Daniel Knauf creator of Carnivàle will be bringing the Dracula legend back to life for NBC in a new ten part series starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the undead Count. Knauf has stated his Dracula will be true to the original monster and will not be one of the current brand of metrosexual, whining, fang boys. I look forward to Mr. Knauf’s vision. As a student of Gothic horror, Dracula is one of my favorite Victorian novels right after The Beetle……. Mr. Knauf if you are reading this we need a TV show or movie based on The Beetle it is the perfect project for the modern audience. Very few stories even today feature a transsexual, energy vampire, who is also a giant beetle, But I digress.
Dracula returning to the small screen has made me nostalgic for my favorite vampire movies. For a creature who according to the Hollywood legend can’t be filmed, Dracula and his vampire minions have been featured on more rolls of celluloid than probably any other monster. It would be almost impossible to discuss even a tenth of the movies inspired by Bram Stoker’s masterwork so I would like to focus on the ones I feel have done the best job conveying the creature Stoker created. While these films are not always faithful reproductions of the novel, I feel they capture the feel and even some of the subtext of the book. I refer of course to the Hammer Films “Dracula” movies.
The first of these was released in 1958 and was simply called “Dracula”. As I said it is not fully faithful to the novel but I believe it to be faithful to Stoker’s vision of Dracula. Dracula is not a sympathetic figure he is a predator both feeding off the living and a sexual predator, a creature of desire. In the novel Stoker introduces us to a host of sexually alluring vampires which feed off their hapless victims. Stoker’s female vampires are described in animalistic terms. They lick their scarlet lips, they arch their backs suggestively, and they use sexto their advantage . These are not your typical Victorian women. Hammer films capture these creatures perfectly. They are walking talking damnation both sexually and physically. A danger to any man or women they happen to meet. The Victorian sexual prudishness is exposed by these creatures and Hammer productions exposes the same vein of prudishness in 50’s society. In fact, while there is very little nudity or even real overt violence in the first hammer “Dracula” feature that first movie was given an X rating. By today’s standards the film could be aired almost in its entirety on television.
These films feature Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Von Helsing. They are not in every film in the series but do have recurring roles throughout.
The movies Hammer Films produced about Dracula are
2. The Brides of Dracula
3. Dracula Prince of Darkness
4. Taste the blood of Dracula
5. Scars of Dracula
6. The Satanic Rites of Dracula
(There may be a couple more I have forgotten)
these movies are well worth watching my favorite is “The Satanic Rites of Dracula” mainly because Dracula in this movie is a monster but one that is much more intelligent and thoughtful than in the earlier movies. I prefer my vampires evil the way they were meant to be Hammer Films deliver. Let’s hope the new Dracula TV show delivers as well. I’ll be watching.