Another Dirty Little Secret

As you have doubtlessly heard by now, it will not be long until Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter makes an appearance on the big screen.   Between the book and the movie, there’s been a lot of chatter about this movie.  Some people see it as funny in a bizarre way.  Others see it as a masterful exercise in marketing with the marrying together of two major obsessions (we would not expect to see Chester A. Arthur: Gnome Gatherer, for example).  I’ve heard Confederate “heritage” advocates deplore the fact that the Confederates are portrayed as vampires (and don’t you think that John Wilkes Booth is a bit of a vampire himself?).

Here’s my dirty little secret: the people who are making the movie consulted with me at several points.  That’s right … I was a historical consultant for the film, although I think that’s putting a bright face on what, after all, isn’t a story grounded in history.

It’s easy to divide my involvement into two stages, which I like to call the monumentally inconsequential and the trivially important.  In the first stage, I talked to people about the story line itself, and how to deal with some logical issues … mainly about how it seemed that if we were to be true to the theme of the story, we’d have to explain how the Confederates in the West were so much less successful than the Confederates in the East, and how did the tide in the East turned.  Perhaps the Confederate vampire detachment was limited to the East; perhaps (I ventured), Ulysses S. Grant was also a vampire hunter, and that would explain how he was able to succeed where others failed (“I don’t know what brand of garlic Grant uses,” Lincoln remarked, “but I’d sure like to know so I could send some to all my generals”).  In short, I was scrambling for explanations in light of my charge to make this fusion historical fiction as plausible (and “accurate”) as possible.

Somehow I don’t think that’s where the movie will go, for we did not build on that first long discussion.

This led to the second stage of my involvement … as someone who commented on what certain scenes might look like.  The folks were somewhat disappointed when I suggested that pirates and Native Americans were probably not walking the streets of New Orleans and  St. Louis.  I’ll be interested to see what happened to those observations.  I was never asked about Zouaves, who I think would have made a colorful addition to the story.

So all that remains for me to find out is whether my name actually appears in microscopic print in the credits.  I suspect not: the IMDb list for the film does not list my name (I have credits listed elsewhere, so this isn’t entirely vainglorious or foolish: indeed, I’m listed on one place as “Brooks D. Simpson,” while I’m simply “Brooks Simpson” in another credit).  But I thought it would be better to come clean now.  See you at the movies.

 

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17 thoughts on “Another Dirty Little Secret

  1. Last year, I was contacted by a screenwriter working on a Lincoln film who wanted to know whether or not straggling troops returning from First Bull Run would have been observed moving along Pennsylvania Avenue by the President. I replied that, according to Nicolay & Hay, AL first heard reports of the defeat from civilians returning to the capital on the evening of the 21st. That the morning of the 22nd was gloomy and raining, and some troops began crossing the bridges into the city that day, and that many of them wrote of encountering civilians in the city, but none of encountering AL, and that no record that I knew of mentioned AL seeing troops along PA Ave. or anywhere else that day. Then I was asked if it was possible he saw them from his “office window.” I said I didn’t know, because I was not familiar with the exact layout of the White House, but know it is set a good way back from PA Ave itself. I suggested that AL’s visit to Sherman’s camp after the battle might make good cinema. But she was tenacious: is it possible Lincoln could have observed the men from the foot of the White House lawn, thinking as he stood in the rain “If they can stand the rain, I can” OWTTE. He wants to raise their morale. Is that plausible? I told her sure, it’s plausible, but if you’re looking for any basis in fact for it, I can’t give you any.

    I reviewed ALVH on my blog, and pointed out a few historical gaffs (exclusive of vampirism), including Stanton as War Sec’y in the spring of 1861; Lee and Lincoln were not acquainted prior to the war as fart as I know; and a couple of other little things. And you wouldn’t believe how many hits I’ve received from folks trying to find out more about the letter written by a Mass. soldier detailing the rebel vampire regiment’s actions on Henry House Hill. I imagine the folks at Harvard, where the letter was said to reside, have fielded many inquiries – it’s probably their equivalent of Buster Kilrain.

    I’m for sure going to see this one on the big screen – looks like fun!

  2. I am a huge Civil War enthusiast and normally don’t like movies that make a mockery out of history… but this one seems so far out there I will go see it. Thanks for the heads up. Love your blog…

  3. In May, while making a first person Lincoln simulcast presentation to three middle school classrooms, I was asked at the very end of the event, ‘Are you a vampire hunter?’ I responded with: ‘All men are created equal in the fact that all men are entitled to the wages earned by their labors. If some one steals your labor then they are stealing your work, your sweat and blood. Whether it is just your work and sweat or just your blood, the thief may be understood to be a vampire.’ Light bulbs came on over the heads of the students and teachers.

  4. I consider myself a fairly serious student of history….I even have an MA in American History concentrating on the ACW. I did my thesis on Grant and his Western Campaigns. I lead Staff Rides for the US Army.

    All of that said I thoroughly enjoyed the book with tears rolling down my face from laughter. It is a hoot. I will attend the movie with my 18 year old son (who lent me the book) expecting to laugh as loud as I did at “Stripes”, “Slapshot” and “The Blues Brothers”.

    At least it isn’t any of that Harry Turtledove crap!!!

    PS: I have a lot of wood to split this summer…where can I get that axe?

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