Saturday, January 19, 2008
Maila Nurmi Is Dead
I just found out about it, but last week (January 10) Maila Nurmi (aka Vampira) died of natural causes at age 85.
The Finnish actress, brought to Hollywood by director Howard Hawks, had costarred with Mae West on stage. West reportedly fired her for upstaging her.
Best known for her nonspeaking role in Ed Wood's trash classic Plan 9 from Outer Space, Nurmi as Vampira was perhaps the first late-night creature-feature host. Adopting her sultry persona from Charles Addams cartoons in The New Yorker, later inspiring the comic Elvira, Nurmi mesmerized the boys of my generation and introduced them to horror and kitsch classics like Bride of Frankenstein, The Bat, The House on Haunted Hill, etc.
I never saw her show, but photographs and interviews appeared in the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, which I read avidly as a kid, along with Mad magazine and Classics Illustrated comics.
She epitomized decadent allure to my fevered nine-year-old imagination back in the Sixties.
In Altus, Oklahoma, where I lived in the early 1960s, the late-night horror show was called Shock Theater, hosted by a (male) local newscaster in heavy Karloff mode, and it filled my young life with excitement and delicious dread. I only wish I could have seen Nurmi's original, upon which it was undoubtedly based.
Rest in Peace, Maila.
Rise up from your thousand year-old sleep, Vampira! Break forth from your grave eternally. I command you to rise, rise, rise ...
Posted by Joe at 4:31 PM