As soon as it seems we have seen it all when it comes to vampire thematic, a new movie or series comes out proving that, just like its characters, the genre is immortal. To honor Bram Stoker, an author best known for his gothic horror novel Dracula which actually paved a way for vampires entering the popular culture, I created this historic overview of the most interesting. Each one features pale, more or less attractive blood sucking mythological creatures who keep inspiring filmmakers and attracting the audience’s attention.
Stoker died on the 20th of April 1912, but his legacy lives on, although some of the vampires we have gotten used to today are nowhere near the original book version of count Dracula who is described as a thin, old, white-haired predator with sharp teeth and pointy ears.
Book cover by Laura Birdsall
First we go way back in time to Germany and F.W. Morneau’s adaptation of Stoker’s novel. The character’s names and some facts and locations have been altered because the film studio didn’t manage to obtain the rights for the use of original Dracula content. After finding out about the movie, Stoker’s widow filed a lawsuit against the creators of Nosferatu and demanded that all of the copies need to be destroyed. Luckily, some of them were copied, saved and managed to survive. Even after all those years, Count Orlok (Max Schreck) remains one of the most chilling characters on-screen, he is so convincing that many viewers at the time thought he could be a vampire in real life as well. An absolute must see for true horror movie lovers, especially if you can get your hands on the restored Blu – ray edition.
This is an official version, the one that had no lawsuit and copyright issues. More importantly, it features the legendary actor Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula, the role that marked his career forever. Also, Lugosi’s thick Eastern European accent influenced the future portrayals of the character in the same manner, turning it into one of the most recognizable Dracula’s features, even though the novel description clearly states his English was flawless. Lugosi’s deep voice, clean-shaven face with not much make up and simple elegant clothes have become a mandatory part of the iconic Dracula portrayal that would be copied and used as a reference for many generations to come. Apparently, at first he wasn’t Universal’s first casting choice, could you imagine that?
The Return of the Vampire (1943)
The 1931 horror classic has turned Bela Lugosi into a star, but it was also the one he couldn’t escape from as he continued to get typecast for the rest of his career. This was supposed to be a Dracula sequel, but due to possible copyright problems and lawsuit threats, the names were changed even though everything else remained familiar. As a cool fun fact it should be noted that this is the first movie ever that features both vampires and werewolves in it.
Lust of the Vampire (1957)
The plot of this Italian horror movie (I Vampiri is the original title) takes a different turn as it doesn’t revolve around the classic vampire monster antagonist. Instead, there is a mad scientist who kills young women and draws blood which his lover uses in order to stay alive and maintain a youthful appearance. This the debut film for Italian master of horror Mario Bava who didn’t get credited as a director because he continued the work startted by Ricardo Fredda who left before it was finished. Here you’ll get to appreciate Bava’s talent in creating amazing visual effects, knowing how to properly use lightning and creating a chilling atmosphere.
Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
It would be impossible to go through this list without mentioning the Hammer Horror Film series who’s first three sequels were all directed by Terrence Fisher. Also, this series brought the iconic role to Christopher Lee,‘the second most famous Dracula of the 20th century‘. For the first time he appeared as the mysterious Count in 1958 adaptation of Stoker’s novel, for some reason skipped the following Brides of Dracula, and then came back for the Prince of Darkness. This part of the franchise is particularly interesting because Dracula doesn’t really speak, he only hisses, and the reason? Christopher Lee claimed he refused to talk in the movie because the lines sucked, while the screenwriter Jimmy Sangster said it was his idea, that he didn’t even write any lines for Dracula because vampires don’t chat. Even if the lines were THAT bad, that didn’t stop the legendary actor from taking the Count Dracula role in 8 more movies.
The Vampire Lovers (1970)
The 70’s era delivered some classic adaptations, but also a whole range of really weird vampire inspired movies like Love at First Bite and Dracula Sucks, taking the genre to a whole new level. To completely step away from the original Dracula plot, I chose another title from the Hammer Film Company – The Vampire Lovers. This one is inspired by the story that was written earlier than Stoker’s novel, it deals with not only vampires, but includes eroticism as well. It means there’s nudity and lesbian sex scenes, while vampires are no longer ugly, but sexy and seductive. Placed in the 19th century Austria, the plot centres around beautiful female vampire who is constantly looking for new victims. Even though the movie can’t be declared a masterpiece, it has gathered a cult following among horror fans.
The Lost Boys (1987)
There’s horror, there’s comedy and there’s some romance and awesome soundtrack in this Joel Schumacher‘s movie, and it all works pretty well together. Three teenagers and their mom move to a small town in California where they hear rumors about vampires and mysterious deaths that could be connected to them. At first they think those are just funny stories, but after one of the brothers starts behaving suspiciously, it’s time to get serious. I love the make up and special effects, the bloody and gore scenes look convincing, especially when you consider it’s an 80’s movie. A great cast and an entertaining, modern approach towards the ‘vampire’ subject makes this one definitely worth watching.
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
The 90’s offer another gothic, back to roots view of the genre in Coppola’s 1992 Dracula or luxurious blockbuster Interview with the Vampire, but my favorite work from the decade lies on the other end of the spectrum. I am not a George Clooney fan, but nevertheless, Seth Gecko remains one of my favorite movie characters ever. Over the top, violent, rude, not afraid to be trashy, those are the characteristics of many Robert Rodriguez’s movies. Two brothers who have just robbed a bank and are on their way to Mexico. A father and his two kids are going on a holiday in their RV until the Gecko’s take them hostage and they manage to pass the border all together. When they make a stop in a bar, after sunset they realize they will have to fight for their lives… What I love about From Dusk Till Dawn are the creative dialogues, humor and ridiculous gore moments. And of course, that Selma Hayek scene.
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Probably the one that stands out the most from the list, and it’s no wonder since it’s Jim Jarmusch‘s take on vampirism and the meaning of life. In its specific way, it is a great contribution to the genre. Even vampires struggle with existential crisis, get depressed and worry about the future of our society. This is not really a horror, but not really a typical romantic film or drama, neither sex or violence are at its core, the most important place is reserved for cultural references that could be found everywhere. The pace is slow, but amazing cast, soundtrack, atmosphere and dialogue keep the viewer focused throughout every minute. Movie lovers and pop culture enthusiasts will know how to appreciate it. If I had to choose living as a movie character for the rest of my life, that would be Eve (Tilda Swinton) from Only Lovers Left Alive.
Originally published on Creators.co