Updated: Nov 17
"I will be the Vampire Lestat for all to see. A symbol, a freak of nature - something loved, something despised. All of those things. I tell you I can't give it up. I can't miss. And quite frankly I am not in the least afraid."
~ Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat
I read Anne Rice's books in my late teens and they made quite an impression on me. At the time, I did not understand my own queerness, but I did know I was different. I knew I was attracted to, and identified with, all things male and masculine. The idea of two male vampires being physically intimate was an enticing one, and the subtext of these novels was thrilling. Although Rice didn't come right out and say that Lestat and Louis were lovers, in my mind they certainly were. Finding books that featured gay male intimacy, even if they were supposedly monsters, was refreshing and illuminating.
I was nervous to start watching the new AMC TV series because, so far, no retelling of this passionate story had done it justice. But this interpretation of Anne Rice's singular tale, was everything. From the very beginning, I was enthralled, and once Sam Reid's Lestat was introduced, I was completely won over. For reasons that I won't get into, I had to watch the series using a memory stick on my laptop, and any attempt to cast it to our smart TV failed to run smoothly. But even watching it on that 13" screen, the production values, acting, and soundtrack impressed me.
I joined a Facebook group for the AMC show fans, called Interview with the Vampire AMC - Uncensored Discussion and Fun, and I'm so glad to find others who are as impressed with this series as I am!
Now that I have the Blu Ray, I'm embarking on a thorough rewatch of each episode, and taking notes as I go.
As soon as I started watching Episode 1 (the first time, and every time since) I was immersed in the historical setting of New Orleans, circa 1910. Everything was just right, and evocative of a city where prostitution and gambling flourished, and grand houses with large acreages were enjoyed by the wealthy. Storyville (the Red Light District) with its separate streets for the poorer and the affluent bawdy houses, was particularly well-rendered. The Fairplay Saloon, with its outdoor patio and resident jazz band, is particularly iconic.
The dresses worn by the women in Louis' family, the bespoke suits worn by Lestat and Louis, and even the undergarments worn by the sporting women were exquisitely chosen to represent the era. I was particularly impressed with Lestat's wardrobe, transforming from old fashioned dandy to 'modern' gentleman. In the books, he always dressed well, and being the narcissist that he is, it makes sense that he would want to look attractive and put together always, even when descending the stairs of his townhouse after a night of passion.
One detail that I love from our introduction to Louis' business interests in Storyville is the pretty prostitute with the wooden leg who comes out into the street to let him know there is trouble (Bricks hitting the alderman, lol). Such an image of exactly the kind of woman who would find no place in the world but where she is, making money as a hooker, in the darkened streets of New Orleans. But she is warm and friendly with Louis, giving us the impression that he's an ethical boss who treats his employees well, even though the business itself is questionable.
During this recent viewing, I also really noticed the music and sound elements of the production. From the soft piano jazz in the gambling hall, to the Dixieland jazz used in the shuffling scene (when Louis and Paul do their tap performance at the wedding reception), to the eery string tones used in the opening sequence and during intense and creepy scenes, the soundtrack is on point. The sound effects in the church when Lestat breaks in and attacks the priest in the confessional, setting fire to the pews, and revealing his true nature to an astounded and terrified Louis, were perfect.
I'm more and more impressed with the script itself each time I watch. From scenes in Louis' impressive and modern penthouse apartment coffin in Dubai, to the townhouse in the French Quarter of New Orleans, to the seat of Louis' well-off family, these settings come alive with exquisite period design.
I loved the juxtaposition of Lestat, the clever and supernatural being who knows there is no God, and Paul, Louis' devout and mentally ill younger brother, who believes that Lestat is the devil, not understanding that neither God nor the devil exists. Is Lestat evil or simply a creature of the universe merely trying to exist fully in his truest nature?
The interplay between the denialism of religion and the seduction of physical pleasure and hedonism that Anne Rice represented so well in her books, is skillfully rendered here, too. Lestat's speech at the dinner table about how he was educated to be a priest, but his father didn't approve and abused him and beat him, and no God stepped in to save him, was a highlight for me, and I found Sam Reid's execution to be sublime.
I also enjoyed the placement of the light-hearted and joyful wedding scene, with Louis and Paul doing their tap dance routine from their younger days, right before Paul's ultimate decision the following morning, to be very effective. This was all added material and not from the books. There was no Paul in the books at all.
So Louis spirals from beautiful moments of family togetherness, into guilt and self-recrimination, and winds up in the arms of the 'devil' who is merely a creature who lives without apology and can offer him an escape into another existence. The Dark Gift that Lestat bestows upon Louis ends up being an escape from his mortality but just another trap where he finds himself struggling with his true nature and the pull of his former self.
From the central to secondary characters, every performance in this episode was spot-on.
Jacob Anderson portrays Louis as an enterprising son to a doting mother and sister. He knows his work is less than palatable, yet he is supporting his family in the fashion to which they have become accustomed. He is confused by his homosexual urges and intent on downplaying them, choosing to hang out with Lilly at the Fairplay when he desires company. His sudden interest in Lestat is shown to be something he initially resists and then gives into when Lestat presents a convenient opportunity. Although he makes his money off of hedonistic pursuits, he has been depriving himself of real satisfaction, which makes him relatively easy for Lestat to bewitch and seduce. I loved the interplay between them.
Sam Reid as Lestat is a revelation. How he manages to embody every single aspect to Lestat's personality so well, I'll never figure out. He moves from extravagant narcissism, to joyful, childlike exuberance, to sober reflection and pragmatic contemplation with the most natural ease. He truly expresses himself like a centuries old, powerful vampire, who is bored and horny and lonely, would do. I loved every minute of his performance and I found the accent was just right and gave him an old world charm.
During the final scene in the church, where Lestat kills the two priests and offers Louis the dark gift of immortal existence, is outstanding and nuanced. It's obvious he's read the original novels because he knows who Lestat is and what his motivations are.
At the end of the first episode, Louis has accepted Lestat's dark gift, and Lestat lies spent beside a stunned Louis, who gazes around the wrecked house of God with awe and wonder. Perhaps awakening to a new kind of creation - the world of the undead monster, who only has himself, and others of his kind, to answer to.
Louis' God has been destroyed and Lestat rises in his place.
This is my body. This is my blood. This is the only religion you will need from now on.
Feel free to let me know what you thought of this episode below.