Its the end of April 1983. The Batcave has been running for less than year, The Sisters of Mercy are a few weeks away from releasing The Reptile House EP and Tony Scott unleashes his directorial debut “The Hunger”, the ultra-cool vampire movie that never mentions vampires once.
In its opening moments the movie defined goth at that point in time and for many years to come.
The film begins at a night club in New York (the scene was actually filmed at Heaven in London), the house band is caged, but unlike Blues Brothers where the bars are to protect the band we get the distinct impression that this cage is to keep the band from audience.
From the darkness comes a strutting preening peacock all cheekbones and wild hair, to you and me its Peter Murphy of Bauhaus and the song they are playing is their first release from 1979, Bela Lugosi’s Dead. We get the main players credits, Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie and Susan Sarandon. Then the title. Then the bass line kicks in. That insane slow thumping bass.
The original intention had been to record a version of the song specifically for the film, but attempts to do this in the studio had failed so a live version from Hammersmith Palais recorded on 9th November 1981 was used. This version would later appear on the bands release of “This Is For When”, an incredible album which captures the band at their most vital and dangerous and is perfect for use here.
As the song starts to build we see some of the club goers, just snatched faces in the darkness dodging the strobe lights: back combed hair dancing in the shadows; sunglasses indoors in the dark.
The a close up of Deneuve: 50’s style sunglasses; red lipstick and a burning cigarette.
Then Bowie in extreme closeup, in fact its so close all we can see are sunglasses and the briefest hint of flesh, but we know its Bowie, that cat is unmistakable. The pair are surveying the scene, they appear separate from it, merely observers hiding in the shadows and watching. Deneuve speaks to Bowie and he moves his lips in response and forms a smile. They are hunting. The couple they are watching on the dance floor are already dead. They have chosen their victims.
This all takes place to Murphy’s singing which, like his actions appears to be getting more urgent. Has he seen this sequence of events before? Does he know the fate that awaits the young couple with their new admirers?
The action cuts back and forth between the foursome travelling in a car and Murphy’s ever more frantic proclamations of Lugosi’s death. A flash of stocking top, red lips, cigarettes, knowing glances, the silence in the vehicle contrasting sharply with the noise in the club as we jump backwards and forwards.
With one final “Undead” Murphy pulls his clothing around to cover his face, and he’s gone.
Does it get any more goth than this?
Many argue that if the movie had maintained this level of style and cool it would have been a box office hit, but it was not to be.
Panned by critics and let down badly by an ending that was studio led in anticipation of a possible sequel.
But what we do get is a “a slice of life” in the early eighties. The darkness, sexuality and style of goth captured in under three minutes.