Remembering Vampira

Vampira_maila_nurmi_dies_lI love it that the Associated Press’ obituary for Maila "Vampira" Nurmi suggests that she was the first Goth chick. Which is probably true; certainly, the campy/vampy persona and undead-chic style she pioneered and embodied lives on among black-nail-polished gals everywhere. Nurmi, who died Thursday at the age of 85, first made an impression in the 1950s when she invented the Vampira character to host a Los Angeles-area horror-movie TV show. Her sexy succubus seemed an apparent inspiration for later horror/camp sirens like Carolyn Jones’ Morticia Addams and especially Cassandra Peterson’s Elvira, though Nurmi filed an unsuccessful $10 million lawsuit against Peterson for allegedly stealing her character.

Even if you never saw Vampira’s TV show — and few did — fans everywhere can enjoy her work in a variety of Z-grade movies, most famously, Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), in which she gives an aptly robotic performance as a zombie. Sure, the movie is terrible (it’s the ultimate so-bad-it’s-good flick), but like so much else in it, Vampira’s performance has a weird energy that’s absolutely riveting. Who knows whether she had talent as an actress; she had presence, a screen charisma that earned her generations of cult fans, and that will surely continue to astonish, delight, and haunt fans of the bizarre and macabre.

Comments (7 total) Add your comment
  • Ceballos

    Thanks for the obit Gary,
    The extent of my exposure to Vampira was Lisa Marie’s performance in Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood” (which I think is the most underrated Burton flick, and my favorite of his.)
    Don’t know if it’s true or not, but I love that the film showed that she only agreed to appear in “Plan 9″ if she was allowed to not talk.

  • ChrisChicago

    Plan 9 is still one of my favorite movies, and I have always laughed when she appears on the screen. Thanks for honoring someone who has brought pleasure to many people, even if they didn’t know her name.

  • Green

    She will be missed. I loved her roll in Plan 9.

  • Amelia

    RIP Vampira

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