TNB Night Owl–Deafula (1975)

Wheel of cheese cut and stacked in front of a stone wall. Photo by Alexander Maasch.

Some movies aim for as wide an audience as possible. Hollywood blockbusters and summer epics seek to appeal to anyone and everyone in hopes of raking in those coveted ticket sales. But then there are movies made for a niche. Romances aimed at middle aged women, male pixie-girl fantasies, chase films made for car fanatics who will know if the wrong sound effect is used. Rarely is a movie made for disabled audiences.

Enter DEAFULA (1975).

DEAFULA was the first feature film made entirely in American Sign Language. It was made by Peter Wolf (aka Wechsberg), a deaf writer/director, and starring a mostly deaf cast.

This movie itself is pretty entertaining. A horror-comedy, it centers around a theology student who suddenly realizes–despite having drunk blood his whole life–he may be a vampire serial killer. Director Wolf plays both the student and his hook-nosed, cape-wearing alter-ego, Deafula for both scares and laughs.

What makes this fascinating is, not only are all the characters deaf, but it builds a world where that is the norm. Pre-text messaging, there are no telephones, but TTY booths, as well as police “radios” replaced with TTYs . A foreign cop from England is mocked for his broken grasp of American Sign Language. The only “disabled” character in the film is a man who lost his hands.

If you have any interest in vampire comedies, know anyone who’s deaf, or are interested in Deaf culture, as of now YouTube is the only place to see DEAFULA (which thankfully has a voiceover for those of us not fluent in ASL). It has been uploaded in ten parts:

Question of the night: Who is your favorite vampire?

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