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Halloween Horror Celebration--Part 2...Vampires

Updated on April 3, 2011

Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula

The second part of my Halloween Monster study

Continuing my dissertation on famous monsters of filmland, this time, I'm discussing vampires but more specifically, the big kahuna of all vampiredom...Dracula!

Dracula and the vampires.

The origins of the legend of vampires is difficult to pinpoint but stories of blood-drinking demons go back to Mesopotamia and ancient Greece. The name is possibly derived from the Turkish word 'Ubyr' (meaning 'Witch') which morphed over time into the German 'Vampir' or the French 'Vampyre.'

However, the classic Vampire as we know it today developed in the 19th century, starting with John Polidori's 1819 book "The Vampyre". This book was influential because it introduced the classy, nobleman vampire, an image which is still associated with vampires today.

One of the most famous vampire novels was Sheridan Le Fanu's 1871 novel "Carmilla", about a lesbian vampire who prayed on lonely women. By this point, women were being portrayed as the preferred victims of Vampires.

But the ultimate Vampire moment came in 1897 when Bram Stoker published the definitive vampire story, "Dracula". Over 100 years later, no vampire is more well known world wide than the ubiquitous Dracula. The titular blood-sucker was loosely based on notorious Transylvania born Vlad Teppes the 3rd of Wallachia, also known as Vlad Dracul (Meaning Vlad the Dragon because of his bravery in battle) or Vlad the Impaler (because he's rumored to have killed as many as 40,000 thousand people--either enemy soldiers or political rivals or civilian dissidents--via his favorite method of slow death...impaling them!) Although not specifically stated, there are enough hints to support the theory that Prince Vlad was the inspiration for Dracula.

Movies about Dracula and vampires:

The first vampire film was the silent classic "Nosferatu" (1922) which means "undead". Originally intended to be a cinematic adaptation of Stoker's 'Dracula', legal problems led to the name change and the main character was called Count Orlock. Orlock was a creepy, rodent-like being, far from the classy gentleman of the novel.

The first film version of Dracula was inspired more by the successful Broadway play of the 1920's rather than Stoker's novel, but regardless of that, "Dracula" (1931) was a huge success and has since achieved a legendary status, mostly because of the iconic performance by horror movie legend Bela Lugosi. Even now, almost 80 years later, its nearly impossible to think of Dracula without picturing the image of Lugosi's pale face and hearing his broken Hungarian accent. Rarely has a character and actor ever been so indelibly linked.

Lugosi refused to play Dracula again in the sequel "Dracula's Daughter" (1936) so the movie was made without the Count. A good vampire never stays dead, and Dracula returned in "Son of Dracula" (1943) starring Lon Chaney Jr as the Count. (Chaney has the honor of being the only actor to play Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein and the Mummy.) The two classic monster-mash cross-overs came next; "The House of Frankenstein" (1944) and "the House of Dracula" (1945), both featuring David Carradine as Dracula. The final Monster-mash was the hilarious horror parody "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948) which marked the second and final time that Bela Lugosi portrayed his most famous role. David Carradine would play Dracula once more in the campy, low budget flick "Billy the Kid vs. Dracula". (1966)

The man who played Dracula more often than anyone else is British horror star Christopher Lee. Lee played the vampire count 7 times, often co-starring with his frequent horror collaborator Peter Cushing as vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing, beginning with "the Horror of Dracula" (1959). The six sequels were "Dracula: Prince of Darkness" (1966); "Dracula Has Risen From the Grave" (1968); "Taste the Blood of Dracula" (1969); "The Scars of Dracula" (1970); "Dracula AD, 1972" (1972); "The Satanic Rites of Dracula" (1973).

During the seventies came a series of Blaxploitation films--a popular sub-genre of the period--which merged with the horror category to create an interesting hybrid. "Blacula" (1972) was a lively and unique modern vampire film about an African Prince bitten by the original Dracula and transformed into a vampire. He later comes to America and stalks the streets of LA looking for his bride. William Marshall is menacing and authoritative as the title character. A sequel "Scream Blacula, Scream" (1973) followed, again starring Marshall, who gives a good performance in an inferior movie.

A somewhat more recent Monster mash cross-over is the cute kiddie film "The Monster Squad" (1987) featuring Duncan Regeher as Dracula.

Francis Ford Coppella brought the fearsome count to life in an eloborate, big-budget adaptation of the story titled "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (1992). This version of the Dracula story is probably the most accurate of any of the adaptation. It starred Gary Oldman as the eponymous vampire and he does an excellent performance.

The last monster-mash x-over is the action packed Hugh Jackman vehicle "Van Helsing" (2004) featuring Richard Roxburgh as the famous transylvanian count.

In recent years, vampires have gone back to their romantic phase, this time in a kinder, gentler (And younger) form, in the Twilight franchise, based on the very popular series of books. Twilight takes the premise of the young, handsome, lovelorn vampire (An idea made popular by David Boreanez in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, and Continued in the Vampire Diaries) and turns it into into a love story about a romantic triangle between a young human girl (isabella), a werewolf (Jacob) and a handsome vampire (Edward). The books have been adapted into a successful series of films.

Thats all for now. More monster hubs to follow. Bye.


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