of the least substantiated actresses in the genre. In a body of work that only lasted from 1954-1960, Maila Normi combined Morticia Adams, the Evil Queen from Snow White, and a macabre beatnik cool to create the Vampira persona, the first TV horror host.  The Vampira Show not only brought horror films into living rooms but also introduced the concept of a media figure commenting on a film as the audience watched along as Vampira dead panned cruel insults and puns worthy of Forrest J. Ackerman.  Vampira’s alluring yet detached personality won droves of fans, admirers like James Dean, Elvis Presley, Liberace, and Rudi Gernreich, as well as promotion on The Red Skelton Show and in Life magazine and Newsweek.  Maila was even nominated for an Emmy.  The lack of preservation of live TV shows from the 50’s has resulted in a maddening lack of prime Vampira footage but luckily R.H. Greene’s superb documentary Vampira and Me has gathered together all existing kinescopes, stills, photos, home movies, TV appearances, interviews, and audio recordings  to present an comprehensive portrait of a true legend.  While most horror fans only know her from her silent performance in Ed Wood’s epochal Plan 9 from Outer Space and The Misfits’ punk ode, Vampira and Me explores many aspects of Nurmi’s life through a career spanning interview that touches on Hollywood, the early TV industry, Howard Hawks, pin-up modeling, Charles Adams, Elvira, and punk rock. Greene’s documentary makes a thoroughly convincing case for Vampira/Nurmi as a pioneering, empowered feminist, a radical, rebellious, and tempestuous satirist that fiercely defended her artistic creation but paid the price for being a maverick.  If you have even the least interest in the early days of horror hosts or even the beginning of the Goth image, you need to see Vampira and Me as sickly as possible. 


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