Vampire books and movie surround us today in our society, books as recent as The Cirque du Freak series, the Twilight series, and many others, all who owe Irish author and drama critic, Bram Stoker, for writing the horror masterpiece Dracula. Although I have seen Bela Lugosi as the dark Count, Frank Langella as the romantic Dracula, and Christopher Lee’s version of the character, it wasn’t until High School that I got around to reading Dracula. I have the Leonard Wolf, Annotated Dracula version, where Mr. Wolf provides the introduction, notes, and bibliography. The artist Sätty provides the artwork that adorns the pages of this book. Gothic lithographs and beautiful maps of England and Romania help create the illusion of reality that Stoker brought to the pages in 1897. Released on May 26, Dracula, is a novel, that I found absolutely creepy and nightmarish upon my first reading. Unlike most novels written in second or third person narrative form, Stoker creates a world of utter believability by writing Dracula in the form of letters or diary entries. As if, he, Stoker, was the editor piecing together an event in history, and providing us with evidence of the account; retelling folklore as if he was documenting a crime. The story of an English solicitor traveling to the dark woods of Transylvania to conduct a real estate contract between a Eastern European noble, and his firm. The solicitor, Jonathon Harker, is drawn into a world that, in Stoker’s time, confined to tales told at night beside the fireplace.
Tod Browning’s telling of Dracula in 1931, for a long time was the version that many remember to this day. Taking liberties with the story, and turning Renfield into the solicitor that travels to a remote castle in Transylvania, and then is captured by the Count. Browning changed the story in a way that simplified its telling for the audience. The star, Bela Lugosi, embodied the character of Dracula throughout his career and into the grave. For audiences, of the Great Depression, Dracula was an escape into the dark eerie world of the supernatural. By 1958, the story had changed a bit more turning Harker, not as a solicitor, but into a librarian. Peter Cushing (Star Wars) portrayed Doctor Van Helsing, and Christopher Lee (another Star Wars alumni) as Dracula, together they made unforgettable adversaries. By the time I was in High School in 1979, Frank Langella starred in director John Badham’s romantic version of the count. Dracula, now less a monster and more of a romantic figure goes around the English countryside seducing the women and inciting them into a venereal lust. Not until Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 version, capture not on the spirit of the book, but to some degree more or less the letter of the book as well. For me, the appeal to Coppola’s version is that he creates a back-story for Dracula that seems quasi-plausible in light of history of Vlad III the Impaler. This new version featured an all-star cast with Gary Oldman leading Winona Ryder as Mina, away from her first love, Jonathon, played by Keanu Reeves. All of these versions of the film have something for fans of the vampire genre.
Although there are many cinematic versions of Dracula, there is only on book, written by Bram Stoker in 1897. So, this Wednesday, May 26, either dust off your copy of this best-seller or pop into your DVD player any of the Dracula films, and enjoy.