From Nosferatu to Thirst, films have tried to capture the shadowy, seductive figure of the vampire. Writer Anne Billson chronicles the creature’s evolution.
Slide Eight: Martin (1977)
Vampires had already cropped up in contemporary settings in Count Yorga, Vampire and Dracula AD 1972, but it was George A Romero who gave them a truly modern makeover in Martin, doing for the vampire what he had already done for zombies in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead—giving it social relevance. Martin is set in a suburb of Pittsburgh (Romero's favorite stamping-ground) where the industrial decay and moral confusion of the economically depressed 1970s couldn't be more different from Transylvania or leafy Bray. The title character, played sympathetically by John Amplas, is a disturbed teenager who has been marginalized by his own family—an elderly relative denounces him as a "nosferatu” and threatens him with crucifixes, garlic and stakes. Martin, who gets a job as a delivery boy and preys on the lonely housewives on his rounds, really does believe he's a vampire and takes the clichés seriously, to the extent of kitting himself out at one point with a cloak and joke-shop fangs—though to make his victims' blood flow he resorts to razor blades. He's part serial killer, part misunderstood teenager, and the missing link between Dracula and later, more lighthearted films like The Lost Boys, which would exploit the vampire's bad-boy appeal to younger audiences.