Young or old, everyone knows at least something about the blood-sucking vampire and the myths that surround him/it. As Dracula Untold is on our cinema screens now, here’s a few things you may or may not have known about this immortalised character (in more ways than one).
1 Vlad the Impaler
No, it’s not just a song by Leicester based band Kasabian, Stoker’s Dracula is based on Vlad the Impaler, of the House of Draculesti, who reigned in the mid 15th century. The name was given to him posthumously. Protecting the western world from the Ottoman Empire, Vlad Dracula would go to any lengths of torture and cruelty to do so, reportedly killing his own villagers to show invading armies just how badly he would treat his own people to scare enemies off. Of course, his most famous and renowned type of execution was impalement, with his victims sliding down the stake in a most horrific and gruesome way.
2 Bram Stoker’s ‘other’
Dracula was published in 1897 and written by Irishman Bram Stoker, at the height of the Gothic fin de siècle period when there was a large shift of immigrants coming to the UK. A simple reading of the novel is of Dracula as some kind of ‘other’ – a foreign invader coming to destroy society. (Note that this was also a time when the Empire was under increased scrutiny and there was a feeling that it was losing its grip). Dracula is the antithesis of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, also written around this time, where Stevenson very much sees the degenerative state of the UK coming from within society, particularly urban degeneration, rather than outside it as a foreign threat.
The North Yorkshire town gets a special visit from Transylvania’s most famous and vilified character in the novel. A shipwreck and a slaughtered crew hit the coast, and Dracula comes ashore as a type of werewolf, and has an interesting encounter with Lucy Westenra.
The first film to take inspiration from the Dracula story is Nosferatu, which was first screened in 1922. The fact it is a silent movie makes it all the more harrowing. Nine years later Dracula came along, starring Bela Lugosi as the Count. Since then there have been many remakes – some of them good, some dire. Buffy the Vampire Slayer come to mind straight the way.
5 Christopher Lee
Say the word ‘Dracula’, and I think of Christopher Lee in the role of the blood-sucking vampire in the Horror of Dracula. The Hammer Horror film was released in 1958 and directed by Terence Fisher. Lee has played some of the most incredible villains in cinematographic history (Lord Summerisle, The Wickerman, Saruman, Lord of the Rings, Francisco Scaramanga, The Man with the Golden Gun), but none are quite as iconic as the Count himself. Anyway, Scaramanga’s golden bullet would be no use against Dracula. It needs to be a silver one of course!
Think Francis Ford Coppola, think Godfather (or maybe Apocalypse Now). But his 1992 version of Dracula, starring Gary Oldman as the Count, Anthony Hopkins as a rather crazed Van Helsing, and Winona Ryder as Mina showcased just a few of the stars in this production. Coppola’s cinematic traits shine through and it is the best film of all the Draculas. Exploring all the concepts unearthed in the book, it is a must-watch for the enthusiast of the blood-sucking kind.