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REEL LIFE / FILM & VIDEO FILE : Vampire Legends Still Haunt Big Screen : A UC Santa Barbara researcher has chronicled their history in an 850-page 'Encyclopedia of the Undead.'

November 17, 1994|PANCHO DOLL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Even if you don't believe in the occult, you have to admit that the existence of vampires in film and literature is deathless.

"Interview with the Vampire," the latest cinematic incarnation of the 3,000-year-old myth, is one of the few portrayals not covered in J. Gordon Melton's just published "The Vampire Book: An Encyclopedia of the Undead."

Melton, a member of the UC Santa Barbara religious studies staff and author of books on religion in America, started the 850-page encyclopedia two years ago when Francis Ford Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula" came out.

"Usually with my books I'm happy if the first printing of 2,000 sells out," Melton said. "This had a printing of 10,000 and sold out in the first two weeks." It's now in a second printing.

He noted an odd connection between vampire stories and another current movie. According to Melton, Mary Shelley wrote what was to become "Frankenstein" during the same opium-soaked weekend in Geneva when the modern version of Dracula was penned.

Mary Shelley and her husband, Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, were touring Europe in 1816 when they found themselves snowed in at a chalet they were sharing with Lord Byron and several other literati, including John Polidori.

"There were all taking laudanum when someone suggested they each write a horror story, then read it aloud for everyone's amusement. Polidori wrote a story that was the first modern version of Dracula. Bram Stoker's didn't come along until 75 years later," Melton said.

In case you're wondering, Melton is not a believer, not in the occult anyway. He's a Methodist minister.

The high priest of ski films is showing his latest devotional work. Warren Miller's "Vertical Reality" drops into the Ventura Theatre on Sunday and the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza on Monday to inaugurate the winter season.

If you've seen any of Miller's 45 previous ski spectaculars, well, here's another one: lots of extreme skiing on top of high-energy sound tracks, intercut with cameos of novice skiers doing incredibly stupid things.

There's a glaring plug for the corporate sponsor, but what the heck. Skiing is an industry like any other, so if you watch the film and are motivated to buy an overpriced piece of gear, you're not being self-indulgent, you're helping the economic recovery.

Call the Ventura Theatre at 449-ARTS or the Civic Arts Plaza Auditorium at 648-1888 for show times.

Oh yeah, and pray for snow.

*

Here's another monster movie, only this is a nonfiction piece that could be called "Realm of the Giant Tube Worms."

It's not called that, though. It's called "Secrets of Underwater Volcanoes," part of the PBS "The New Explorers" series.

The explorers in this case are a husband and wife team of marine scientists from UC Santa Barbara. Geochemist Rachel M. Haymon and geophysicist Ken C. Macdonald take a submersible craft down to geothermal vents 8,000 feet beneath the surface of the Pacific.

Hundreds of species (giant tube worms among them) have been identified thriving on the hydrogen sulfide emitted by the vents since they were discovered off the Galapagos Islands in 1977.

Among the biological curiosities, cameras caught two octopuses in the act of copulation. As it turned out, the animals were not only different species, but males. The scientists are still puzzled by the biological significance of such activity.

See if you can solve the riddle when the show is broadcast at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

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