An ad kept popping up that it's free to watch the documentary Vampira and Me on Tubi , so with my open afternoon yesterday, I decided t...

Movie: Vampira and Me (2012)

An ad kept popping up that it's free to watch the documentary Vampira and Me on Tubi, so with my open afternoon yesterday, I decided to settle in and learn more about Vampira

I found the movie to be interlaced with sadness, but made with love. Her friend R.H. Greene, the "me" part of the documentary, interviewed Maila Nurmi aka Vampira for this film. Her mystery is unveiled and you hear her speak in her own words from the start of her career to the depressing finish. Most of the film is her interview, very little archival footage of Vampira, and clips from the 1950s.

Maila was ironic and often referred to as a "beatnik" in the movie. She was an independent thinker and went against the norms of the 1950s. She loved the Addams Family cartoons since they satirized the "normal" family, and wanted to be a part of an Addams Family show if it was ever made for TV. She was discovered several times in the early part of her career, but the role that would define her came from an unexpected place...a costume ball. She dressed up as her favorite character, the mom from the Addams Family, now known as Morticia and won best costume. A local Los Angeles TV station liked her look and made a spot for her as the first horror host. Her timing was perfect. 

Inspired by Bizarre Magazine she changed the styling from the party and her husband gave her the name Vampira. But don't think she was Bettie Page, she was the antithesis. While Bettie was the girl next door with a little S and M thrown in behind closed doors, Vampira encompassed feminine strength as a glamour ghoul. There was no cheesecake, she played it straight while being erotic. Her tiny waist and dark sex appeal was the opposite of being a mother and housewife of the 1950s. Which garnered her immediate fans and she even has a rockabilly song named after her!

Sadly there's almost no records of her playing Vampira since everything was done live on TV back then. There's a two minute commercial included in the film and a couple scenes where she was a cult celebrity on other TV shows. Luckily there's hundreds of photos and stills, and she still has the power to excite a fan base even today!

One of the odd parts of the film was the emphasis on how she was good friends with James Dean, but made it very clear that they were never lovers. It was this relationship that ended her common law marriage. She mentioned that they were "psychically drawn to each other" and knew each other in another life. Then he tragically died in 1955 and she was teary eyed talking about it in the film.

Her show was canceled abruptly ending her 15 minutes of fame, and she sank into poverty taking odd jobs here and there. She would make odd appearances as Vampira in the later 1950s but basically lived as a recluse. In 1966 she recorded her thoughts for an eventual memoir that never happened. Those tapes are lost or damaged as well. Even without a book, Vampira is still being discovered and adored by all the punks, goths, and social outcasts because she embodied freedom of expression! 

There is a mention of her working to revamp (pun intended) Vampira but she didn't like the direction the new version was going in and quit working on it. That character eventually became Elvira. Maila sued, stating Elvira ripped off Vampira, but she didn't have enough money to purse it further and lost. Honestly without any recordings of Vampira it's hard to know, plus didn't Vampira steal her look from Morticia? I digress...

Was this a good movie? No, but it was interesting to hear directly from her. I give it 3 1/2 rooms of billowing clouds of smoke out of 5. Here's the trailer...






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