DRACULA Through The Ages, Skeleguitar, Godzilla’s Thicc Thighs, and More
In this Issue:
- Horror History: DRACULA Through The Ages
- Image of the Week: A Big Problem Calls For a Pinhead
- Tiny Bites – This Week’s Best Horror Headlines
- Things We Love: What a Pain in the Neck
- Hey, That’s Us! – Shudder in the News
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.
IMAGE OF THE WEEK
A Big Problem Calls For a Pinhead
Love this mashup of Hey Arnold and Hellraiser? Swedish artist Daniel Björk (aka Kickpunch) has an entire series on his website, including riffs on The Little Mermaid, The Simpsons, WandaVision, and more!
SKELEGUITAR, GODZILLA’S THICC THIGHS, AND MORE
Horror has never shied away from being political and American Horror Story is no exception. Vulture looks at what AHS: Election got right and wrong about the past four years.
Roger Corman and Jane Asher sat down with The Guardian to revisit their 1960 classic Poe adaptation The Masque of the Red Death.
A metal musician turned his uncle’s skeleton into a guitar.
The upcoming Blade adaptation has landed its writer: Stacy Osei-Kuffour, who wrote for HBO’s Watchmen series.
Cinema journalism has reached its peak as CrunchyRoll takes a look at the history of Godzilla’s thicc thighs.
After a rare interview with The Shining Shelley Duvall, io9 takes a hard look at ‘Auteur Theory’ and the lasting damage it can cause.
Have you seen the trailer for Old, the upcoming film from M. Night Shyamalan?
If you’ve ever wondered what A Nightmare on Elm Street would look like if all the scenes with actors were taken out, Hungry Creature Productions did just that.
Plan your first big, post-pandemic road trip with the help of Atlas Obscura’s map of 30 iconic horror locations.
Author Sarah Langan speaks briefly about her brand new book Good Neighbors, which gives a horror twist to climate change.
Delve into the world of Indigenous horror folklore in The Historical Natives, a podcast that explores N. American cryptids.
Lauren Ambrose spoke with Shondaland about being a mother in Apple TV’s horror series Servant.
THINGS WE LOVE
What a Pain in the Neck
Ever wanted to mix your love of jewelry with your love of horror films? Hell’s Belle Designs has this gorgeous Dracula-inspired necklace which adds a splash of blood-red to any formal outfit.