Elsa Lanchester, Bride of Frankenstein (1935) The ne plus ultra of female monsters (this pose here based on the profile of Nefertiti). The Bride is beautiful, terrifying--and terrified, alas--and yet so delicate and poised. Note the fine stitching and the blemish-free cadaverous skin; the question arises: who exactly was Dr. Frankenstein trying to please, his original monster, or his own unspeakable desires?
Gloria Holden, Dracula's Daughter (1936) As icy as a Russian empress, a doomed and tragic figure, Countess Zaleska offers up dark sacrifice to her father and pursues in vain lusts she can never satisfy. Her untouchable and flawless features speak of lifetimes of longing and despair... and worse.
Carroll Borland, Mark of the Vampire (1935) The original Goth chick? Luna descends on tenebrous wings and does the bidding of Count Mora. Exactly what goes on in that cavernous old house that terrifies the villagers so? Oh, if only you knew...
Barbara Steele, La Danza Macabra (1964)
"Amidst the mist and coldest frost
With barest wrist and stoutest boast
He thrusts his fists against the post
And still insists he sees the ghost!"
If ghosts looked like Elisabeth Blackwood, why, I'd believe in the supernatural in a second.
Ingrid Pitt, The House that Dripped Blood (1971) I understand that the vampire represents the darkest corners of our sexualities, and that the fanged mouth is a kind of oral rape, but this is ridiculous! But not that ridiculous. It's the kind of ridiculous where you start to laugh, and then you realize you can hear her tongue slicking wetly over her canines... uh, I mean--where was I?
Simone Simon, Cat People (1942) That pout. That slouch. Those eyebrows. That accent. Irena Dubrovna knows what she wants, but she can never, ever have it. At least that's what the psychiatrist tells her. Her husband says otherwise. She thinks something terrible will happen if she gives in. Guess who she finally listens to?
Soledad Miranda, Vampyros Lesbos (1971) The first time I ever saw Soledad Miranda in this movie after hearing about it for over a decade, I had to keep turning the DVD off. It was too perfect. It was too delicious. Countess Carody--a vampiress who, instead of being imprisoned in a coffin, lounges slicked in baby oil beneath a scorching Mediterranean sun stretching her legs and arching her feet. Oh. More, please.
Amanda Donohoe, Lair of the White Worm (1988) Lady Sylvia Marsh, another aristocratic woman but who is not, as it may appear, a vampire. She's a serpent goddess, an avatar of the white worm that pagans worshiped long before the age of Christianity, that annoying upstart religion with its undead god. Her androgyny, with her post-Annie Lennox hair, is a refreshing change from some of the other hyper-feminized monster women.
Sadie Frost, Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) Oh, oh, oh, be still my beating heart. "Miiiina," I can hear Lucy Westenra chime out, "oh, Miiina! Come here and give us a kiss!" The Bloofer Lady, indeed ("bloofer lady" being Cockney slang for "beautiful lady." At least that's what Lucy's child victims called her).
Melinda Clarke, Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993) Now this is what I call a punk, punk, a punk rocker. Julie ends up dead after a motorcycle accident with her douche bag boyfriend, who just happens to be the son of one of the military brass who's trying to cover up that nasty chemical spill at the warehouse... So douche bag brings her back to life, and now she's hot to trot, except she also has a mean appetite for other things too. Some guys have all the luck. Douche bag.
Nastassja Kinski, Cat People (1982) More delightful androgyny in a remake that gets a bad rap because it literalizes what the original tried to keep as metaphor. Well, what do you expect from a filmmaker/screenwriter who once penned dialogue like, "Did you ever see what a .44 Magnum can do to a pussy?" Yikes.
Katherine Isabelle, Ginger Snaps (2000) Misfit Ginger's about to become a woman, and leave behind her even misfit-ier sister Brigitte. But something bad happens in the woods by the playground one night and Ginger is suddenly becoming more than a woman. And now she's developing a taste for boys. Ahem. If you take my meaning. More twisting up of that whole "literal metaphor" thing which horror loves to do.
Sharon Tate, The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) I... I can't even talk about Sharon Tate. The original title of this movie was Dance of the Vampires, and let me tell you, that is one creepy dance they get up to. Funny, too, but not funny-ha-ha, or even funny-strange, but more like funny-let's-get-the-fuck-out-of-here-now funny. You know how that is.
Andrea Rau, Daughters of Darkness (1971) Poor Ilona. She's been trapped under the thumb of that Countess Bathory for who knows how long. Now that beautiful young couple has come to stay at the empty off-season Grand Hotel des Thermes and would it be so wrong if she flirted a little, just a little, with the husband? Yes. It would be very wrong indeed.
Susan Denberg, Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) How in the world did Peter Cushing’s Dr. Frankenstein create a Frankenstein bride without any stitches at all? Come on, dude, that's half the fun right there.
Macarena Gomez, Dagon (2001) Ah, she's got Barbara Steele eyes. Everybody knows H.P. Lovecraft had some serious issues with women and sex, but he wouldn't ever just write about it directly; he was always going on about tentacles and slime and how he hated seafood. And then finally this movie comes along and when the lovely young Uxía Cambarro reveals what she's hiding under the bedsheets, well, holy shit, I think ol' HPL spun in his grave. The filmmakers nailed his greatest fear. Plus, this movie gives a great happy ending.
Anulka and Marianne Morris, Vampyres (1974) Another movie where I had to stop the DVD--well, the VCR--back in the day. At one point these two go at an unsuspecting guy so hard and so... carnivorously it's almost difficult to watch. Well, it was before I just embraced this part of myself.
Magenta and Columbia, Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)I know, I know, Rocky Horror is dorky beyond belief. But I'd forgotten just how creepily smokin' these two hangers-on of Dr. Frank N. Furter's were, and how they moan and coo and lasciviously wrap their lips around Richard O'Brien's lyrics ("Not for very much longer," growls Magenta in her best East European accent; Little Nell's Betty Boop voice gives me a strange and unexpectedly satisfying shiver). It was a delight to revisit their performances after so many years!