Culture has provided us with many adaptations of vampires throughout recent years, from Twilight’s Edward Cullen to the multiple vampires in shows like Vampire Diaries. But what more famous vampire other than Count Dracula himself? In 1897, Bram Stoker created a novel which featured this mythical creature, Count Dracula also known as just Dracula, a predatory vampire that lived high in the Transylvanian mountain side in a castle (Light,63). A novel that would be recreated into a film that would later take on multiple adaptations after Dracula would be killed time and time again.
Count Dracula became a fictional filmic character that was immoral and the face of modern evilness. Based on a prince that Stoker researched in neighboring countries of Transylvania named Vlad Dracul also known as Vlad the Impaler. Vlad had become a vampire by “an evil secret society that had transformed him into some vampire centuries before and murdered his wife” (Manea, 41).
The first visual representation of Dracula provided viewers with many distinct characteristics that would make Dracula recognizable in any of the future adaptations. Although many actors played the role of Dracula the one whom put these characteristics on the map was Bela Lugosi, the first Dracula. “Forty years after his death, Bela Lugosi’s face and voice are inexorably linked to his most famous role” (Passport International Productions). A voice that provided a heavy accent which was Lugosi’s own Hungarian accent would be carried on for years to come.
Dracula (1931) was the first film adaptation of the 1897 novel there had previously been Broadway plays about the novel but never a film. During the plays Dracula wore a stage cape which was then included in the film to bring Dracula to filmic life. Slick black hair, a black and white suit, mesmerizing eyes, fangs, and black cape became the look that would forever be viewed a Dracula. Throughout the film Dracula was also given behaviors that would shape the image of Dracula such as the ability to turn into a bat when wanting to be unrecognizable. The inability to be out during the day or of having a reflection. Also, he had a way of seducing people both sexually and powerfully with his gaze.
Dracula (1931) had a story line of this vampire who had found an unsuspected victim to bite and make his. This victim helped Dracula travel to London where Dracula hoped to get revenge on a Doctor Seward a doctor that killed his wife. Bela Lugosi did an amazing job at portraying Dracula in this first adaptation. His performance was strong in the scene that you the viewer could always feel whom was in control, Dracula. He would walk into a room and smoothly talk his way into anything with his gaze and deep voice. In the film he was able to get his revenge on doctor by seducing the doctor’s daughter and making her too drink his blood to become one of his victims. The only time that Dracula would be at risk was when a cross was presented to him which Lugosi always did a great job at showing the hurt the vampire must feel upon being presented with this. Overall his personal performance was great, but the film was only a door opener for other adaptations that would include more action and more family friendly points of views.
In 2012 Dracula was brought to life in the film Hotel Transylvania. An adaptation by Columbia Pictures that would represent Dracula in a kid friendly matter but still stay true to the image we had for Dracula. This film was centered around the building of a hotel ran by Dracula that was intended to keep he’s daughter safe, a promise Dracula had made to his late wife who was killed by humans. No humans were ever supposed to find this hotel, but a backpacker happened to come across it. Ultimately the backpacker pretended to be a monster to fit in and ended up falling in love with Dracula’s daughter (Tartakovsky). In this adaptation Dracula himself was portrayed in a much friendlier way, no gazing stares unless you harmed his daughter where he would turn red of anger. The film manages to stay true to many of Dracula’s behaviors in this adaptation by still allowing him to transform into a bat and only allowing him to be able to sustain life at night. Dracula also did still wear his black slick hair, his suit with a black cape and fangs just like in the original. They did put a twist to Dracula’s diet however, instead of him feeding off human blood he had a blood substitute diet, I thought this was particularly cute seeing how this was a children’s film, we don’t want traumatized children after all(Tartakovsky). The film did introduce behaviors of vampires that were not in the original film like walking up and down walls and walking upside down of the roof. Those behaviors are things that we now associate with vampires that were not illustrated back in 1931.
If action rich films are much more your thing over children films more recent adaptations of Dracula have included much more action for audience to enjoy, for example Dracula Untold (2014). In Dracula Untold the focus is how Dracula came to be. It is very much about the Prince that had inspired Bram Stoker’s book, Vlad the Impaler. Vlad who in an act to keep his own child safe begins a war with the Turks. Not having the man power he needed to overcome this war, Vlad went to a cave where a known vampire live and asked for his help. On a loan the vampire allowed Vlad to drink his blood and taste his power for three days under the condition that Vlad would fight the thirst of drinking human blood. If he resistant, he would go back to normal after three days if he failed however he would free the vampire of his spell and take over his place. During the war Vlad’s wife on the verge of dying asked Vlad to suck her blood and keep his powers to save their child, which Vlad did and that is where Dracula is born (Shore). This adaptation was suspenseful but did get rid of many of Dracula’s characteristics, here Dracula did not wear a suit with a black cape rather he wore a knight in armor suit due to him being is war. He hair was also not slicked back the way the others have been in fact the only similarities that he had were the ability to transform into a bat and his fangs, but both came in different forms. When the original Dracula would transform into a bat he would only become one bat in Dracula Untold he became an army of bats. He’s fangs where not always visible the way the originals were, they would only come out in flashbacks or when he bit his wife at her death. It was a completely different spin on the character but a presentation of a monster that is more seen in culture today (Shore).
No matter the adaptation of Dracula it is clear that he is a monster that has been created by a human illusion. An illusion that can fit into many of Cohen’s monster culture theses. Thesis I: The Monster’s body is a Cultural Body, was executed differently in every film that I watched, I think is was based on the fact that I choose three totally deferment adaptation, an old Dracula, a cartoon Dracula and a modern Dracula. Culture and time totally change the appearance of Dracula, During the time of the 1931 adaptation there was not a huge market of horror films and what ended up getting created were monsters, Dracula included (Passport International Productions). In today’s culture we have an ever wanting of action so that is what Dracula became, a fighting warrior out for blood.
Thesis II: The Monster Always Escapes by Cohen applies to Dracula in the form that no matter what happens to him in any of the film adaptations there will always be another Dracula. At the end of Dracula (1931), Dracula gets killed by taking a stabbing to the heart. This is supposed to kill Dracula by reducing him to dust and making him one with the earth again only that it doesn’t. As seen by my three filmic sources Dracula always becomes a new charter in some other adaption of the film. In fact, Bela Lugosi played the famous role twice, seventeen years apart (Passport International Productions).
Dracula shows in each adaptation that he is a hybrid to human kind by having the ability to transform when needed. Therefore, he fits into Cohen’s Thesis III: The Monster Is the Harbinger of Category Crisis. He can be seen as a simple human to an unsuspecting victim. He can also transform in times of crisis, for example, in Dracula Untold he fought of his wars in the form of bats, this allowed him to fight faster without being caught and killed. Another example of how this hybridism helped Dracula is when in the original film the doctors where on to his real identity and Dracula needed to transform into a bat for a quick getaway.
In recent adaptations Dracula always begins by being the bad guy or the guy that is feared but always ends up being the hero by the end of the film, this is why he fits into Cohen’s Thesis IV: The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference. In Hotel Transylvania Dracula sends the backpacker away by scaring him out of love with his daughter but once realizing that his daughter was also in love with the backpacker he set off to make things right. Even while putting himself in harm by entering the human world during the day he found the backpacker and brought him back to his love. At the end of the film Dracula was the hero that gave his daughter back her one true love.
Dracula was a character that did nit stay in one place and wherever he went he cause havoc this is connected to Cohen’s Thesis V: The Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible. In the original Dracula he travels to London and as soon as he arrives he find a young woman on at the train station to feed off. It was his way of announcing he had arrived. In Dracula Untold, Dracula also caused havoc, he moved his people from one town to the end allowing the war to follow him and leaving destruction everywhere he went.
Cohen’s Thesis VI: The Fear of the Monster Is Really a Kind of Desire is illustrated by the number of remakes that the film has had. At the end of the day we as consumers continue to spend our money at the box office to see more of Dracula. In some cases, people have even traveled to the castle where Dracula is believed to be, even though he is a fictional character (Light, 63). Cultures desire for this monster is everlasting. Because of this there will always be more films in the making more myths about Dracula’s castle as long as people continue to create this is why Cohen’s Thesis VII: The Monster Stands at the Threshold . . . of Becoming can be supported.
In conclusion Dracula is a monster created by, Bram Stoker’s imagination and carried on by culture. Dracula has and always will continue to fit in Cohen’s monster culture theses as long as culture allows. We fear the creature that could kill unsuspectingly in the night but, yet we still desire more. The original Dracula paved the way for many more adaptations and many centuries of bloodsucking.
Annotated Bibliography Evaluating Monsters
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” Monster Theory: Reading Culture, University of Minnesota Press, 1997.
Cohen’s chapter about monster culture and the theses surrounding monsters in the bases of my evaluating monster paper. The chapter discusses the thesis of how monsters are viewed. This chapter will be useful in my paper because it will help me analyze the monster I have chosen.
Light, Duncan. “Romania’s Problem with Dracula.” History Today, vol. 67, no. 5, May 2017, pp. 62-65. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=122332425&site=ehost-live.
This article is about how culture insisted in a real Dracula. It talks about the problems and blessings that Romania got out of the novel “Dracula” by Bram Stoker. I will use this article to support Thesis I: The Monster’s body is a Cultural Body also Thesis VI: The Fear of the Monster Is Really a Kind of Desire from Cohen’s monster culture.
Manea, Dragoş. “A Wolf’s Eye View of London: Dracula, Penny Dreadful, and the Logic of Repetition.” Critical Survey, vol. 28, no. 1, Spring2016, pp. 40-50. EBSCOhost, doi:10.3167/cs.2016.280105.
This article discusses the start of Dracula and his connection to Vlad the Impaler. This article helps support the story behind the film Dracula Untold. This is why I will be using it in my paper.
“Dracula.” Performance by Bela Lugosi, NBC Universal, 1931.
This version of Dracula is the original adaptation of the book Dracula. I believe this will help me better understand who the original Dracula was in order to compare other adaptations that came later on through multiples centuries.
Passport International Productions, director. The Many Faces of Dracula. Amazon Video, Multicom Entertainment Group , 2017.
This documentary covers the many faces that have portrayed Count Dracula throughout the years. This documentary will be useful in my paper when connecting Thesis II: The Monster Always Escapes with Dracula. This is due to the fact that even though Dracula gets killed at the end of every film he is brought back again in future adaptations.
Shore, Gary, director. Dracula Untold. Performance by Luke Evans , Amazon Video, 2014.
Dracula untold is one of the most resent adaptations of Dracula to date. It is an example of how modern society sees this monster. This film will be used in my paper to compare the original Dracula film to a modern spin on the story. Also it helps understand the prince that inspired Bram Stoker’s novel.
Tartakovsky, Genndy, director. Hotel Transylvania. Columbia Pictures, 2012
Hotel Transylvania is a spin of Dracula intended for children’s entertainment. The reason I choose this film to be part of my paper is because I wanted to see how a monster can be portrayed in a way that is kid friendly.