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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Caught on Tape: Dracula

The story of Dracula is a classic tale that has been adapted time and time again for the movie and television screen. Some of these versions attempt to follow the novel, while others take great liberties and change it up. Here are a few of the best and some of the others. Please tell me what you think of these if you have seen them.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

“When Dracula leaves the captive Jonathan Harker and Transylvania for London in search of Mina Harker -- the spitting image of Dracula's long-dead wife, Elisabeta -- obsessed vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing sets out to end the madness. Francis Ford Coppola's resurrection of Bram Stoker's novel won three Academy Awards for its eye-popping makeup and production design” (from Netflix)

This movie has a very well known cast – Winona Ryder is Mina Harker, Keanu Reeves is Jonathan Harker, Anthony Hopkins is Van Helsing, and Gary Oldman is Dracula and is directed by the famous Francis Ford Coppola. I watched this one after finishing reading Dracula in Love by Karen Essex to try and get a sense of what the original story is like. This story sticks to the Bram Stoker novel pretty well (from what I understand), although it opens with the story of Dracula being Vlad the Impaler, and has some essence of the love story from Essex’ novel.

Dracula (1931)

“Bela Lugosi turns in a landmark horror performance in this 1931 adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic vampire novel. Revisit Transylvania for the eerie mood created by spectacular cinematography and Lugosi's oft-copied take on the infamous Dracula. Dwight Frye as Renfield also helps define the grotesque and sniveling sidekick role” (from Netflix).

I think that this is the earliest Dracula movie out there and possibly one of the best known. I think that this is a must see for any Dracula fan out there. Bela Lugosi plays his defining role of Dracula and is how most people envision the Count, thanks to his portrayal.

Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary (2002)

“Director Guy Maddin exquisitely captures the sound and the fury (not to mention the grace) of this classic story about a count with a thirst for blood, as told through ballet. This black-and-white, silent-movie rendering of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's Bram Stoker adaptation stars dancers Zhang Wei-Qiang, Tara Birtwhistle, David Moroni, Cindy Marie Small and Johnny A. Wright” (from Netflix).

I have not seen this one, but it is an interesting take on this novel and has gotten decent viewer reviews. This is the tale of Dracula based on Stoker’s novel as seen through the art of ballet. Could certainly make for an interesting adaptation.

Dracula 2000 (2000)

“Wes Craven produces this reinvention of Bram Stoker's classic horror story. After breaking into a high-security vault, a team of thieves discovers an ancient crypt that holds none other than the corpse of Dracula. Freed from a century of confinement, the fanged count travels to New Orleans so he can quench his thirst for blood -- and find the woman who holds the key to world domination and eternal life. Gerard Butler and Jeri Ryan star” (from Netflix).

This is a new telling of Stoker’s novel – in a much more modern sense – though I don’t think that it sticks to Stoker’s tale very well. Directed by Wes Craven and starring Gerard Butler as Dracula.

Nosferatu (1922)

“Many horror-film fanatics call F.W. Murnau's silent German classic starring Max Schreck -- who sports grotesque makeup that transforms him into a symbol of pestilence and decay -- the scariest Dracula adaptation ever. The chilling tale kicks off when a real estate agent (Gustav von Wangenheim) begins conducting business with eerie Count Orlok (Schreck), who goes on a rampage when he becomes obsessed with the man's comely wife (Greta Schröder)” (from Netflix).

Karen Essex mentioned this movie in her interview so I thought I would want to check out this one. This is a silent movie (which I always find to be so interesting) and is based on Dracula without being exactly like Dracula. Oh, I forgot to mention it’s in German and I have no idea about subtitles – but being as it is a silent movie, hopefully not a lot to be translated.

The first three movies are currently available on Netflix Instant play. Check them out if they pique your interest. There are many, many other Dracula movies out there that I did not consider for this piece. Any others that you have seen and would recommend?

Make sure you stop by at Lions and Men for the first part of a two part interview with Karen Essex, author of Dracula in Love.

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. What a great post! I have seen Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), Dracula (1931) and Dracula 2000. The 1992 version features many elements from the novel, definitely, but it really expands on the love story that doesn't exist in the novel. I actually like this, because in my eyes the original lacks a bit of romance. The Lugosi version is a classic, I also loved it.
    Dracula 2000 - it has a great, intriguing premise, but it is awkwardly executed. Still, I like it and Butler gave a fine performance as Dracula.

  2. The 1932 version of Dracula with Bela Lugosi is the best, hands down. it kept to the orgins of the book with only a few changes, Renfield going to the Castle being one of them. But it captured the atmospher of the novel better than any version done since.

    The 1992 version was not one I cared that much about, mainly for the reason Irena liked it. It changed the focus of the movie into a odd love story which never existed.

    Nosferatu is a great movie and it's based off of the novel but the Stoker estate would not let them use the name Dracula so they had to change some things around. Great example of early horror movie. They made a movie in 2000 called Shadow of the Vampire which was about the filming of Nosferatu. In it Max Schreck, the actor who played Graf Orlock, ends up being a real vampire. It's a great movie with an even better cast.

  3. Irena - I too thought that it needed a bit of a romance angle - otherwise it felt too dry for me.

    Ryan G - I'm guessing you are a big Dracula fan - you have seen so many movies! I think I might take a look at the Nosferatu one. I did hear about the Stoker estate not allowing the Dracula name.

  4. I second Ryan's comment on both Lugosi's Dracula and Nosferatu. Regarding getting the permission part of it was just that Murnau did not want to deal with and pay for the rights. Also, something I saw on Murnau, said he loved the story but wanted to make it his and put his own touches on it without having to worry about something as niggling as rights. It is so obviously Dracula (which really bothered the Stoker estate and did initially hurt when they wanted to market it internationally) and is certainly a must see for any student of Dracula along with Ryan's recommendation of Shadow of the Vampire (which I guess showed that Murnau did make it his own story with its own following).

    There is also Theodor Dreyer’s 1932 Vampyr(German ?), although Dracula it most certainly is not, seeing the progression of the myth this early in film, plus the fact that Alfred Hitchcock said it is the only film that should be watched twice makes it a must see of the genre and what a surreal ride.

    BTW, as long as you get a US version, you will get English title cards for Nosferatu. So you won't have to worry about German. With Vampyr, since it is an early talkie, you can get it with English subtitles (most common) or as a silent with the English title cards.

  5. Dawn - thanks for the info about the subtitles! I definitely will check this one out now.

  6. I'm a huge fan of the book and the movie. I forgot to mention earlier that while they were filming the Bela Lugosi version of the movie, they were also filming a Spanish language version at the same time. The filmed at night and used the same sets and costumes. I've seen it a few times and in some ways I actually like it a bit more than the English version. I have the Universal Legacy Series DVD of Dracula and it's included as a bonus. It's well worth watching for anyone who is a fan of the other version.

  7. I have not watched any movies based on Stoker's Dracula. I think I may, but I am sure that I will see the 1992 version that you mentioned viewing. I am not much into watching old movies from the 30's and whatnot. Although, that does not mean I am not willing to try out Ryan's favorite version.

    Question for you Heather, Stoker's Dracula - 1992 version, why do you think it is rated 'R'?

  8. I'm not a vampire girl so even though I love the book Dracula, I rarely see the film versions -- too hokey or scary for me. However, I did see a production in Pittsburgh of Dracula as a ballet -- I don't know if it was the same version as the one you mention here, but now I'm going to look for the DVD!

  9. ibeeeg, I hope you do give it a chance sometime. It's well worth watching, even it only once. But then again I'm a huge BW movie fan. Some of my favorite movies came out of the 30s and 40s and I love them. For a none genre suggestion you should try the Thin Man Movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy. They are great as the married couple of Nick and Nora Charles who go around solving mysteries. They have tons of humor and are cleverly acted. But that's neither here nor there. I hope you watch the Bela Lugosi version and if you do please let me know what you thought.

  10. Ibeeeg - I think it is rated R because there is some violence and graphic scenes and some nudity.

    Audra - you saw it as a ballet? I have been wondering how that might be. If it was good, I might just have to check out the video version.

    Ryan G - I too like to watch older movies - I think there is just such a timelessness to them.

  11. I didn't realize there were so many Dracula movies. I have not seen any of them. I tend not to watch horror movies. The one that appeals the most is the ballet. I never realized on on Dracula had been written. The flow of motion in the dance fits the subject perfectly.

  12. Thanks Heather, it is good to know as to why it is rated 'R' so that I prepared while watching the movie with one of my older girls.

    Ryan G - I think I will give the Bela Lugosi version a try, and I will let you know what I think. Thanks for the other movie suggestion, I think I will give that a try as well. I am thinking that my oldest girl may actually like older films besides a mystery type movie with humor sounds good.

  13. Library Pat - I might have to check out the ballet version too. I have found that some of these classics have been made into ballets and I am curious at how the adaptation goes.

  14. A little late getting back to this discussion, having been out of town but Ryan I can't agree with you more. I will second your recommendation on the Thin Man Series (plus you get to see an early James Stewart as a bad guy in one of them)and the other pairings of Myrna Loy and William Powell. Black and white doesn't mean it's a bad movie or one that won't hold your attention, any James Cagney gangster film will pull you in from Angels with Dirty Faces and Public Enemy to White Heat. For me I'd rather watch an old movie than most new releases and I am addicted to Turner Classic Movies. I blame it all on my beloved grandmother, yep, it's all her fault;~)

    Luckily for me, my husband and I share a lot of the same loves; reading, old movies and sports, just to name a few. I didn't realize it was so late, I've gotta go and get some reading done.

    Heather - I just wanted to congratulate you and Nick on your Dracula crossover event and hope you guys do another one. I will have to finish catching up on the rest of the event later, I've got reading to do.

  15. Dawn - I too enjoy watching old movies a lot. I am actually using some birthday money to buy some of my old favorites to have for myself. I think this event was a success too, and we hope to have another event together at some point.


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