Older than Dracula: In Search of the English Vampire

Older than Dracula: In Search of the English Vampire

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By Sam George / The Conversation

The story of Count Dracula, as many of us know it, was created by Bram Stoker, an Irishman, in 1897. But most of the action takes place in England, from the moment the Transylvanian vampire arrives on a shipwrecked vessel in Whitby, North Yorkshire, with plans to make his lair in the spookily named Carfax estate, west of the river in London.

But Dracula wasn’t the first vampire in English literature, let alone the first to stalk England. The vampire first made its way into English literature in John Polidori’s 1819 short story “The Vampyre”. Polidori’s vampire, Lord Ruthven, is inspired by a thinly disguised portrait of the predatory English poet, Lord Byron, in Lady Caroline Lamb’s novel Glenarvon (1816). So the first fictional vampire was actually a satanic English Lord.

It is nearly 200 years since this Romantic/Byronic archetype for a vampire emerged – but what do we know about English belief in vampires outside of fiction? New research at the University of Hertfordshire has uncovered and reappraised a number of vampire myths – and they are not all confined to the realms of fiction.

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The Croglin Vampire reputedly first appeared in Cumberland to a Miss Fisher in the 1750s. Its story is retold by Dr Augustus Hare , a clergyman, in his Memorials of a Quiet Life in 1871. According to this legend, the vampire scratches at the window before disappearing into an ancient vault. The vault is later discovered to be full of coffins that have been broken open and their contents, horribly mangled and distorted, are scattered over the floor. One coffin only remains intact, but the lid has been loosened. There, shrivelled and mummified – but quite intact – lies the Croglin Vampire.

Elsewhere in Cumbria, the natives of Renwick, were once known as “bats” due to the monstrous creature that is said to have flown out of the foundations of a rebuilt church there in 1733. The existence of vampire bats, which sucked blood wouldn’t be confirmed until 1832 , when Charles Darwin sketched one feeding off a horse on his voyage to South America in The Beagle. The creature in Renwick has been referred to as a “cockatrice” – a mythical creature with a serpent’s head and tail and the feet and wings of a cockerel – by Cumbrian County History . But it’s the myth of the vampire bat that has prevailed in the surrounding villages and is recorded in conversations in local archives and journals

What picture emerges then in this history of the English vampire? The Croglin Vampire has never been verified – but it has an afterlife in the 20th century, appearing as The British Vampire in 1977 in an anthology of horror by Daniel Farson, who turns out to be Stoker’s great-grandnephew.

The Nightmare. John Henry Fuseli (1781) ( Public Domain )

Nightmare in Buckinghamshire

But there is one case that has no connection to fiction, the little-known Buckinghamshire Vampire, recorded by William of Newburgh in the 12th century. Historical records show that St Hugh, the Bishop of Lincoln, was called upon to deal with the terrifying revenant and learned to his astonishment, after contacting other theologians, that similar attacks had happened elsewhere in England.

St Hugh was told that no peace would be had until the corpse was dug up and burned, but it was decided that an absolution – a declaration of forgiveness, by the church, absolving one from sin – would be a more seemly way to disable the vampire. When the tomb was opened the body was found to have not decomposed. The absolution was laid inside on the corpse’s chest by the Archdeacon and the vampire was never again seen wandering from his grave.

The Buckinghamshire revenant did not have a “vampire” burial – but such practices are evidence of a longstanding belief in vampires in Britain. Astonishingly, the medieval remains of the what are thought to be the first English vampires have been found in the Yorkshire village of Wharram Percy . The bones of over 100 “vampire” corpses have now been uncovered buried deep in village pits. The bones were excavated more than half a century ago and date back to before the 14th century. They were at first thought to be the result of cannibalism during a famine or a massacre in the village but on further inspection in 2017 the burned and broken skeletons were linked instead to deliberate mutilations perpetrated to prevent the dead returning to harm the living – beliefs common in folklore at the time.

‘Vampire graves’ have been found at the abandoned village of Wharram Percy in Yorkshire. Paul Allison via Alchemipedia. ( CC BY 4.0 )

Vile bodies

The inhabitants of Wharram Percy showed widespread belief in the undead returning as revenants or reanimated corpses and so fought back against the risk of vampire attacks by deliberately mutilating their own dead, burning bones and dismembering corpses, including those of women, children and teenagers, in an attempt to stave off what they believed could be a plague of vampires. This once flourishing village was completely deserted in the aftermath.

Just recently at an ancient Roman site in Italy the severed skull of a ten-year-old child was discovered with a large rock inserted in the mouth to prevent biting and bloodsucking. Then skull belongs to a suspected 15th-century revenant which they are calling locally the “Vampire of Lugano”.

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Archaeologists have unearthed a "vampire burial" in Italy, evidencing ancient funeral practices that aimed to stop corpses rising from the dead. ( David Pickel/Stanford University)

There has been a wealth of other stories from the UK and other parts of Western Europe – but, despite this, thanks to the Dracula legend, most people still assume such practises and beliefs belong to remote parts of Eastern Europe. But our research is continuing to examine “vampire burials” in the UK and is making connections to local myths and their legacy in English literature, many years before the Byronic fiend Count Dracula arrived in Yorkshire carrying his own supply of Transylvanian soil.

The Real Dracula: 10 Facts About Vlad the Impaler

Vlad III Dracula (1431-1467/77) was one of the most important rulers in Wallachian history.

He was also known as Vlad the Impaler for the brutality with which he dispensed with his enemies, gaining him notoriety in 15th century Europe.

Here are 10 facts about the man who inspired fear and legends for centuries to come.

Vlad the Impaler

It’s thought Bram Stoker named Count Dracula after Vlad Dracula, also known as Vlad the Impaler. Vlad Dracula was born in Transylvania, Romania. He ruled Walachia, Romania, off and on from 1456-1462.

Some historians describe him as a just—yet brutally cruel—ruler who valiantly fought off the Ottoman Empire. He earned his nickname because his favorite way to kill his enemies was to impale them on a wooden stake.

According to legend, Vlad Dracula enjoyed dining amidst his dying victims and dipping his bread in their blood. Whether those gory tales are true is unknown. Many people believe these stories sparked Stoker’s imagination to create Count Dracula, who was also from Transylvania, sucked his victim’s blood and could be killed by driving a stake through his heart.

But, according to Dracula expert Elizabeth Miller, Stoker didn’t base Count Dracula’s life on Vlad Dracula. Nonetheless, the similarities between the two Draculas are intriguing.

"Dracula" goes on sale in London

The first copies of the classic vampire novel Dracula, by Irish writer Bram Stoker, appear in London bookshops on May 26, 1897.

A childhood invalid, Stoker grew up to become a football (soccer) star at Trinity College, Dublin. After graduation, he got a job in civil service at Dublin Castle, where he worked for the next 10 years while writing drama reviews for the Dublin Mail on the side. In this way, Stoker met the well-respected actor Sir Henry Irving, who hired him as his manager. Stoker stayed in the post for most of the next three decades, writing Irving’s voluminous correspondence for him and accompanying him on tours in the United States. Over the years, Stoker began writing a number of horror stories for magazines, and in 1890 he published his first novel, The Snake’s Pass.

Stoker would go on to publish 17 novels in all, but it was his 1897 novel Dracula that eventually earned him literary fame and became known as a masterpiece of Victorian-era Gothic literature. Written in the form of diaries and journals of its main characters, Dracula is the story of a vampire who makes his way from Transylvania𠅊 region of Eastern Europe now in Romania—to Yorkshire, England, and preys on innocents there to get the blood he needs to live. Stoker had originally named the vampire 𠇌ount Wampyr.” He found the name Dracula in a book on Wallachia and Moldavia written by retired diplomat William Wilkinson, which he borrowed from a Yorkshire public library during his family’s vacations there.

Vampires–who left their burial places at night to drink the blood of humans–were popular figures in folk tales from ancient times, but Stoker’s novel catapulted them into the mainstream of 20th-century literature. Upon its release, Dracula enjoyed moderate success, though when Stoker died in 1912 none of his obituaries even mentioned Dracula by name. Sales began to take off in the 1920s, when the novel was adapted for Broadway. Dracula mania kicked into even higher gear with Universal’s blockbuster 1931 film, directed by Tod Browning and starring the Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi. Dozens of vampire-themed movies, television shows and literature followed, though Lugosi, with his exotic accent, remains the quintessential Count Dracula. Late 20th-century examples of the vampire craze include the bestselling novels of American writer Anne Rice and the cult hit TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The 21st century saw the wildly popular Twilight film and book series. 


Renfield is a solicitor traveling to Count Dracula's castle in Transylvania on a business matter. The local village people fear that vampires inhabit the castle and warn Renfield not to go there. Renfield refuses to stay at the village inn and asks his carriage driver to take him to the Borgo Pass. Renfield is driven to the castle by Dracula's coach, with Dracula disguised as the driver. En route, Renfield sticks his head out the window to ask the driver to slow down but sees the driver has disappeared a bat leads the horses.

Renfield enters the castle welcomed by the charming but eccentric Count, who, unbeknownst to Renfield, is a vampire. They discuss Dracula's intention to lease Carfax Abbey in England, where he intends to travel the next day. Dracula hypnotizes Renfield into opening a window. Renfield faints as a bat appears, and Dracula's three wives close in on him. Dracula waves them away, then attacks Renfield himself.

Aboard the schooner Vesta, Renfield is a raving lunatic slave to Dracula, who hides in a coffin and feeds on the ship's crew. When the ship reaches England, Renfield is discovered to be the only living person. Renfield is sent to Dr. Seward's sanatorium adjoining Carfax Abbey.

At a London theatre, Dracula meets Seward. Seward introduces his daughter Mina, her fiancé John Harker, and a family friend, Lucy Weston. Lucy is fascinated by Count Dracula. That night, Dracula enters her room and feasts on her blood while she sleeps. Lucy dies the next day after a string of blood transfusions.

Renfield is obsessed with eating flies and spiders. Professor Van Helsing analyzes Renfield's blood and discovers his obsession. He starts talking about vampires, and that afternoon Renfield begs Seward to send him away, claiming his nightly cries may disturb Mina's dreams. When Dracula calls Renfield through the medium of a wolf howling, Renfield is disturbed by Van Helsing showing him wolfsbane, which Van Helsing says is used for protection from vampires.

Dracula visits Mina, asleep in her bedroom, and bites her. The next evening, Dracula enters for a visit, and Van Helsing and Harker notice that he does not have a mirror reflection. When Van Helsing reveals this to Dracula, he smashes the mirror and leaves. Van Helsing deduces that Dracula is the vampire behind the recent tragedies.

Mina leaves her room and runs to Dracula in the garden, where he attacks her. The maid finds her. Newspapers report that a woman in white is luring children from the park and biting them. Mina recognizes the lady as Lucy, risen as a vampire. Harker wants to take Mina to London for safety but is convinced to leave Mina with Van Helsing. Van Helsing orders Nurse Briggs to take care of Mina when she sleeps and not to remove the wreath of wolfsbane from her neck.

Renfield escapes from his cell and listens to the men discussing vampires. Before his attendant takes Renfield back to his cell, Renfield relates to them how Dracula convinced Renfield to allow him to enter the sanatorium by promising him thousands of rats full of blood and life. Dracula enters the Seward parlor and talks with Van Helsing. Dracula states that Mina now belongs to him and warns Van Helsing to return to his home country. Van Helsing swears to excavate Carfax Abbey and destroy Dracula. Dracula attempts to hypnotize Van Helsing, but the latter's resolve proves stronger. As Dracula lunges at Van Helsing, he draws a crucifix from his coat, forcing Dracula to retreat.

Harker visits Mina on a terrace, and she speaks of how much she loves "nights and fogs." A bat flies above them and squeaks to Mina. She then attacks Harker, but Van Helsing and Seward save him. Mina confesses what Dracula has done to her and tells Harker their love is finished.

Dracula hypnotizes Briggs into removing the wolfsbane from Mina's neck and opening the windows. Van Helsing and Harker see Renfield heading for Carfax Abbey. They see Dracula with Mina in the Abbey. When Harker shouts to Mina, Dracula thinks Renfield has led them there and kills him. Dracula is hunted by Van Helsing and Harker, who know that Dracula is forced to sleep in his coffin during daylight, and the sun is rising. Van Helsing prepares a wooden stake while Harker searches for Mina. Van Helsing impales Dracula through the heart, killing him, and Mina returns to normal.

    as Count Dracula as Mina Seward as John Harker as Renfield as Van Helsing as Dr. Seward as Lucy Weston as Nurse Briggs (in an error on the opening credits, she is misidentified as "Maid") [7] as Martin, Renfield's attendant

The following individuals appear in uncredited roles: director and co-producer Tod Browning as the off-screen voice of the harbormaster Carla Laemmle, a cousin of producer Carl Laemmle Jr., who appears at the start of the film as a woman in the coach carrying Renfield [8] and Geraldine Dvorak, Cornelia Thaw, and Dorothy Tree as Dracula's brides.

Bram Stoker's novel had already been filmed without permission as Nosferatu in 1922 by German Expressionist filmmaker F. W. Murnau. Bram Stoker's widow sued for plagiarism and copyright infringement, and the courts decided in her favor, essentially ordering that all prints of Nosferatu be destroyed. [7] Enthusiastic young Hollywood producer Carl Laemmle, Jr. also saw the box office potential in Stoker's gothic chiller, and he legally acquired the novel's film rights. Initially, he wanted Dracula to be a spectacle on a scale with the lavish silent films The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925).

Universal Pictures paid $40,000 for all rights to the novel and the stage plays, so they would have the exclusive rights to the Dracula character. Universal also brought Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Louis Bromfield to pen the script to fit grand scale vision. Bromfield tried to reconcile novel and the stage play and in his draft suggested that Dracula should be two people- ghoulish old man at the beginning of the film, who by traveling to London and feeding on blood gets rejuvenated into drawing-room Dracula of the theatre. Jonathan Harker was supposed to travel to Transylvania in the opening scenes of the movie. Like in a stage play Dracula was supposed to kiss Mina passionately on the lips. Those things never made it into movie, either because they were considered too expensive, were replaced by rewritten scenes or were deemed too risky. Bromfield was soon replaced with Garrett Fort. [9] Fort turned to the stage play. Already a huge hit on Broadway, the Deane/Balderston Dracula play would end up becoming the blueprint as the production gained momentum. The screenwriters also carefully studied the silent, unauthorized version, F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu, for inspiration. Lifted directly from a nearly identical scene in Nosferatu that does not appear in Stoker's novel, was the early scene at the Count's castle when Renfield accidentally pricks his finger on a paper clip and it starts to bleed. Dracula creeps toward him with glee, only to be repelled when the crucifix falls in front of the bleeding finger.

Deciding casting the title role proved problematic. Initially, Laemmle was not at all interested in Lugosi, in spite of good reviews for his stage portrayal. Laemmle instead considered other actors, including Paul Muni, Chester Morris, Ian Keith, John Wray, Joseph Schildkraut, Arthur Edmund Carewe, and William Courtenay. Lugosi had played the role on Broadway, [10] and to his good fortune, happened to be in Los Angeles with a touring company of the play when the film was being cast. [7] Against the tide of studio opinion, Lugosi lobbied hard and ultimately won the executives over, thanks in part to him accepting a paltry $500 per week salary for seven weeks of work, amounting to $3,500. [7] [11]
On September 29, 1930, Dracula began shooting at Universal City on a $355,050 budget on a 36-day schedule. Tod Browning shot scenes of Dracula’s Castle and Borgo Pass all the first week of production. [12] According to numerous accounts, the production is alleged to have been a mostly disorganized affair, [a] with the usually meticulous Tod Browning leaving cinematographer Karl Freund to take over during much of the shoot, making Freund something of an uncredited director on the film.
David Manners (who played John Harker) recalled about the filming: "I can still see Lugosi, parading up and down the stage, posing in front of a full-length mirror, throwing his cape over his shoulder and shouting, 'I am Dracula!' He was mysterious and never really said anything to the other members of the cast except good morning when he arrived and good night when he left. He was polite, but always distant." [14] Lugosi struck Manners as a vain, eccentric performer: "I never thought he was acting, but being the odd man he was." [15] Edward Van Sloan, who played Van Helsing on Broadway stage opposite Lugosi, reprised his role on screen. The actor wondered why the film version reduced the large mirror used in the play to the small cigarette box with a mirrored lid. [14] Despite Van Helsing becoming one of his most famous screen roles Van Sloan didn't think much about the film - in a letter to his nephew he once wrote: "That reminds me of your failure to see the Dracula film on TV. How lucky you were. What must it be like today. Overplayed — over-written — altogether lousy. " [14] Bernard Jukes, who played the role of Renfield in the play on Broadway and during the 1928 tour, wanted that part in the film, but it went to Dwight Frye instead. [16]

Tod Browning remembered actress Helen Chandler from the 1928 Broadway play The Silent House and based on that maiden performance chose her for Mina, the heroine, who becomes mistress to Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula. [17] Her salary was $750 per week, making her the highest paid member of the cast. At the time of the filming she already battled severe alcoholism. She was known to laugh at the Lugosi's mirror ritual at the shooting at times. Like some of her co-stars, despite this role becoming her most famous one, she didn't care much about it:" It would be an awful fate, for instance, to go around being a pale little girl in a trance with her arms outstretched as in Dracula, all the rest of my screen career!" [18]

The peasants at the beginning are praying in Hungarian, and the signs in the village are also in Hungarian. This was because when Bram Stoker wrote the original novel, the Borgo Pass in Transylvania was then part of the Kingdom of Hungary and within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. By the time the film was made, Transylvania had been part of Romania since 1918. [19]

The scenes of crew members on the ship struggling in the violent storm were lifted from a Universal silent film, The Storm Breaker (1925). Photographed at silent film projection speed, this accounts for the jerky, sped-up appearance of the footage when projected at 24 frames per second sound film speed and cobbled together with new footage of Dracula and Renfield. [7] Jack Foley was the foley artist who produced the sound effects. [20] The picture was completed for a total cost of $341,191.20, which was under the original estimate of $355,050. [2]

Before the film was even released, Lugosi worried that it would cause him to be type cast. He reportedly rejected an offer to reprise his role as Dracula in another stage tour of the play, stating: "No! Not at any price. When I'm through with this picture I hope to never hear of Dracula again. I cannot stand it. I do not intend that it shall possess me." [21]

Cinematic process Edit

The film's histrionic dramatics from the stage play are also reflected in its special effects, which are limited to fog, lighting, and large flexible bats. Dracula's transition from bat to person is always done off-camera. The film also employs extended periods of silence and character close-ups for dramatic effect, and employs two expository intertitles and a closeup of a newspaper article to advance the story, a seeming holdover from silent films a point made by online film critic James Berardinelli [22] is that the actors' performance style seems to belong to the silent era. Director Tod Browning had a solid reputation as a silent film director, having made them since 1915, but he never felt completely at ease with sound films. [7] He only directed six more films over an eight-year period, the best known being the notorious Freaks, a horror movie with Olga Baclanova and a cast of actual carnival freaks that was yanked from distribution immediately. Browning directed his last film in 1939.

Owing to the costs of adding an original musical score to a film's soundtrack, no score had ever been composed specifically for the film. [4] The music heard during the opening credits, an excerpt from Act II of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, was re-used in 1932 for another Universal horror film, The Mummy. During the theatre scene where Dracula meets Dr. Seward, Harker, Mina, and Lucy, the end of the overture to Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg can also be heard as well as the dark opening of Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony" in B minor.

1998 score Edit

In 1998, composer Philip Glass was commissioned to compose a musical score for the classic film. The score was performed by the Kronos Quartet [4] under the direction of Michael Reisman, Glass's usual conductor.

Of the project, Glass said: "The film is considered a classic. I felt the score needed to evoke the feeling of the world of the 19th century — for that reason I decided a string quartet would be the most evocative and effective. I wanted to stay away from the obvious effects associated with horror films. With [the Kronos Quartet] we were able to add depth to the emotional layers of the film." [23]

The film, with this new score, was released by Universal Studios in 1999 in the VHS format. Universal's DVD releases allow the viewer to choose between the unscored soundtrack or the Glass score. The soundtrack, Dracula, was released by Nonesuch Records in 1999. [24] Glass and the Kronos Quartet performed live during showings of the film in 1999, 2000 and 2017. [25] [26] [27]

Dracula was a big gamble for a major Hollywood studio to undertake. In spite of the literary credentials of the source material, it was uncertain if an American audience was prepared for a serious full length supernatural chiller. Though American audiences had been exposed to other chillers before, such as The Cat and the Canary (1927), this was a horror story with no comic relief or trick ending that downplayed the supernatural. Despite this, Dracula proved to be a box office success.

When the film finally premiered at the Roxy Theatre in New York City on February 12, 1931 (released two days later throughout the U.S.), [11] newspapers reported that members of the audiences fainted in shock at the horror on screen. This publicity, shrewdly orchestrated by the film studio, helped ensure people came to see the film, if for no other reason than curiosity. Within 48 hours of its opening at New York's Roxy Theatre, it had sold 50,000 tickets, [11] building a momentum that culminated in a $700,000 profit, the largest of Universal's 1931 releases. [28]

Critical reception Edit

The film was generally well received by critics upon its release. Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times called it "the best of the many mystery films", characterizing Browning's direction as "imaginative" and Helen Chandler's performance as "excellent". [29] Variety praised the film for its "remarkably effective background of creepy atmosphere" and wrote, "It is difficult to think of anybody who could quite match the performance in the vampire part of Bela Lugosi, even to the faint flavor of foreign speech that fits so neatly". [30] Film Daily declared the film "a fine melodrama" and remarked that Lugosi had created "one of the most unique and powerful roles of the screen". [31] Time called it "an exciting melodrama, not as good as it ought to be but a cut above the ordinary trapdoor-and-winding-sheet type of mystery film". [32] John Mosher of The New Yorker wrote a negative review, remarking that "there is no real illusion in the picture" and "this whole vampire business falls pretty flat". [33] The Chicago Tribune did not think the film was as scary as the stage version, calling its framework "too obvious" and "its attempts to frighten too evident", but still concluded that it was "quite a satisfactory thriller". [34]

The film was originally released with a running time of 85 minutes [1] when it was reissued in 1936, the Production Code was enforced. For that reissue, two scenes are known to have been censored. [7]

  • The most significant deletion was an epilogue which played only during the film's initial run. In a scene similar to the prologue from Frankenstein, and also featuring Universal stalwart Edward Van Sloan, he reappeared in a "curtain speech" and informed the audience: "Just a moment, ladies and gentlemen! A word before you go. We hope the memories of Dracula and Renfield won't give you bad dreams, so just a word of reassurance. When you get home tonight and the lights have been turned out and you are afraid to look behind the curtains — and you dread to see a face appear at the window — why, just pull yourself together and remember that after all, there are such things as vampires!" [7][35] This epilogue was removed out of fear of encouraging a belief in the supernatural. This scene was briefly shown in the Road to Dracula documentary, but it may be unusable and can't be restored. [7]
  • Audio of Dracula's off-camera "death groans" at the end of the film were shortened by partial muting, as were Renfield's screams as he is killed these pieces of soundtrack were later restored by MCA-Universal for its LaserDisc and subsequent DVD releases (with the exception of the 2004 multi-film "Legacy Collection" edition). [36]

In the early days of sound films, it was common for Hollywood studios to produce "Foreign Language Versions" of their films using the same sets, costumes and so on. While Browning filmed during the day, at night George Melford was using the sets to make the Spanish-language version Drácula, starring Carlos Villarías as Conde Drácula. Long thought lost, a print of Drácula was discovered in the 1970s, of which large sections had rotted away. [37] [38] In the early 1990s a good copy was found in Cuba. The film was preserved in the US National Film Registry of the Library of Congress [39]

A third, silent, version of the film was also released. In 1931, some theaters had not yet been wired for sound, and during this transition period many studios released alternative silent versions with intertitles. [7]

Retrospective assessments Edit

In 1999, film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four out of four stars, praising Lugosi's performance and Freund's cinematography. [4] He noted the film's lasting influence, and included it in his list of "Great Movies". [4] Angie Errigo of Empire gave the film four out of five stars, commending Lugosi's performance as "the [Dracula] against which all others are measured", and writing that the film "is stagey and creaky, but it also has wonderful, unforgettable moments." [40] John Oliver of the British Film Institute credited the film with establishing the "popular on-screen image of the vampire" and wrote that "the cinematic horror genre was born with the release of Dracula." [41] He concluded that although he feels the film becomes almost "overly stage bound in its middle section, the virtues of its star performance and general visual style outweigh any such deficits." [41]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 92% based on 48 reviews, with an average rating of 7.86/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Bela Lugosi's timeless portrayal of Dracula in this creepy and atmospheric 1931 film has set the standard for major vampiric roles since." [42]

Sequels and influence Edit

After the commercial and critical success of Dracula, Universal released Frankenstein (1931) later that same year. Universal in particular would become the forefront of early horror cinema, with a canon of films including The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and The Wolf Man (1941).

Five years after the original release, Universal released Dracula's Daughter (1936), a direct sequel that starts immediately after the end of the first film. A second sequel, Son of Dracula (1942), starring Lon Chaney Jr., followed another seven years later. The Count returned to life in three more Universal films of the mid-1940s: House of Frankenstein (1944) House of Dracula (1945) and the comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

Universal would only cast Lugosi as Dracula in one more film, the aforesaid Abbott and Costello vehicle, [43] giving the role to John Carradine for the mid-1940s "monster rally" films, although Carradine admittedly more closely resembled Stoker's physical description from the book. Many of the familiar images of Dracula are from stills of the older Lugosi made during the filming of the 1948 comedy, so there remain two confusingly distinct incarnations of Lugosi as Dracula, seventeen years apart in age. [ citation needed ]

As Lugosi played a vampire in three other movies during his career (Mark of the Vampire (1935), The Return of the Vampire (1943), and Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952) [43] ), this contributed to the public misconception that he portrayed Dracula on film many times, although the other vampire roles had him playing Dracula in all but name. [ citation needed ]

Since its release, Dracula has become widely regarded as a classic of the era and of its genre. In 2000, it was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". [44] It was also ranked 79th on Bravo's countdown of The 100 Scariest Movie Moments. [45]

To many film lovers and critics alike, Lugosi's portrayal is widely regarded as the definitive Dracula. Lugosi had a powerful presence and authority on-screen. The slow, deliberate pacing of his performance ("I bid you… welcome!" and "I never drink… wine!") gave his Dracula the air of a walking, talking corpse, which terrified the movie audiences at the time, compelling with no dialogue, and the many close-ups of Lugosi's face in icy silence jumped off the screen. With this mesmerizing performance, Dracula became Bela Lugosi's signature role, his Dracula a cultural icon, and he himself a legend in the classic Universal Horror film series. [ citation needed ]

However, Dracula would ultimately become a role which would prove to be both a blessing and a curse. Despite his earlier stage successes in a variety of roles, from the moment Lugosi donned the cape on screen, it would forever see him typecast as the Count. [46]

Browning would go on to direct Lugosi once more in another vampire thriller, Mark of the Vampire, a 1935 remake of his lost silent film London After Midnight (1927).

Also, the film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

  • 2001: AFI's 100 Years. 100 Thrills – #85 [47]
  • 2003: AFI's 100 Years. 100 Heroes & Villains:
      – #33 Villain [48]
    • Count Dracula: "Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make." – #83 [49]

    Influence on other notable Draculas Edit

    The actors, who followed in Lugosi's shoes in playing Dracula, and who achieved significant fame in that role, had different attitudes to Lugosi's portrayal.

    Christopher Lee, who played Dracula in series of Hammer movies, said: "Anyhow, about the Lugosi Dracula. I was so disappointed. I was absolutely had been wanting to see it for a long, long time. There are aspects of it, for instance, that I considered ridiculous. Dracula is played too nice at the beginning. Practically no menace in the character .. There is no shock or fright in it. Lugosi’s hands too . He held them out stiffly. making him look like a puppet. His smile was not always sinister either". [50] While thinking that Lugosi was in his younger days wonderful looking man, who had tremendous presence and personality, Lee also thought that Lugosi "was not the right man to play Dracula from the point of view of nationality. Because Transylvania is in Rumania and he was an Hungarian from the town of Lugos, hence his name". [50]

    Gary Oldman, who played Dracula in Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation, considered Lugosi to be his favourite Dracula and said about his performance:"He was really on to something: the way he moved, the way he sounded". Oldman based his Dracula voice on Lugosi's voice. [51]

    Posters Edit

    The film's poster campaign was overseen by Universal advertising art director Karoly Grosz, who also illustrated the "insert" poster himself. [52] Original posters from the 1931 release are scarce and highly valuable to collectors. In 2009, actor Nicolas Cage auctioned off his collection of vintage film posters, which included an original "Style F" one sheet that sold for $310,700 as of March 2012, it stood as the sixth-highest price for a film poster. [53] In summer 2017, Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett loaned his rare "Style C" poster to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts for an exhibition on horror film posters. [54] In December that same year, an extremely rare "Style A" poster—one of only two known copies—sold at auction for $525,000, setting a new world record for the most expensive film poster. [55]

    Style A one-sheet – most expensive film poster in the world as of 2017 [55]

    The Origins Of Bram Stoker’s Dracula

    Wikimedia Commons While he’s widely known as the real Dracula, scholars disagree about just how much Vlad the Impaler inspired Bram Stoker’s classic novel.

    Though Vlad the Impaler’s atrocities are undoubtedly terrifying, how exactly might the “real Dracula” have helped inspire Bram Stoker’s fictional vampire?

    The answer might lie with the gory tales of the bloodthirsty monarch’s exploits. According to one legend, Vlad Dracula enjoyed dipping his bread in the blood of his victims, but the authenticity of that account has never been confirmed.

    In 1820, a book by the British consul to Wallachia, William Wilkinson, titled An Account Of The Principalities Of Wallachia And Moldavia: With Various Political Observations Relating To Them, also helped popularize the story of the real Dracula across Europe. Stoker read Wilkinson’s book, which is likely where he first saw the name Dracula.

    Regardless of how much he was inspired by Wilkinson, Stoker’s Dracula took on a life of its own and continues to be one of the most adapted horror stories to this day. The first known motion picture to bring the vampire to the screen was the 1921 Hungarian production, Dracula’s Death. Ten years later, the American production starring Bela Lugosi became one of the most popular adaptations to date.

    Dozens upon dozens of movies, television shows, books, and the like have followed since, with Netflix’s 2020 series Dracula, even transporting the centuries-old creature into the social media age at one point.

    Wikimedia Commons Bela Lugosi in his iconic role as Count Dracula in the 1931 film adaptation.

    Although Count Dracula and Vlad the Impaler share a few similarities — they shared a name and both lived in a towering castle in Eastern Europe and had a taste for blood — there are significant differences between them.

    Stoker’s Dracula resides in Transylvania while Vlad the Impaler never lived there. He was born in and ruled over the region of Wallachia, which was one of three principalities that made up Romania at the time, including Transylvania and Moldova.

    And, as terrifying as Vlad the Impaler was, there’s no hard evidence to suggest that he actually drank blood. However, 15th-century pamphlets with titles like The Frightening and Truly Extraordinary Story of a Wicked Blood-drinking Tyrant Called Prince Dracula certainly helped enforce that belief.

    Clearly, tales of Vlad the Impaler have been soaked in blood for some 500 years. And while it may be difficult to distinguish fact from fiction about the real Dracula at this point, there’s enough evidence to know that Vlad committed some of the most chilling atrocities of his era.

    After this look at Vlad the Impaler, the real Dracula, take a look inside Dracula’s castle. Then, find out the odds of human survival in a vampire apocalypse using this vampire calculator made by a real scientist.

    Who was the real Count Dracula?

    It wasn't until he came across documents during his research at the British Museum that novelist Bram Stoker found the man who would serve as the perfect foundation for his classic gothic horror character, Count Dracula [source: Kent State University]. Vlad Tepes (pronounced te'-pish), a 15th-century prince from the dark, forested mountains of Eastern Europe was his inspiration.

    ­Accounts of Vlad Tepes' cruelty have been distorted throughout history, and Stoker's adaption seemed to help perpetrate these distortions. The prince was bestowed with the surname "Tepes" ("Impaler") based on his fondness for impaling victims. It was his father from whom he proudly took the name "Dracula" ("Son of the Dragon"). Tepes was no vampire, although one historic account details how he drank a victim's blood [source: West Grey Times]. And Tepes certainly wasn't immortal (it's unclear how he died), as Stoker's count is.

    But Stoker wasn't just inspired by the prince's name. Tepes' reign was a cruel and bloody one.

    When investigating sensational history, it's easy to find grossly exaggerated tales that obscure the facts. In the rare case of Vlad Tepes, little exaggeration is needed. Tens of thousands of people were tortured, maimed or died by his hand or command [source: University of Louisiana]. This isn't in dispute -- it's accounts of Tepes' motives where distortion tends to emerge.

    As the prince of Wallachia, a region in Romania, and a defender of Christianity against the Muslim Turks, Tepes made many powerful enemies. His enemies spread propaganda about the ruler, which inadvertently assured Tepes' place in history. Tepes' deeds and atrocities made such an impression, in fact, that an unflattering epic poem about him was published on the Gutenberg printing press just eight years after the same moveable type was used to print the first Bible [source: Mundorf and Mundorf]. Had his detractors not campaigned against him, generating publications that survive today, Tepes' legacy may have been lost.

    So who was this man? Was Tepes as bloodthirsty in real life as his fictional counterpart is in movies and books? The short answer is yes -- even more so. Read about the real Dracula on the next page.

    Bram Stoker's fictionalization of Vlad Tepes spurred scholarly research into the real man. Research has attempted to show the motives for his murderousness. Tepes desired a unified Romania -- free from the outside influences of Germany, Hungary and the Turks.

    His consolidation of local power was harsh. On Easter Day, 1456, Tepes invited regional nobility to dine with him. Following the meal, he had the old and infirm murdered and marched the remaining guests 50 miles to a dilapidated castle, which he took as his own. There, he put the nobility to hard labor restoring it. Most died during from maltreatment and exhaustion those who didn't were impaled alive on spikes outside the castle when restorations were complete [source: Carroll].

    Vlad's father, Vlad Dracul, ruled Wallachia from 1436 to 1442, was unseated by his countrymen and regained the throne from 1443 to 1446. Vlad Tepes served in the same position from 1456 to 1462 [source: Tacitus]. When he was inducted into the Order of the Dragon, a secretive organization of Christian knights, he took the name "Dracula." The name would be replaced by the nickname "Tepes" from those who feared and hated him.

    Vlad Dracula's social ideologies were contradictory. He wanted to be remembered as a saint -- he murdered a Catholic monk who denied that Tepes would be canonized (sainted) [source: Carroll]. Yet his behavior was hardly saintly. Having come to view destitution as a scourge on his domain, Tepes invited his poverty-stricken subjects to dine with him. At the end of the dinner, he had the dining room locked, and his guards set fire to it, killing those inside [source: Marinari].

    His foreign enemies suffered equal (if not worse) fates than his subjects. For four years, Tepes and his younger brother were imprisoned by Turks after their father sent them as tribute to the sultan Mehmet. Tepes' father had become a puppet leader of Wallachia for the Turks, and his sons were imprisoned to guarantee their father's continued loyalty [source: Fasulo]. Tepes was meant to become a future puppet leader like his father. But rather than keep allegiance to the Turks, he resolved to fight them.

    When he became prince in 1456, Tepes took strides toward Romanian independence. He developed biological warfare, sending subjects disguised as Turks, stricken with infectious disease, to live among the armies in their camps [source: Marinari]. For those Turks who survived, when they invaded the capital of Wallachia, Tirgoviste, they found a forest (about one-half mile by two miles in dimension) made entirely of corpses of captured prisoners impaled on spikes. The invaders left quickly [source: Carroll].

    Impalement, the method of execution that gave Tepes his name, is an extraordinarily painful way to die. Tepes ensured maximum pain when he impaled his victims by rounding the ends of spikes and oiling them to reduce tearing. Spikes were introduced into the victim's anus and pushed in until the other end emerged from the victim's mouth. The impaled victim was then hoisted vertically, and left to writhe in agony, sometimes for days [source: Fasulo].

    The aged vampire in Stoker's novel required blood to stay alive Tepes shed blood by the bucketful to promote his lifelong goals. Conservative estimates put his victim count at 40,000 [source: University of Louisiana]. It's also significant to note that eating and death were so intertwined in Tepes' life. He often dined with guests before killing them, and he was reputed to have taken meals outdoors, among impaled dead and dying [source: Martin]

    Why is blood such a significant symbol of vitality and power in fiction, allegory and reality? Find out about the symbolism of blood on the next page.

    The king-vampire still reigns, even though Dracula’s meaning has snowballed over a century of constant adaptations and reinterpretations. The novel is wonderfully overdetermined, packed with competing fears – and at the same time at the heart of the story is an empty space. Dracula, unlike the other characters, does not write down his own story. The reader is left to supply an interpretation, and it’s an invitation that’s difficult to resist.

    This novel was published the same year as Dracula and it is a fascinating experience to read both together. The story reflects contemporary fears about sexually-transmitted diseases and hereditarily-tainted blood, along with fin-de-siècle views on race and female sexuality. Sexual women are more sympathetically presented here than in Dracula, and excessive coldness is also criticised – one character almost loses her fiance because of her public undemonstrativeness. This novel also explores the trope of the reluctant, unwitting vampire, who is horrified when she discovers her own nature.

    Bloody good: a still from the film adaptation of Rachel Klein’s The Moth Diaries. Photograph: Jan Thijs/PR

    Dracula – Beyond the Legend

    Bram Stoker's inspiration

    Vlad Tepes was born in 1428 in the fortress city of Sighisoara. His father, Vlad Dacul, was the military governor of Transylvania and had become a member of the Order of the Dragon a year before. The Order, similar to the Order of the Teutonic Knights, was a semi-military and religious organization established in 1387 in Rome in order to promote Catholic interests and crusades.

    The Order is relevant for the legend, mainly because it explains the name of Dracula.

    For his deeds, the Order of the Dragon was bestowed upon him, hence the title Dracul (the Latin word for dragon is draco). While in medieval lure dragons served as symbols of independence, leadership, strength and wisdom, the biblical association of the devil with the serpent that tempted Adam and Eve gave the snake-like dragon connotations of evil. Thus, the Romanian word Dracul stands in English for both dragon and devil.

    Dracula, the title of Vlad Tepes,translates as Son of Dracul.

    Moreover, the ceremonial uniform of the Order – black cloak over red accouterment – was Bram Stocker' source of inspiration for Count Dracula's look.

    But how did Bram Stoker's story turn into a myth? A partial explanation is provided by the circumstances under which the book was written and received. A genuine epidemic of "vampirism" had hit Eastern Europe at the end of the 17th century and continued throughout the 18th century. The number of reported cases soared dramatically, especially in the Balkans. Then, the epidemic traveled west to Germany, Italy, France, England and Spain. Travelers returning from the East would tell stories about the undead, which helped keep the interest in vampires alive. Western philosophers and artists tackled the issue ever more often. Bram Stoker's novel came as the pinnacle of a long series of works based on tales coming from the East. Back then, most readers were certain that the novel had been inspired by real facts and that its story was perhaps just a bit romanticized.

    Real vampires

    There are, of course, a few truly vampiric animals, including leeches, lampreys and vampire bats. And in all these cases the vampire's intent is to draw enough blood for sustenance, but not enough to kill the host.

    But what about human vampires? There are certainly many self-identified vampires who participate in gothic-inspired subcultures. Some host vampire-themed book clubs or secret bloodletting rituals others wear capes or get vampire-fang dental implants. It's all frightening and fun, but blood drinking is another matter entirely. The problem is that blood is toxic because it is so rich in iron — and because the human body has difficulty excreting excess iron — anyone who consumes blood regularly runs a real risk of haemochromatosis (iron overdose), which can cause a wide variety of diseases and problems, including liver and nervous system damage.

    In one form or another, vampires have been part of human culture and folklore in different forms for millennia, and the bloodsuckers show no signs of going away any time soon.

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