Thursday, May 21, 2015

35 mm Dracula - from freaky to sexy

i've been reading up on vampires for a few years now, since, as far as history and anthropology are concerned, i am interested in death rituals. obviously the nosferatu, or undead, throws a wrench in that process. at the same time, i've been doing some light research on Vlad Tepes. Throw in the mix Bram Stoker and you end up with this odd fascination for Dracula.

so i started collecting Dracula movies. i don't have them all yet (apparently Dracula has appeared in 161 movies, according to this site ) but i'm slowing working on it.
one winter, i read Stoker's book from cover to cover and then i watched the Dracula movies in my collection, in chronological order.
two great conclusions emerged:
1/ no director really follows the book plot (except perhaps the 1977 BBC  tv production called 'Count Dracula' starring Louis Jordan, and apparently the Jesse Franco's 'Dracula', starring Christopher Lee, which i just discovered but haven't seen yet);
2/ and nobody portrays Count Dracula as he is described in the book.

why? i don't know why. honestly, it seems to me that it would not be too difficult to follow the plot as well as the portrayal of Dracula. OK, we know why F.W. Murnau didn't.... copyright infringement and lawsuit by Stoker's widow, basically ruining the director. but what about the subsequent ones. go figure.

i focused my attention on second conclusion: the portayal of Dracula on the silver screen. i noticed this strange evolution, from freaky, with Murnau's 'Nosferatu' starring Max Schreck, to sexy, with Frank Langella's portrayal in 1979. finally in the 1990's we get a mix of the two genres with Gary Oldman in Coppola's masterpiece.
but i truly believe that Bela Lugosi was the greatest influence on this shift away from the pure monster. he played Dracula on screen just as he had on Broadway, and subsequent actors all borrowed from him: looks, dress, manners, etc. i can't help but think that, if he hadn't played that role, perhars the hollywood portrayals of the Count would have been more monsterous, more Murnau-like.

grab a drink and some popcorn and enjoy...

here's the first part...

and here's part 2...