Musings & Meditations

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Posted in Books, Reading, Zombies by Pam Keesey on July 8, 2009

I’m a Jane Austen fan. Really. I think I’d read everything she’d written by the time I was 14. And let’s not forget the classic film adaptations, especially Pride and Prejudice (1940), starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier (still my personal favorite).

Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesWhen I heard that a revisionist Pride and Prejudice was on its way, one that includes zombies no less, I didn’t know what to think. I mean, I love zombies as much as the next person (in fact, probably quite a bit more than the next person), but Jane Austen? And Pride and Prejudice at that?

I had absolutely nothing to worry about. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is an absolute delight. Seth Grahame-Smith has written a thrill-a-minute book of martial arts and zombie mayhem that is a loving tribute to the original novel. Grahame-Smith is true to Austen’s voice, and the delicious satire of her original novel is enhanced by Hong Kong style martial arts action and some kickass zombie decapitations.

And for those book group types among you, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies even includes an appendix of discussion questions to get your conversation rolling like oh, so many recently decapitated zombie noggins!

Wolf Song

Posted in Art & Society, Books, Mythology and Folklore, Sexuality and Culture, Werewolves by Pam Keesey on April 2, 2009

Poking around the ’net, I found this interesting piece on a site dedicated to “an understanding of the wolf, its natural, history, its varied relation to humans throughout the ages, and its role as a major symbol in folklore, myth, legend, art and religion, through education, science and public awareness.”

Among other things, they have a commentary on my book, Women Who Run with the Werewolves, and its inspiration, Women Who Run with the Wolves.

I’m particularly please with how they summarize my introduction to Women Who Run with the Werewolves:

This article is certainly not suggesting that modern women wish to go out and devour those who have wronged them in the past, but it does suggest that the use of both the wolf as well as the wolf-human hybrid monster can be transformed into tools of reflection on women’s contemporary social condition. A huge part of the appeal, again, is the simple escape from constricting ties. Commitments to work, family, friends, and society at large are not monstrous and they do not have to be domineering, yet a key feature of modern feminism lay in emphasizing the emotional need to feel in control, to be wild and free, to single-handedly determine the course of one’s own path. This is why many women choose to run with the wolves, as well as with the werewolves; the important part is the ability to choose itself.

The ability to choose. The power to choose. Yes, it’s all about empowerment.

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“I am…Vampira”

Posted in Art & Society, Friends, Horror, Movies, Vampires by Pam Keesey on January 10, 2008

The scene is black and white, the setting gothic — a cathedral perhaps, or maybe a crypt. The lights are low; a candelabra is burning in the shadows. A low mist rises over the vast expanse of the foyer. A figure forms in the mist, advancing through a doorway at the far side of the room. She has an impossibly small waist, a wasp-like cinching between the swelling breasts and the voluptuous hips of a fertility goddess. Her black dress is in tatters, a form-fitting, cleavage-revealing shroud. Fingernails like straight razors extend from her long, pale fingertips. her face is white, placid with dark lips and kohled eyes. Eyebrows like flying arches frame her face, marking the space between her eyes and her black serpentine hair. Her gaze is fixed on the camera before her as she approaches, her eyes locked with yours. She raises her talons to her hair and screams an ear-piercing wail, a banshee’s cry. In a voice deep and rich, a timbre reaching from beyond the grave, she speaks:

“Good evening,” she says. “I am…Vampira.”

from Vamps: An Illustrated History of the Femme Fatale

Vampira (Maila Nurmi)It was my mother who told me that Maila Nurmi died today. She’s not a fan, nor of the era of the Vampira show. But she knew of Vampira through my love of horror and my friendship with Maila herself, so when she heard the news, her first impulse was to call me.

I first met Maila in 1995, at the Son of Famous Monsters convention at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. Maila made several appearances throughout the weekend, and told some wonderful stories about how Howard Hawkes brought her to Hollywood to make her “the next Lauren Bacall,” her split with Hawkes, her adventures with James Dean, and her later association with the infamous Ed Wood.

One of my favorite stories from the weekend was when she was asked who she most enjoyed working with in Hollywood. She mentioned how much she enjoyed working with Basil Rathbone, her co-star in The Magic Sword, and how much she admired and appreciated him.

“He took me under his wing and advised me, a young actress, about how to be successful in Hollywood.”

“What was his advice?” I asked her.

“Honestly, I don’t remember,” she answered, in inimitable Maila style. “At the time I thought, who the hell is this guy to be telling me what to do?”

We spent a lot of time together that weekend, talking about her expriences as a child and young woman, about great actresses such as Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, and the world of the classic femme fatale. I bought one of my prized possessions from her that weekend, too: a painting of Vampira, by Vampira, standing in Holy Cross Cemetery, with soil from the cemetery mixed in with the paint.

We saw each other many times of over the years, at various events and conventions. One of my favorite memories is the time we were lucky enough to find her at one of her favorite haunts, the McDonald’s on Sunset Boulevard, sitting in the booth under a portrait of Greta Garbo. Intelligent, dynamic, engaging, witty, it was always a delight to visit with her. I always regretted not being able to spend more time with her because I lived so far away, and now I’ll never have that opportunity.

You’ll be missed, Maila. Thank you for everything.

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