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DRACULA Through The Ages, Skeleguitar, Godzilla’s Thicc Thighs, and More
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DRACULA Through The Ages, Skeleguitar, Godzilla’s Thicc Thighs, and More

February 16, 2021

In this Issue:


HORROR HISTORY

Dracula Through The Ages

By Anya Stanley

Dracula has undergone many iterations through the years. More archetype than man, he has represented everything from xenophobia to sexual expression to the specter of Marxism. Throughout all evolutions, the wealthy, reclusive predator echoes social, cultural, and sometimes economic maladies.

Bram Stoker crafted his opus Dracula and published it in 1897. The now-classic novel is a tale of an undead aristocratic revenant who feeds upon the blood of innocents. Beneath the wealth, Dracula is a primal rapist who would not become the Lothario audiences now know until the following century. In the meantime, a blatant ripoff would become a silent cinema darling; Nosferatu (1922) used the trappings of expressionism to underline the fantastic horrors of Graf Orlok. With Max Schreck as the vampire exhibiting bat-like features and eerily elongated fingers, this Germanized version of Dracula still frightens to this day. On the other hand, director F.W. Murnau plays fast and loose with the original plot in order to lean into the concept of the plague-spreading Other, a theme that would continue in the next big cinematic adaptation.

During a decade-long stage run on Broadway, Dracula would be played by Bela Lugosi who, after a lengthy lobbying campaign, secured the titular role for Tod Browning’s 1931 adaptation of the same name. This is the film containing many of the images we now associate with the bloodsucker: a slick and mysterious aristocrat, a wild-eyed fly-eating Renfield, seductive mistresses of the night, and foggy, haunting Gothic architecture. Lugosi’s performance takes on a mystic quality and puts distance between the bestial Dracula of Stoker’s novel and Lugosi’s exotic Count. While critics dismissed Browning’s adaptation as a freakish exercise in perversity (an amusing take on a story centered around near-Puritanical sensibilities and the repercussions of that), Dracula performed beautifully at the box office, and an icon was born. The decades to follow saw Dracula crossing paths with Betty Boop, Abbott and Costello, and other Universal Monster cadre like the Wolfman. Through those, Stoker’s story and character became cheeky, sinister, hyper-sexual, and further embedded in the psyches of audiences everywhere, but he got a huge boost through one Christopher Lee.

Hammer Films’ Dracula (known in North America as Horror of Dracula) is a 1957 re-vamp of the 1931 film, introduces Lee as the Count. A later sequel, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, features one of the gnarliest resurrection sequences to date in a horror film (a blood sacrifice over the Count’s ashes!) as Lee’s Dracula returns to fight once again with his nemesis, Van Helsing, played in both films by Peter Cushing.

Lee and Hammer would continue their collaboration with a total of seven films concerning the Prince of Darkness. After Hammer flexed every narrative muscle they could with the character, cross-pollinations both changed and reconfirmed the original story. Dracula squared off with Billy the Kid, Blacula found re-interpretation of the Count’s Otherness in an African prince, and Andy Warhol also got in on the action with Blood for Dracula. More faithful adaptations like the 1977 BBC miniseries stayed true to the source material, while Dan Curtis and Francis Ford Coppola fused the original story with Vlad the Impaler lore and Gothic romance to draw vitality once again from the malleable saga. Saturday morning cartoons, anime series, graphic novels, and even a cereal have emerged from Dracula’s crypt to satiate a mass lust for anything and everything related to the immortal monster.

From page to stage to screen and beyond, Dracula has sunk his fangs into pop culture consciousness and hasn’t let go for over a century. What began as a codex to Victorian hang-ups continues to find purchase in modern retellings, the myth extracting new life and new attention. As the Count himself exclaims in Stoker’s novel, “My revenge has just begun! I spread it over centuries, and time is on my side.”


Anya Stanley is a columnist at FANGORIA Magazine, a film critic on the horror beat, and a staunch Halloween 6 apologist. Find her ramblings on Twitter @bookishplinko, and find her clips at www.anywrites.com.


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