As I sucked the plasma from her jugular, I realized that something embarrassing was happening a few feet lower.

Hormones and Celluloid

illustration by Mitch Ansara

Hollywood mogul Robert Evans once gave some sound advice to aspiring actresses. “If you’re ever approached with the line, ‘You ought to be in pictures, I’m a producer,’ tell the guy to fuck off. He’s a fraud, and the pictures he wants to put you in don’t play in theaters.”

He’s absolutely correct. I know this for a fact, because I used to be one of those “producers.” I was in the movie business for a short time during the late ’70s, so I know what it’s like to sweet-talk starlets with hollow promises. But in my defense, I didn’t fully comprehend the depravity of my profession.

I mean, c’mon, I was only ten.

Though my brother and I never expressed an interest in films or filmmaking, our grandmother gave us both 8-millimeter cameras for our respective birthdays. I’m pretty sure she did it out of spite – not directed at us, but at our parents, whom she considered “uppity” (i.e., unimpressed with her money and the intellectual authority she supposed it gave her). What better way to show her displeasure than by monopolizing her grandchildren’s affection? When she failed to wow us with spätzle, boiled to a flavorless mush (like all German cuisine), she decided to buy our love.

Not surprisingly, it worked. Every child, if given the chance, is a whore.

Being in possession of such an expensive camera, I had an epiphany about my future. I wanted to be a movie director. I idolized George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, whose names I’d recently learned. My path was clear: I’d been put on this earth to make the film classics of tomorrow. I would create the next Raiders of the Lost Ark. Or the next Jaws. Or even better, a combination of the two. Man-eating sharks battling Nazis! I was just the visionary to bring that eye-melting spectacle to the screen.

Sadly, my dreams of cinematic glory were all-too-quickly snuffed out. My feature debut – a less overtly brawny version of The Incredible Hulk – was a disaster, due mostly to my inability to wink. I can close both eyes, but not just one. The dailies were useless – I had nothing but long, lingering shots of trees or a patch of grass just to the left or right of the actors. Occasionally the cast would try to jump into frame, but I always pulled the lens away before catching any of the action.

I didn’t mind giving up the directing duties to my brother. He had better instincts, and an almost superhuman control of his eyelids. I preferred acting anyway. That’s where my passion lay. That and producing. I loved helping my brother storyboard his shots, and collect the perfect props, and learn obscure filmmaking terminology. Our favorite phrase was “We’ll fix it in post” – a hopeful prediction, especially given that our editing facility consisted of a cement block and a razor blade.

But above all, I loved helping him pick the cast. There was a power that came with deciding which of our friends would get the meatiest roles. “You’ve got a nice energy,” we’d say to the school bully during cattle calls. “But the camera adds ten pounds. Think you can drop some of that girth in a week?”

illustration by Mitch Ansara

We did mostly remakes. We didn’t have much luck with originals. Our first project as a filmmaking team was a sci-fi thriller called Battle Beyond the Universe, which suffered a premature death because of creative differences. I argued that the title was absurd, as there was technically nothing “beyond” the universe. My brother shot down all of my rewrite suggestions – Battle Beyond the Galaxy, Battle in a Black Hole, Battle Near That Big Celestial Body Over There – and it ended in a stalemate.

Like the most cunningly run Hollywood studio, we learned from our mistakes. Rather than churn out more flicks with new and untested stories, we just made our own half-assed remakes of the most popular movies of the day. The Sting. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And of course, the Star Wars trilogy.

Casting was easy. Scott Saunders, with his rugged good looks and willingness to punch anybody smaller than him, was a natural as Han Solo. Mike Charter, who was just one color-coordinated sweater away from being entirely orange, was C-3PO. My brother was Luke, because he had the shag and, more importantly, final cut. And I played Chewbacca, not for my hair, but because I was tallest.

But we had no Princess Leia. This was probably because we didn’t know any girls. I mean, we knew them, we just didn’t talk to them.

Desperate times called for desperate measures. With our parents’ assistance, we managed to set up a meeting with a girl down the block named Suzie. She didn’t have any acting experience, but she was a brunette and she was, as none of us would ever have admitted under even the most severe torture, kinda hot. Hot in a prepubescent girl sort of way. Hot as only a ten-year-old boy could appreciate. Meaning, publicly with indifferent shrugs and privately with lurid fantasies involving robot slaves and blasters and her dressed in a slutty Leia bikini.

My brother and I spent an afternoon at Suzie’s house, lounging by her pool and talking with her mom about Suzie’s imminent stardom. Actually, her mom did most of the talking. When we left, we were confident that we’d sealed the deal. We had devoted an entire day to swimming with her, and listening to her parents lecture us about curfews. And, because we were gentlemen, we treated her the same way that we wanted to be treated: like an amputee panhandler in the subway. We avoided all eye contact with her, and I think she respected us for it.

Weeks went by, and we never got the call. Finally, her dad phoned our dad and delivered the boom. It was a pass. Suzie wished us well with our Star Wars project, but she regrettably would not be able to participate.

We did the movie without Leia, and, remarkably, the plot still held together. Granted, we’d whittled it down to a concise six-minute segment involving Darth Vader, played by repertory cast member Andy Kalchik, getting pelted with dozens of cardboard boxes. (Yes, I’m aware that this isn’t a scene from the actual movie. It was conceptual piece.)

illustration by Mitch Ansara

Months passed, and just as we’d forgotten the whole debacle, we got a call from Suzie herself. She wanted to be in one of our movies. Panicking that we might lose her yet again, my brother and I put a second-tier script into quick turnaround. I’d been working on a retelling of the Dracula legend, but hadn’t gotten further than “Dracula walks into bedroom, bites sexy lady on the neck.” For our purposes – and our budget (8-millimeter film cost a lot in 1979) – it seemed like enough to greenlight the project.

We delivered the script to her and she hastily agreed. For lack of any competition, she got the female lead – which, for convenience, we’d renamed “Suzie.” And in an undeserved turn of good fortune, I was cast as Dracula. Not because I was in any way suited for the role, but because I owned my own Dracula cape and vampire fangs. (It’d been an unusually fortuitous Halloween season.)

On the day of the shoot, I was a little nervous. I’d never been in such close proximity to a girl before, and I was terrified of repulsing her. To be on the safe side, I doused myself in my dad’s aftershave lotion. I even used it as hair gel, which didn’t go so well. It left me with an oily Gordon Gecko look. I guess it worked for the part – the extra sleaze made my Dracula super creepy – but it didn’t exactly put Suzie at ease.

The moment of truth arrived. The camera was rolling, and I climbed onto the bed, hovering over Suzie like a creature of the night, albeit a creature of the night that was easily intimidated by the opposite sex. I leaned closer, sinking my fake fangs into her soft, tan neck. She writhed in pretend ecstasy/pain. It was a convincing performance. Too convincing. As I continued to suck the plasma from her jugular, I realized that something really, really embarrassing was happening just a few feet lower.

I had a boner.

It wasn’t a typical, run-of-the-mill boner either. It was a boner that refused to be ignored. The kind of boner that can open locked doors. A boner like a karate chop. A boner that alters your entire body chemistry. A boner that wants to evolve and grow opposable thumbs and develop its own civilization. A boner that could get you expelled from school.

I don’t think anybody in the film crew saw it. But Suzie felt it. How could she not? It was like I was jabbing a garden hoe into her ribs. Her face convulsed into an expression of pain and outrage.

“Ouch,” she yelled, loud enough for everybody in the room to hear. “What the heck is that? It hurts!”

I didn’t dare move. If I slid off the bed, my lack of professionalism would be … hard to miss. But for anybody paying attention, it was pretty obvious what was happening. Though I was lying horizontally across Suzie, my lower half was clearly elevated at a higher angle. It was an affront to the laws of gravity. Something was keeping me aloft, and it didn’t take an advanced understanding of calculus to figure out what that might be.

When she’d had quite enough of my unwelcome pecker-poking, Suzie pushed me away and ran out of the room. I covered myself with a handful of pillows and hoped for the best. If my brother had any idea that I’d more or less thrown Suzie from the bed like a penile catapult, he wasn’t letting on.

“I shoulda known this was gonna happen,” he said, rolling his eyes. “She was flakey from the beginning.”

“So true,” I agreed, trying to concentrate on unsexy thoughts. “Her heart just wasn’t in it.”

We waited there for a few minutes, maybe half-expecting her to come back. And then my brother threw up his hands and said, “Okay, that’s a wrap. Let’s take five, and then I’m gonna need twenty to thirty cardboard boxes and Andy dressed like Darth Vader. We’re doin’ a sequel.”

I smiled. My boner wasn’t going anywhere, but it appeared that the movie didn’t need me anymore. As the crew broke down the set and prepared for the next shoot, I just sat on the bed and enjoyed the throbbing in my pants, imagining that Suzie was still lying underneath me. Only this time, she liked it.

And that, in a nutshell, is why I can’t watch a Dracula movie without getting an erection.

Eric Spitznagel is hiding under his bed in St. Augustine and is a geek for ghost stories because he currently lives in a town that appears to be entirely haunted.

Mitch Ansara (aka Spacesick) is a freelance illustrator in Toledo, Ohio, and a geek for movies, TV, music, and everything ’80s because his mama raised him right.