Will The Real Count Dracula Please Rise!

The Irish-born protege of actor Henry Irving originally was going to call him "Count Wampyr". But, Bram Stoker decided to rename him in an early draft of his work-in-progress. "Dracula" entered into literature in 1897. No long lost love-no lonely romantic-no sparkley vampire.

He was the invading creature of the night from Transylvania. This Count had evil intentions and not a broken heart. Was he based on Vlad Tepes (the Impaler)? Well, not really.

Stoker came across the name and biographical sketch while researching descriptions of the "Land Beyond the Forest". So he took the name "Dracula"- Son of the Dragon (or Devil) and the more foul traits of the Voivode. To this he added the parasitic nature of the vampire, the Victorian era xenophobia, and a physical description of his employer-Irving. In fact the Harker/Dracula relationship closely mirrors the way Irving exerted  control over Bram Stoker. We were never meant to feel sympathy for the bloodsucker. Count Dracula, with hairy palms, foul breath, and fangs was a thing of nightmares.

It was only the layer of stage and screen interpretations that began the process of romaticizing the Count's persona. Max Schreck was closer to Stoker's creation than Bela Lugosi.

Christopher Lee's characterization (animalistic sexuality and cruelty) led to Frank Langella's Broadway depiction (more Valentino than even Lugosi) eventually gives us Francis Ford Coppola's lovelorn antihero.

It will be interesting to see how  the next interpretations- Russel Crowe, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers-hold up to over 100 years of the Undead legacy.
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Nov 29, 2012