Painted Monsters: “Night’s Foul Bird”

For the month of October, as part of the Countdown to Halloween, I’ll be revisiting each of the thirteen stories in Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts and suggesting movies that pair well with them, for your viewing pleasure!

“Night’s Foul Bird” marks the first of the stories in Painted Monsters to be set in a time and place that allowed me to specifically reference actual movies in the course of the story, so it’s (obviously) packed to the gills with titles and imagery from the silent horror films of the 1920s, especially the big, grim German ones. The story was originally written for the “wings” themed issue of Innsmouth Magazine, and was produced in audio form at Pseudopod. Where “The White Prince” dealt with vampire imagery from early novels, “Night’s Foul Bird” deals with the vampire as it appeared in the early cinema, which was often very different from what came to be the norm after Bela Lugosi’s genre-defining turn as Dracula.

The most obvious pairing for this tale would be the Lon Chaney/Tod Browning London After Midnight, but unfortunately for all of us, that’s maybe the most famously lost film of all time, and while there’s a “reconstructed” version floating around that uses the original script and film stills, it just isn’t the same. So we’ll just have to move on to some of the other movies that are mentioned in the story. The next two stops are both films by German director F.W. Murnau: Nosferatu in 1922 and Faust in 1926. While both contain stark and often beautiful images that show up in “Night’s Foul Bird,” Nosferatu is the most obvious choice for a film pairing, thanks to its early and striking cinematic treatment of the vampire.

Of course, if you’ve already seen these classics, or if silent movies just aren’t your thing, you can always fast-forward a few years to the age of the talkies and check out Tod Browning’s undersung Mark of the Vampire, which boasts a great Lionel Barrymore performance, and is essentially a remake of London After Midnight, albeit with a somnolent Lugosi in place of Chaney’s iconic vampire makeup.

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