It’s Only a Costume (Martin, 1976)
Martin is one of the more interesting vampire films of the 70’s. Martin believes himself to be a vampire. It does not help that his family feeds this belief. He has faced exorcisms and now is being sent to live with his cousin Cuda. Cuda calls Martin Nosferatu and has filled his house garlic and crosses. Cuda’s daughter is less impressed with the family’s old world beliefs.
As he approaches his first victim in the film, he gets flashes in black and white that show his perception. He envisions entering a room and being welcomed by a beautiful woman in lingerie. The reality is she is wearing face cream and in a mundane robe. And rather than reach out to him, she is understandably horrified. There are flashbacks to his past as well (also in black and white). These are very effective ways of bringing the viewer into the mind of Martin.
Martin is also haunted by the voice of a relative who was believed by the family to be a vampire as well, and had committed suicide. Presenting a evidence for the viewer that Martin is not a supernatural being is his lack of fangs. He attains his blood not through entrancing his victims, but drugging them. He has no fangs, rather uses a razor blade to draw blood. Martin claims he is 84 years old, but there is no evidence to back this up. He has no physical reaction to the traditional weapons of garlic or crucifixes.
Cuda represents the old school, classic vampire film, but he is trapped in a modern and faithless world of vampires. The final act of the film is Martin discussing his vampirism with a talk radio host using the name “The Count”. This is juxtaposed with Martin’s mundane life, as he laments how hard it is to choose a victim.
The film ends both tragically and ambiguously, with voices on the radio asking what has happened to the Count. Martin is a strong entry into the world of Vampire Cinema. Romero explores the vampire myth through skeptical eyes, which really works in the film’s favor,