Alamo Drafthouse’s Terror Tuesdays Presents: BLADE (1998)

I was incredibly psyched when I saw the line-up for August’s Terror Tuesdays at Alamo Drafthouse NYC and saw that the first one for the month was BLADE. Something you probably wouldn’t know about me unless we’re friends is that I am OBSESSED with Wesley Snipes. I feel like he is one of the most supremely talented actors to have ever existed. From New Jack City to Demolition Man, Wesley Snipes has been playing the baddest of badasses for years upon years.

I was lucky enough to have seen New Jack City at Alamo Drafthouse NYC a little over a year ago, and now once again thanks to them, I got to see another wonderful Snipes vehicle that I didn’t get to see in theaters originally. When I was growing up, in Suwanee, Georgia (about 45 minutes north of Atlanta), my mom would pretty much constantly take me to Blockbuster, which was about a 7-minute drive from our house.  It was during one of those trips that I rented BLADE. At this point in my movie-viewing career, I was not that well versed in the awesomeness of Wesley Snipes, other than loving him in Demolition Man.

The main reason I wanted to see BLADE as a 15-year-old girl in 1998 is..if you haven’t already guessed—Stephen Dorff. Ohhhh Stephen Dorff. I’m not sure if there isn’t a single red-blooded American human being that’s attracted to cis-white-males who wasn’t in love with him in the 90’s. It took me a minute, but I now remember the first moment I saw him in anything. It was that time in the early 90’s where Aerosmith videos were super high budget and had a big narrative. At this point in time, I’m not really afraid to say that for the most part, I enjoyed the videos more than the songs, but I digress.

“Crazy” was where I first got acquainted with Stephen Dorff and after that, I had to see any and every single thing where he was involved.  This included renting the movies S.F.W. (which I barely remember and I’m not 100% sure if it warrants a re-watch, let me know if you think it does) and Who Shot Andy Warhol. So in a way I owe a lot of my cultural knowledge to Stephen Dorff, because in 1996, I am not sure if I even really knew who Andy Warhol was, and after seeing that movie and not really knowing what the hell it was about, I got more interested in that whole time period, which eventually led me down a path to punk-rock.

Anyway, I am getting WAY off-track here. Let’s get back to business. I originally rented BLADEbecause it had Stephen Dorff, Wesley Snipes, and it was about vampires. I’m not sure if this is true, but I also think that teenage girls have always loved vampires, even before Twilight. I know that one of the main reasons, other than Stephen and Wesley that I saw BLADE was because of vampires. I had no idea that BLADE was a Marvel Comics hero until probably about three years ago when I started dating my boyfriend who knows any and everything about the MCU and the comics. I’m sure some of you are mad at me for my lack of knowledge, but whatever. I have a healthy appreciation for all things Marvel these days, other than the firing of James Gunn, but BOY is that a story for another time.

Do I need to tell anyone who’s reading this what the plot of BLADE is? I guess I will give a tiny little synopsis. Wesley Snipes is BLADE; one of Marvel’s many vigilante heroes. When his mother was pregnant, a vampire, making him half vamp/half human, bit her. A man named Whistler (played in the film by the amazing Kris Kristofferson) rescued him and both are devoted to weeding out the vampire element in NYC. Stephen Dorff (sigh) plays Deacon Frost, a dilettante vampire who wants to upset the pre-destined order of things by performing an ancient ritual to make vampires more powerful. There’s a lot of fighting, a lot of blood, and supporting roles from Donal Logue (criminally underrated character actor who has been on—what else—Law and Order SVU, in addition to Gotham and Zodiac) and the one and only superstar of my heart, Udo Keir (who is in almost literally every movie ever made, but my favorite performances by him are in Melancholia, Mother of Tears, Berlin Alexanderplatz, and of course Suspiria).

Now, though, I’ll give you the word from one of my favorite indie directors and absolutely my favorite host for Terror Tuesdays, Ted Geoghegan:

Ted Geoghegan: Before we talk about the movie, first thing I want to bring up is the comic history of BLADE. As all of you are pretty well aware, BLADE started out as a Marvel superhero or antihero, 45 years ago, it was in Tomb of Dracula, 1973. When he was introduced, Marvel was trying to introduce more African American characters. They’d had Black Panther in 1966 and Power Man, or Luke Cage as he is now, in 1972, so in 1973 in Tomb of Dracula, they were like “Yes, somebody’s gotta be able to kill Dracula” and they were like “I got an idea” and they came up with BLADE.

Originally, the idea for BLADE was that he was gonna be modeled after NFL quarterback Jim Brown (this is awesome and I did NOT know this) and he was this really cocky, bombastic sort of dude and that’s actually how he is in the comics for a long time, throughout most of the 70’s and 80’s. He’s nothing like BLADE in the movies. He’s super stoic in the movies, everything’s like really gruff and angry, and in the comics, he’s like having a blast, he’s just killing fuckin everybody and he thinks it’s awesome and he’s got these wacky gadgets and shit. His knives that have like little pieces of wood at the top of them because that’s how you kill a vampire, apparently, like a giant knife isn’t gonna do it, but the teeny tiny splinter on the tip of it is going to kill Dracula.

So, BLADE kinda has his ups and downs throughout most of the 70’s and 80’s and then as it rolled into the 90’ and comics, and we kind of all remember, I don’t know if any of you guys are my age, like comics in the 90s—I was like “these are so cool”, but I feel like I was in a bubble, where I was the only person who actually thought that comics in the 90’s were cool. I’ve gone back and read some of them now, and (whisper voice) they’re not that cool. Because of that, Marvel was completely floundering. Marvel was in really, really bad shape. They kept thinking to themselves, “there’s no way we are ever going to take our comics and turn them into movies. This is a completely stupid idea. No one will ever, ever, ever want to see a Marvel movie on the big screen” (OH THE IRONY).

The first Marvel movie that was a theatrical film was Howard the Duck, which, when you think about all the stuff before that, there was Spiderman, that was on TV. Hulk was on TV. Captain America was serialized, but the first movie was HOWARD THE FUCKING DUCK and after that, they were like, “Okay, that was a huge bomb, what else can we do?”

Then they were like “I got an idea, lets make a Punisher movie”, the one with Dolph Lundgren (which I now feel like I have to see, regardless of how terrible it is or isn’t lol), which was also a gigantic bomb and then they were like “Okay, well let’s do a Captain America movie”. So they made this direct-to-video Captain America movie that is absolutely atrocious, definitely watch it. It was also a bomb, so they were like “Okay, none of this works, we’re totally giving up on making movies out of our comics.”

So, we fast forward to 1992 and LLCoolJ is like “Man, I love BLADE. I wanna star in a BLADE movie. So, he got Marvel to agree to option the rights to BLADE for him and they worked on this project for years and years and years trying to get it made. Obviously, it was not made because the movie we are about to watch does NOT star Ladies Love Cool James.

They ended up taking the film—-a few years went by, I think it was 96ish and they dropped LL, they asked Wesley if he was interested, he got super excited about the project.  It still took an additional two years, it took until 1998 for the movie to come out because everyone was like “There’s no way a comic book movie is going to make money”. So Marvel, they were worried about this whole thing, they were like “I got this idea, okay, let’s—instead of financing this thing ourselves, like getting in trouble, let’s just sell the rights to BLADE and let somebody else do it”.

They sold the rights to BLADE to Lionsgate. Lionsgate made this movie for 35 million dollars; it grossed $130 million. The thing made about $100 million, which is a pretty good hit. Marvel made $25,000 from this movie. That was all they ever made, they had no residuals on the film, and the success of this movie and how it equaled massive failure for them, is the reason we have the Marvel Cinematic Universe to this day. They were like “Okay, let’s not do that again!” They sold the rights to a couple of other things. Spiderman went to SONY; X-Men, Fantastic Four, things like that went in other directions, but they definitely ramped up how much they were asking for them and as years have gone by, they’ve tried to get those properties back.

So anyways, BLADE came out in 1998, and like I said, it was a modest hit, it made about $100 million, it spawned two sequels, one in 2002, that Guillermo Del Toro directed and one in 2004, BLADE TRINITY, which we all watched the shit for before (as part of the pre-screening program, they showed trailers for that film and an interview from The Pete Holmes Show with Patton Oswalt, who talked a good deal of shit about the film and Wesley Snipes in particular) and I’m just gonna straight up say right here, like I’m here with my wife and she was like “That’s the sexiest BLADE movie out of all three of them.” And I can’t deny it.

What they don’t show you in the trailer is that BLADE TRINITY is the one where he actually fights Dracula. Dracula is the main bad guy in that thing. Also, Parker Posey is the vampire queen and Triple H is in it. It’s pretty fucking awesome; I don’t care what Patton Oswalt says. The movie’s a mess, but it’s a really fun mess.

Then, two years after that, there was a BLADE TV series that a lot of you might not remember, but it was on for one season, and it starred a guy named Sticky Fingaz as BLADEand it’s actually pretty solid. It has nothing to do with the movie, they basically just tried—he’s basically doing a Snipes impersonation for the whole thing, but it’s got its own story, it’s available on God-knows-what format, but it’s actually pretty fun.

Don’ t you want to watch all the BLADE movies now, or all the Wesley Snipes movies, or all the (sigh) Stephen Dorff movies? I know I do. Tell me what you chose either in the comments or on Twitter at @Nightmar1sh or @TheKikta. Coming up next I will have a review of the hilariously bad-yet-amazing LADY STREET FIGHTER which I saw for Weird Wednesday.

Lorry Kikta
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