Tabacco: Why do we love vampires, in particular Count Dracula? How many versions of vampire films have you seen? And how many times have you watched the same film(s)? So you think you are immune to the “Bite”? Do you really believe in vampires? Then why do you keep watching these films?
No character has spent more time on the Big Screen (except perhaps Jesus Christ) than the Transylvanian Count!
There have been some great ‘Count Draculas’ in cinema history. There have also been some awful ones. Some recent vampire entries have been so awful that I decline to even mention them in this Article, except for John Carpenter’s horrendous and totally unsatisfying entry, which was so badly done that I was able to watch only 15 minutes of it before changing the TV channel.
The Bad & The Indifferent
John Carradine was a pedestrian Count, affecting only the proper accent, but little else – though he certainly looked the part.
Christopher Lee had everything but good scripts, and the Technicolor elicited too much modern viciousness, physicality and red ketchup gore for my tastes. His Dracula was too physical and exhibited no elegance or intelligence, merely brute force. His victims fell under the strength of his physical superiority rather than the magnetism of his personality. His Dracula series is comparable to old-time Western “B” films. Chris deserved better scripts and better directors.
Blackula was so grotesque that I could not watch it from sheer embarrassment. Badly written, badly acted, and badly directed. It was just plain bad!
I don’t even remember the Francis Lederer version; but I did see it.
The Classic & The Supreme
The original weird-looking “Nosferatu” (1922):
Max Schreck, as Count Dracula, is totally disgusting in appearance throughout the entire film. It is an effective film, but Hollywood learned that a sometimes-appealing vampire played better to audiences. Nobody could root for Max Schreck.
“Nosferatu”, A Silent Masterpiece by F.W. Murnau
The earliest surviving screen adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel has had a long and dangerous life of its own. Almost destroyed by Stoker’s widow because of copyright infringement, this film has outlasted many others of the silent era. There are many new releases of Nosferatu and all this goes to show that, “You can’t keep a good vampire down.”
Nosferatu and Nazism
While the thesis of Nazism necessitates an elaborate politico-historical explication that those interested may study in Kracauer’s book, it’s clear that the vampire symbolizes Hitler. Nosferatu leaves his country to spread his power abroad. His bite makes puppets of his victims, servants body and soul to their powerful master, blinded fanatics that represent the German people, while Knock, his servant abroad, is perhaps comparable to a collaborator. The rats the Count brings with him in his boat to propagate in the foreign county, carrying with them the plague, symbolize the Nazi ideology that spreads throughout Europe. Furthermore, this is confirmed when one knows that Nazism was also qualified as a black plague in its time. By this very fact, Nosferatu is without a doubt a visionary film, Murnau’s camera serving as a sort of crystal ball projecting to the world the director’s warning in regards to a somber future.
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
Directed by Werner Herzog
Starring Klaus Kinski as the Count and Isabelle Adjani as Lucie
Herzog paid homage to Murnau and created an even better film. While Kinski is no less disgusting to look at than Max Schreck, he does convey pathos and engender some pity, albeit not much. Kinski’s presence among the populace is less ridiculous somehow than Schreck’s. Kinski’s interpretation is more human, vulnerable and pathetic.
Isabelle Adjani is also marvelous and treacherously heroic to save the man she loves.
If you have never seen the Herzog-Kinski film, look for it on TV or rent it from BlockBuster.
Homage must be paid to Willem Dafoe, who played Max Schreck playing Nosferatu. The film was more about Schreck than Dracula, but his performance rates a look-see.
Willem Dafoe as Max Schreck in ‘Shadow of the Vampire’ 2000
Willem Dafoe as himself
According to ‘Shadow of the Vampire’, Schreck needed no makeup and was a functioning vampire, himself, who was homicidal both on and off the screen. Dafoe and John Malkovich as F. W. Murnau make this film worthwhile for vampire aficionados with the added uncertainty of trying to assess how much truth there is to the Schreck myth.
Frank Langella’s complete domination over his prey with his self-assurance and style, paired with Laurence Olivier as Van Helsing yielded probably the best Dracula production ever. @The names of the two female characters were changed in this production (as were the Nosferatu entries). Mina is killed off quickly, and Lucy remains the Count’s paramour. Kate Nelligan and Isabelle Adjani (Nosferatu the Vampyre) are the best of the Dracula prima divas, regardless of the name switch. Both were Lucie, not Mina.
Langella is no Max Schreck!
Olivier, unlike Hopkins, played Van Helsing as if he believed it. The older Olivier got, the better he was allowed to act. Hopkins is in Olivier’s class, but his pitiful Van Helsing will always bring him down just a little. Unlike Olivier, Hopkins does his best acting only when he is the Star and believes his role is worth his time!
Gary Oldman’s Tour de Force, bravura performance deserved an Oscar – but no Dracula will ever earn that reward. In spite of Anthony Hopkins “camping it up” as Van Helsing, and the miscast Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker, the music alone is to die for. It is by far the best score of any vampire flick now or anytime in the future.
Winona Ryder gives her best and only worthwhile screen performance to my knowledge. (I was wrong! I have since seen her performance in ‘The Age Of Innocence’ – I can see no other actress in that part!) She is natural and believable, though her Mina is still third to Kate Nelligan’s and Isabelle Adjani’s Lucie (the name switch). But for Hopkins (he played Van Helsing for high camp) and Reeves unfortunate casting, this would rank as the number one Dracula of all time. I am not sure whether Hopkins had no respect for the story or just realized that this was Oldman’s picture.
Definitely not the High Point of Hopkins career!
In this film Hopkins was not Hopkins. He was Monte Woolley!
But Oldman steals the picture and rightly so! He is grotesque, suave, malevolent, charming, frightening and a tortured soul carrying a torch of love-denied for centuries. Gary Oldman is one of the very best of the current crop of screen actors. Oldman is now what Dustin Hoffman was: versatile, talented and a genius. His performance makes Reeves’ efforts look even worse than they were. Keanu should never have taken any role opposite Oldman. Sadie Frost, as Lucy, is the best of all-time of the second female Dracula leads.@
There are so many scenes in ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’, which are memorable and unnerving. The opening war sequence, blood spilling out of the religious Icon, Dracula’s long red robe/train, Dracula crawling up the side of the building, Dracula moving about without walking, Dracula moving in one direction while his shadow moves in the opposite, Oldman’s makeup (particularly his wig and long nails), the bedroom scene when the vampire maidens come through the bedding and ravage Keanu, the London street scene when Dracula meets Mina, the Cinematograph, Mina petting the white wolf, Lucy’s playful seduction of all the men, the erotic scene in the garden between Dracula (as a beast) and Lucy, Lucy’s death scene, the ending sequence with Dracula’s death at the hands of his beloved, and of course there is always that simply marvelous music! Annie Lennox’s “Love Song For A Vampire” is simply magnificent.
http://ferncanyonpress.com/vampires/photos.shtml – Oldman and Ryder accomplished the most realistic, tragic love affair ever in a vampire film – bar none! The casting of these two was inspired.
Can you imagine Max Schreck with Winona in this scene!
The musical score was composed by Wojciech Kilar.
Audition music clips from the movie and
Purchase the CD $7.69 at the website below:
‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ must be seen!
Bram Stoker’s Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola 1992
Even George Hamilton’s humorous “Love At First Bite” was great fun, though the accent needed more work – but who’s quibbling. Hamilton ranks with the best as a humorous Drac.
All Renfields are necessarily camp figures. But I still prefer the 1931 edition, Dwight Frye. Perhaps Anthony Hopkins should have played Renfield.
With the exception of the Christopher Lee and Max Schreck interpretations, all the Draculas generally elicit from us some sympathy, identification and a rooting interest. Indeed, beginning with Bela Lugosi there is a great deal of amorous and erotic stimulation bestowed upon the Count.
TV’s “Forever Night” and Anne Rice’s “Interview With A Vampire” are both excellent and favorites of mine. But since we are focusing on Dracula, those two will not be discussed at this time.
In spite of all the competition and better performances by more gifted actors, Lugosi is still the name most people mention when anyone speaks of Dracula. And most importantly, it was done in Black & White. That can only augment the danger and audience fright. And it is further dated because of stationary cameras, which actually adds to the 1800s-period realism. Lugosi, by 1931, was not in physical condition to lift ingénues as others have done. So an actor, whose performance was not even the best Dracula, whose campiness outdoes both Hopkins and Hamilton, is nevertheless the performer, who stars in this Article. No one can ignore or forget Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. “I never drink – – – – wine”.
Memorable Quotes from Dracula (1931)
Count Dracula: For one who has not lived even a single lifetime, you’re a wise man, Van Helsing.
Renfield: No, no, master. I wasn’t going to say anything, I told them nothing. I am loyal to you master.
Martin: Aren’t you ashamed now? Aren’t you? Spiders now, is it? Flies ain’t good enough!
Renfield: Flies? Flies? Poor puny things! Who wants to eat flies?
Martin: You do, you loony!
Renfield: Not when I can get nice fat spiders!
Martin: All right, have it your own way.
Count Dracula: Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make.
Count Dracula: This is very old wine. I hope you will like it.
Renfield: Aren’t you drinking?
Count Dracula: I never drink wine.
Count Dracula: To die, to be really dead, that must be glorious!
Mina Seward: Why, Count Dracula!
Count Dracula: There are far worse things awaiting man than death.
Lucy Weston: Lofty timbers, the walls around are bare, echoing to our laughter as though the dead were there… Quaff a cup to the dead already, hooray for the next to die!
Van Helsing: The strength of the vampire is that people will not believe in him.
Maid: He’s crazy!
Martin: They’re all crazy. They’re all crazy except you and me. Sometimes I have my doubts about you.
Mina Seward: …I heard dogs howling. And when the dream came, it seemed the whole room was filled with mist. It was so thick, I could just see the lamp by the bed, a tiny spark in the fog. And then I saw two red eyes glaring at me. And a white livid face came down out of the mist. It came closer and closer. I felt its breath on my face and then its lips… oh!
Renfield: [overhearing Van Helsing discussing vampires] Isn’t this a strange conversation, for people who aren’t crazy?
Count Dracula: Come here! [tries to hypnotize Van Helsing and fails] Your will is strong.
[tries to attack]
Van Helsing: [takes out a crucifix without fear] Indeed.
Mina Seward: [doing an impression of Dracula] It reminds me of the broken battlements of my own castle in Transylvania.
Renfield: He came and stood below my window in the moonlight. And he promised me things, not in words, but by doing them.
Renfield: You know too much to live, Van Helsing!
Dracula on film is over 100 years old!
Bram Stoker, the author
Not the vampire but the novel. Dracula was first published in 1897, making 1997 its 100th anniversary. To help celebrate, Fern Canyon has put the book online.
Yes, that’s right. Now you can download the entire unabridged text of this great novel absolutely free! It’s yours for the taking. You can download it now, or if you’re short on disk space, you can come here and read it online whenever you want.
International Profile: “Bela Lugosi: Hollywood’s Dark Prince” – TV
Richard Kiley, Narrator
“He was the epitome of the suave, cultured European actor. His continental manners, dark good looks and imposing presence made him an ideal candidate for the kind of romantic heroes he longed to play.
But for millions of audiences around the world, Bela Lugosi would forever be associated with one role, that of the blood-thirsty Transylvanian aristocrat, Count Dracula.
Ironically, it was in Transylvania on October 20, 1882, in the quiet town of Lugoj, Hungary, that Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó was born. Bela was the youngest of four children.”
Bela’s banker father, a strict disciplinarian, and Bela had a very contentious and competitive relationship. Bela left home at age 12. His stage name “Lugosi” was a derivation of Lugoj, the town where he was born.
Kiley: But despite this newly found notoriety, Lugosi’s heavily accented speech typed him to play foreigners, and usually villainous ones. It was a devastating blow to an actor, who had always prided himself on range and versatility.
In 1927, Bela Lugosi was offered the leading role in the hit British stage play that was headed to Broadway. Tired of playing villainous stereotypes and disappointed by the part’s lack of dialogue, he rejected the invitation. But when Raymond Huntley?, the actor, who had originated the part in London, also turned it down, Lugosi was asked to reconsider. The decision, he made, would change his life forever.
On arrival in America, the 1.85 m (6’1″), 82 kg (180 lb) Lugosi worked for some time as a laborer, then returned to the theater within the Hungarian-American community. He was spotted there and approached to star in a play adapted by John Balderston from Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. The production was very successful. Despite his excellent notices in the title role, Lugosi had to campaign vigorously for the chance to repeat his stage success in Tod Browning’s movie version of Dracula (1931), produced by Universal Pictures.
A persistent rumor asserts that silent-film actor Lon Chaney, Sr. was originally scheduled for this film role, and that Lugosi was chosen only due to Chaney’s death. Chaney, however, was under long-term contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and his home studio refused to release him to Universal for this project. Further, although Chaney and Browning had worked together on several projects, Browning was only a last-minute choice to direct the movie version of Dracula: this film was not a long-time pet project of Tod Browning, despite some claims to the contrary.
Following the success of Dracula (1931), Lugosi received a studio contract with Universal.
Through his association with Dracula (in which he appeared with minimal makeup, using his natural, heavily accented voice), Lugosi found himself typecast as a horror villain in such movies as Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Raven, and Son of Frankenstein for Universal, and the independent White Zombie.
Despite the fact that Lugosi was not interested in the role of Frankenstein’s monster due to lack of dialogue and make-up, it is a myth Lugosi declined the offer to appear in Frankenstein. James Whale, the film’s director, replaced Lugosi and would do this again in The Bride of Frankenstein (Lugosi was supposed to play the role of Dr. Pretorius). A recent Lugosi scrapbook (see external link below) surfaced with a newsclipping listing both Lugosi and Boris Karloff in the film together. This gives credence to the possibility that Lugosi was going to play the role of Dr. Frankenstein. And in an interview with the cinematographer who shot test footage of Lugosi for the role of the monster, he testified that Lugosi was happy with the role and gave him a box of cigars.
Regardless of controversy, the role was taken by the man who became Lugosi’s principal rival in horror films, Boris Karloff. Several films at Universal, such as The Black Cat (1934), The Raven (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939) paired Lugosi with Karloff. Regardless of the relative size of their roles, Lugosi inevitably got second billing, below Karloff. Lugosi’s attitude toward Karloff is the subject of contradictory reports, some claiming that he was openly resentful of Karloff’s long-term success and ability to get good roles beyond the horror arena, while others suggested the two actors were — for a time, at least — good friends.
Attempts were made to give Lugosi more heroic roles, as in The Black Cat, The Invisible Ray, and a small role in the comedy classic Ninotchka opposite Greta Garbo, but did not help him break out of the “type” into which he had been placed.
Kiley: “On October 5th, 1927, Bela Lugosi’s performance in “Dracula” took Broadway by storm. At the age of 44, and with hundreds of stage and screen roles behind him, Bela Lugosi had become a Star! “
Ronald V. Borst, Archivist/Film Historian: “Bela Lugosi is perhaps the most outstanding purveyor of a very stylized, highly theatrical, melodramatic type of screen villainy that we hadn’t seen prior to his type of portrayals and we haven’t seen since.
Lugosi, in his interpretation of Dracula, we have a marriage of sex and death. And I think that our ongoing fascination with both sex and death is very significant in his career and why he has become a cultural icon.”
Kiley: “He enjoyed a lavish Hollywood lifestyle, often living beyond his means. He savored the best wines, smoked the finest cigars and dined at expensive restaurants. But a scant year after his triumph in “Dracula”, Bela was forced to file for bankruptcy. The role, he had so badly wanted, had become a trap. In the public’s mind, Lugosi was Dracula.”
By the time Lugosi’s English had improved to the Greta Garbo level, opportunity had passed him by.
Bela was addicted to drugs and had a basically unhappy life. But like Marilyn Monroe, who wanted to be an actress, not just a sex-symbol, Lugosi wanted to be a matinee idol early on and an actor. Neither achieved his or her ultimate goal, but both will be remembered long after their contemporaries are forgotten. And their movies grant both eternal youth. Bela Lugosi died August 16, 1956.
Psychology & Allegories of the Dracula Myth
What woman does not yearn to be ravaged by a passionate satyr and forced to do wicked things and commit unspeakable acts, even if only in her own mind?
The line between neck biting and erotic sex is not just blurred, it is completely obliterated in Frank Langella’s ‘Dracula’.
Is it any wonder that the Count and his brethren have been depicted so many, many times on film and TV? There is a plethora of subjects, overt and covert, which can be read into the vampire myth:
The conflict between Good and Evil, the instructive lesson that no Evil is totally without redeeming value and no Good is without its inherent Evil, sensuality, erotic sexual fantasy, anonymous sexual encounter, seduction, homoeroticism, pedophilia, monomania, mental illness, sadomasochism, helplessness, corruption of another human being, domination, subservience, morality, immorality, war, philosophy, the meaning of life, never-ending love, eternal youth and life, reincarnation, platonic friendship, AIDS, HIV transmission & other sexually transmitted diseases, degenerative disease, murder, selfishness, fear, vengeance, family, polygamy, religion and sin, retribution and atonement for sin, folklore, human metamorphosis, mind control of animals, hypnosis, sacrifice, bias, humor, sarcasm, joy, suffering, hope, life, political symbolism, depravity and death are all endemic to the Dracula Myth.
The next time Hollywood produces a good vampire flick, you can bet Tabacco will be watching.
‘Dracula’s Daughter 1936’, starring Gloria Holden, has the most sensuous Lesbian scene in film without Nudity or Simulated Sex. Gloria should have become a Major Star, but considering the period she was lucky to do a Western film after this. And after playing Dracula’s daughter to the sexual hilt, what could she possibly have done for an encore!
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