Sunday, May 11, 2008

Remembering Vampira

Remembering Vampira

by Steve Stones

Hey Black dress moves in a blue movie
Graverobbers from outer space
Your pulmonary trembles in your outstretched arm
Tremble so wicked
Two-inch nails
Micro waist
With a pale white feline face
Inclination eyebrows to there
Mistress to the horror kid
Cemetery of the white love ghoul, well
Take off your shabby dress
Come and lay beside me
Come a little bit closer
Come a little bit closer
Come a little bit closer
Come a little bit closer to this
Vampira, Vampira, Vampira
Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey

From the album "Walk Among Us" -- The Misfits-Collection -- Ruby Records & Plan 9-Caroline Records

As a teenage skateboard punk in the late 1980s, I must have listened to this song hundreds of times, but I was never fully aware of who Vampira was and what movies she had appeared in. Was she a comic book heroine, or a nightmare version of the Barbie doll?

I didn't know for sure. It wasn't until 1989, my senior year in High School, that a friend and I decided to rent Plan 9 From Outer Space late one Friday night. When Vampira appeared on screen, my heart raced a million miles an hour. There was something very sexually attractive to me about a shapely woman in a torn black dress, long phallic nails, pale skin and jet-black hair.

Cult director John Waters best described this feeling when he said: "Vampira was the first exaggerated woman I ever yearned to meet . . . she never looked scary to me. I thought she was pretty."

Finnish born Maila Nurmi, later known as Vampira, began her career in 1954 as a horror movie hostess in Los Angeles on KABC-TV making $75.00 a week. Her television show played on channel 7 on Fridays and Saturdays at 11 p.m. At that time, television was a new medium, and anything was possible.

Nurmi developed the Vampira character from three sources: The Dragon Lady in the Terry & The Pirates comic strip, the evil Queen in Snow White, and The Charles Addams Lady in the New Yorker Magazine cartoon strip. At the time Nurmi was developing the Vampira character, she was married to Dean Reisner, who would later go on the create Dirty Harry in the early 1970s. She worked on the television show in hopes to earn enough money to become an evangelist.

On the television show, Vampira would emerge from a dark Gothic hallway filled with smoke, walk towards the camera and let out a loud blood-curdling, shrill scream saying: "Screaming relaxes me so!!!" Some of the films that were played on her late-night television show included: White Zombie, Revenge of The Zombies, Devil Bat's Daughter, Strangler From The Swamp, The Rogue's Tavern, Detour, The Flying Serpent, and King of The Zombies, just to name a few.

After only fifty episodes, the show was cancelled in 1955, and Vampira found herself immediately blacklisted. Soon after, she was approached by an Ed Wood actor, Paul Marco, with a script and $200.00 to appear in a film directed by Wood entitled: Graverobbers From Outer Space which was later retitled: Plan 9 From Outer Space. Reluctant to take the job at first, she finally decided to appear in the film after living off of only $13.00 a week in unemployment benefits.

She convinced Wood that her vampire character should remain mute throughout the entire film. The script identified her as the Vampire's wife or the Ghoul's wife. In recent years, Plan 9 From Outer Space has a well-deserved cult status in cinema history, making Vampira a familiar name and face, and a pop-culture icon of the movies. Vampira has appeared on anything from books, paintings, and t-shirts, to action figures, trading cards, posters, buttons and graphic novels. Her image is permanently seared into western culture.

Sadly, Vampira passed on into another dimension on January 10, 2008. She will always hold a special place in the minds and hearts of her die-hard fans around the world. May she rest in peace. We love you Vampira!!!

Vampira's Films:

If Winter Comes, Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
Too Much, Too Soon The Beat Generation (1959)
Sleeping Beauty The Big Operator (1959)
I Passed For White Sex Kittens Go To College (1960)
The Magic Sword (a.k.a. St. George & The Dragon-1961)
The James Dean Story
The First American Teenager Bungalow Invader

She also appeared on Broadway with Mae West in Catherine The Great. It is also important to note that Ed Wood abandoned a project entitled: The Vampire's Tomb in 1954, which was modeled after Vampira. Footage shot of Bela Lugosi for The Vampire's Tomb was later used in Plan 9 From Outer Space.

No comments: