Both are victims of supernatural curses. Both stalk their prey by the light of the moon. And, to both, normal humanity is just so much fast food on the hoof. Vampires and werewolves have been among the most “loved” monsters in movies and television for decades. So why are these creatures of the night, who seemingly have so much in common, more often than not at each others’ throats–figuratively if not literally–whenever they appear together?
Not counting an alleged co-appearance in a long-lost 1913 film entitled The Vampire, bloodsuckers and lycanthropes first crossed paths on the silver screen–and I apologize to any actual vampires or werewolves out there for mentioning crosses and silver–in the 1944 Columbia chiller The Return of the Vampire. Bela Lugosi starred as the undead Armand Tesla (who would have been called Count Dracula had not Universal claimed film rights to the character), staked in 1918 but revived in World War II-era London, and Matt Willis was Andreas, his talking (!) werewolf henchman. How much good an assistant who only turns into a wolf a couple of days every month can be is debatable, but at least the low-budget movie did give you two monsters for the price of one.
Later that same year, Universal would offer fright fans an even bigger bargain with House of Frankenstein, but John Carradine’s Dracula and Lon Chaney, Jr.’s Wolf Man don’t even meet in the film. This mistake would be rectified in 1945’s follow-up, House of Dracula, which begins with Carradine and Chaney seeking help from soon-to-be-mad scientist Onslow Stevens to cure their respective “conditions” and finds the duo in a rivalry for Martha O’Driscoll, Stevens’ assistant. Chaney wins the girl at film’s end, but by 1948 he was still holding a grudge against the Count, so much so that he teamed up with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello to foil the plans of Dracula (now played for the final time by Lugosi) in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Both werewolf and vampire (transformed into a bat) are seen near the end of the film falling from a castle balcony into a rocky seaside, seemingly putting an end to the studio’s monster cycle.
The Universal legacy was revived by England’s Hammer Films in the 1950s and ’60s, but despite a slew of vampire movies (usually with Christopher Lee as Dracula) and a memorable turn by a furry Oliver Reed in Curse of the Werewolf, none of the Hammer horror icons ever teamed up. Perhaps the most unusual entry in this very unique genre was the 1962 Mexican oddity Santo vs. the Vampire Women, in which the silver-clad wrestling hero takes on a mystery opponent in the ring. Ripping off his foe’s mask, Santo is shocked to find he’s fighting a fuzz-faced vampire/werewolf hybrid, who escapes from the arena by turning into a bat!
TV in the ’60s presented lighthearted fare such as The Munsters and The Groovie Goolies, but the biggest thing in feuding fiends was the supernatural soaper Dark Shadows. The arrival of Jonathan Frid’s angst-ridden bloodsucker Barnabas Collins had already made the show an unlikely hit with young viewers, and ABC cashed in on that by adding David Selby to the cast as the roguishly handsome Quentin Collins, who would eventually be revealed as bearing the sign of the beast. Frid and Selby were enemies at first, but would later become allies as they battled other occult foes until the coffin lid was slammed shut in 1971. While Dark Shadows was casting its spell on TV audiences, moviegoers around the world were getting a full plate of werewolf/vampire toss-downs courtesy of Spanish shock icon Paul Naschy, whose full moon-fearing Count Waldemar Daninsky often found himself combating vamps in over a dozen fright flicks between 1968 and 2004, starting with La Marca del Hombe Loco (released here as Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror). The encounter was decidedly friendlier in Long Island b-filmmaker Andy Milligan’s little-seen 1974 chiller Blood, which posited a romantic pairing of Dracula’s daughter and the son of the Wolf Man.
Aside from the occasional comedic creature feature like Mad Monster Party?, Transylvania 6-5000 and The Monster Squad, horror buffs had to wait until Howling VI: The Freaks in 1991 for another big-screen confrontation between a werewolf and a vampire. Later that decade, the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayerwould in its second season introduce Seth Green as high school man-beast Oz, who helped Sarah Michelle Gellar and her pals defend the town of Sunnydale from bloodsuckers.
The last few years have seen a veritable flood of “fangs vs. claws” clashes in theaters. 2003’s Underworld and its sequels have thrilled fans with the millennium-long blood war between vampires and their hirsute enemies, the Lycans. Hugh Jackman’s monster slayer Van Helsing, in the 2004 film of the same name, is transformed into a werewolf in order to battle Count Dracula. And the 2008 adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s best-seller Twilight brought to the screen teenager Bella (played by Kristen Stewart), who will become further caught up in an otherworldly love triangle with vampiric Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) in this year’s New Moon.
Back on the tube, HBO’s True Blood features vamps fighting for equal rights and another romantic rivalry, this one between human waitress Anna Paquin, bloodsucker Stephen Moyer, and bar owner Sam Trammell (who isn’t a true lycanthrope, but a shapeshifter who takes the form of a dog). And the new BBC series Being Human presents three supernatural outcasts – vampire Aidan Turner, werewolf Russell Tovey and ghost Lenora Crichlow- setting up house together and attempting to live “normal” lives, even as Turner’s fellow undead view his and Tovey’s friendship with disdain and attempt to lure him back into the fold for an all-out attack on humanity. Their nocturnal lifestyles (unlifestyles?) may forever link them in popular culture, but it’s clear that vampires and werewolves mix like oil and water…or should that be garlic and wolfsbane?