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August 2, 2011

"So You Want To Be A Monster?" Episode 2 - Jerry Dandrige

I believe it was an '80s musician who once said "When the iron's hot, you must whip it."  (He also accused me of mixing up my quotes, but I deny any knowledge of such things.)  The point? Well, the point is that I had so much fun with Episode 1 of "So You Want To Be A Monster?" last week that I just had to do it again.  And, with a remake on its way, I couldn't think of a better contestant to invite to the show than THIS GUY.  (Also, Morgan of The Kid In The Hall recommended him, so there's that too.)
Jerry Dandrige
As played by Chris Sarandon in Fright Night.
Let's learn a little more about our contestant!
His youth is a bit of a mystery, but when creature of the night Jerry Dandrige hits the town in the '80s - what music he makes.  Accompanied by his manservant Billy - who looks like what would happen if Kevin Bacon was dipped in radioactive sleaze - and an impressive array of sweaters and scarves, Jerry Dandrige finds horror films amusing and has an appetite for women who look like this.
Oh, and he's a suave vampire, mofos.
The Criteria:
Each contestant will be given a score of 1-4 (1 being Not Monstrous, 4 being Incredibly Monstrous) on five core traits that could define any monster.  The total of all five ratings will be added up and turned into a percentage to form the contestant's "Monster Rating", which will show us just how much of a monster they really are.  A Monster Rating of 80 or above is fantastic, a Monster rating of 60 or above is solid, and anything under 60 means that monster might have some glaring weaknesses.
Monster Rating Category 1: Physical Prowess
It's kind of hard to gauge Jerry Dandrige's physical prowess.  I mean, on the one hand there's his physical prowess...and on the other hand there's his *wink wink nudge nudge* physical prowess.  I mean, this was the '80s, and Chris Sarandon - for whatever reason - was kind of what a sexy '80s vampire was supposed to be.  I don't get it, mostly because I'm a heterosexual male, but it must be stated.  And, while much of the film is about his physical prowess - like when he lifts heroic teenager Charlie up by the throat with one hand and rips a nailed shut window open with the other - a very large portion of the film is about that *wink wink nudge nudge* side of the character. The film doesn't work if Jerry isn't able to crush Charlie's awkward attempts at sexuality just as much as he can crush him physically - and in that regard I'd say Jerry Dandrige gets a Totally Monstrous rating that's worth 3 points.
Monster Rating Category 2: Destructive Capabilities
I already mentioned that Jerry's physical strength has its upside, considering his ability to rip nails from wood, though it is possible that little Charlie Brewster isn't the best with a hammer.  That said, I have to give Jerry a little bit of a critique here.  I mean, he spends a lot of the movie overpowering people - and his psychological ability to manipulate others is a bit destructive - but I can't help feeling that his opponents hurt my ability to call him truly destructive. I mean, he's taking on a teenage nerd, a past his prime faux-Cushing, and Marcy Darcy from Married With Children...and he still doesn't dominate his foes, even with a creepy manservant that turns into goo.  I'm just not sure what to think there, so I'm gonna have to bump his rating in this category down to Partially Monstrous, which is worth 2 points for his score.
Monster Rating Category 3: Psychology & Motivation
Man, I keep tipping my hat to the next category, don't I?  Well, I'm just that excited, because I think this is where Jerry Dandrige really shines.  I mean, we know he's not a traditional monster - he's not scary looking most of the time and he's somehow less villainous than he was in The Princess Bride (HUMPERDINK!), but Jerry Dandrige works because you get the constant feeling that he's smarter than everyone else.  Worse, we start to realize over time that he's smarter than everyone else because he has some sort of ability to control people.  And that scene with him using his powers to win over Evil Ed? SO INCREDIBLY SAD.  In fact, Evil Ed is one of the most tragic horror characters ever.  I'm gonna write about that some day.  But right now, I'll just say that Jerry Dandrige's psyche - even if his grand goal is to get with Marcy Darcy, who's gross - creeps me the heck out.  It's Incredibly Monstrous, and worth 4 points.
Monster Rating Category 4: Good Ol' Creepiness
We've established that Jerry has a mental edge that goes along with the standard vampire physical power that you'd expect, but is he really that creepy?  Well, that kinda depends on how you're looking at the dude.  Is he as unsettling as Bela Lugosi? Nah.  Is he as unpredictable as The Lost Boys? Nope.  Is he as dominating as Christopher Lee? Not really.  From some standpoints, you could look at Jerry Dandrige and go - "Man, he's just a some funky clothes" - and you'd be right.

However, I do think there's something creepy about just how normal Jerry seems, even while we know that he's got some severe vampire issues.  I mean, the guy seems like your normal Chris Sarandon next door, but....we know he's not.  And I guess that's the only thing I really find creepy about Jerry Dandrige, which isn't much more than Partially Monstrous.  I'd say it's worth 2 points.
Monster Rating Category 5: External Factors
I've spent a lot of time talking about why Jerry Dandrige works as a vampire - because in general I do think the character works really well - but I'd be ashamed if I didn't reward him based on a couple of things I haven't fully covered.  Let's get bullet style!
  • Firstly, Jerry Dandrige knows how to pick the right allies for his evil game.  Billy, that sleazy manservant, is a perfect example of this.  Jerry could have went out and got an Igor or a Renfield, but instead he got the human equivalent of a Hound of Hell, who always has his eyes open for danger and who has a pretty good bark for scaring teenage kids away while the master sleeps.
  • Secondly, Jerry Dandrige picks good snacks.  Any red-blooded male knows that the female victims in horror films are generally far more interesting (read as: attractive) than the survivor girls (I keep harping on this, but Marcy Darcy? Really?).  In the case of Fright Night, let's just say that Jerry's short haired prostitute victims are pretty much the best kind of prostitute victims there are.
And there's also the '80s factor, which makes Jerry just a bit cooler than he should be.  Add all this up, and I'd say the external factors around Jerry - when you consider the time in which the film was made - are Incredibly Monstrous.  4 Points.

The Monster Rating: 
 2 Partially Monstrous ratings (2 points each); 1 Totally Monstrous rating (3 points each) and 2 Incredibly Monstrous ratings (4 points each) - for a total score of 15.  When divided by the total amount of points possible (20), we find that..... 
Jerry Dandrige has a Monster Rating of 75
What It Means:
I might be overrating Jerry Dandrige slightly because of how much I totally love Fright Night, but he's just such a unique presence in the vampire scene. We sometimes forget his physical strength because he's so busy using his psychological and sexual charms to seem so suave, yet I don't think he's simply the '80s answer to Lugosi or Lee. There's nothing derivative about the character - just like the film - and I think that's why my ratings of Jerry Dandrige are so positive. I mean, can you think of anyone else you'd rather see face off with the great Peter Vincent? Well, OK, I'll give you The Blob. But after that, no one.

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