Dracula In The Movies : From A to Z
Looking to share some simple trivia on the Count and the many movies he’s appeared in I wanted to have some fun by coming up with 26 simple points to share with all of you. After all, I have over 60 movies on my shelf featuring the Count’s portrayal. Deciding on only one choice per letter, I guess the biggest decision I’ll have to make is who do I go with on the letter L. Lee or Lugosi?
A is for …. Alucard. Check on that spelling. First used in the 1943 film Son of Dracula, Lon Chaney Jr. went by the name Count Alucard in this fun entry of the Universal series. It was also picked up by Hammer Films in the cult favorite, Dracula A.D. 1972 when Christopher Neame’s disciple of the vampire King, Christopher Lee, carries the name Johnny Alucard and goes about luring his hip girlfriends into a black mass to bring his master back from the grave. Paging Peter Cushing.
B is for …. Bela.
O.K. so I cheated. But if you say the name Bela to any film fan there’s no need to follow it with Lugosi. There are not many actors in film history that you can say their first or last name and people will instantly identify who you are referring to. Lugosi will forever be identified with the role that made him famous. He first starred as the Count on Broadway and ultimately on screen which led to his being typecast for the balance of his career as a “horror” star. It’s a well known fact that upon his death in 1956 he was buried in his cape.
C is for …. Carradine.
John Carradine took over Universal’s blood drinking duties in 1944’s House of Frankenstein and with his portrayal brought an air of aristocracy to the series. John would play the role a number of times over the course of his long career. From Universal’s follow up, House of Dracula in 1945 to laughable fair in his senior years including Billy the Kid Vs. Dracula (1966) and Vampire Hookers (1979). Even John’s famous son David would play the Count in 1989’s Sundown. An enjoyable spaghetti western styled horror title with a superior cast. Look it up.
D is for …. Dwight Frye.
Like Lugosi, once Dwight Frye took on the role of the lunatic, Renfield, in the 1931 film version he was forever typecast. He’d follow up Renfield with Fritz, the assistant to Colin Clive’s Dr. Frankenstein in the Karloff classic. He would again play a very Renfield like character in 33’s The Vampire Bat and surface in other horrors including Bride of Frankenstein, Drums of Fu Manchu and Dead Men Walk. Dwight passed away at just 43 years of age but thanks to the world of cinema we’ll always have his manic laugh as the doomed Renfield.
E is for …. Elliott.
In 1968 as part of the television series Mystery and Imagination, the unlikely, Denholm Elliott, took on the role of the Count in what amounts to a TV movie. Truly one of the finest character players of his day, Elliott, seems to me a better fit to play one of the many other roles in Stoker’s novel. Dr. Seward perhaps? Kind of surprising he didn’t turn up in the 1979 John Badham remake. He’d have been a fine addition to that production. For example he once played opposite Jack Palance’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in a 1968 production I’d recommend as the force of good vs. the evil Hyde. I’ve always been a fan of Elliott from my early years discovering films from roles in the obvious, Raiders of the Lost Ark or Trading Places to his earlier work in films like Too Late The Hero or King Rat.
F is for …. Fisher. Having just directed Hammer’s box office hit The Curse of Frankenstein, Terence Fisher, was the obvious choice to helm the studio’s follow up, Dracula, aka as The Horror of Dracula. Fisher had already done a number of British Noirs for the studio featuring imported stars like Dane Clark and Lizabeth Scott. He’d become the go to director for the majority of Hammer’s re-boots of the Universal studios catalogue. By my count he directed 30 films for the studio including vampire follow-ups, Brides of Dracula and Dracula-Prince of Darkness. A superior craftsman of the horror genre.
G is for …. Gibson.
Always looking for an excuse to squeeze in some Canadian content I’ve settled on director Alan Gibson who was born in London, Ontario, Canada. Just up the road from me. Gibson directed both of Hammer’s attempts to bring the Count into modern day London, Dracula A.D. 1972 and the follow-up The Satanic Rites of Dracula. While the films were pretty much panned back in the day, both have attained cult status and fans today are most appreciative that each film pitted Lee vs. Cushing once again. I recall Gibson returning to Ontario in the mid 80’s just before his death to direct a little seen feature titled Martin’s Day that starred Richard Harris. It’s a film I’d like to see once again.
H is for …. Hammer Films. Coming strong on the heels of 1957’s box-office hit, The Curse of Frankenstein, the Studio That Dripped Blood filmed the next logical choice in the gallery of classic monsters, Dracula. The letter H could also stand for that film’s North American title, Horror of Dracula released in 1958. Simply put, it’s the best film the studio ever released and some list it as the greatest of horror movies, period. Iconic Chris Lee assumed the role he’d forever be identified with no matter how hard he tried to escape it in the years that followed. Dracula and the world of vampires became a staple of the company’s output up until it’s “demise” in the late 70’s. While I think the Horror of Dracula is indeed the best film the studio gave us (and yes I do revisit it yearly), I do love the “title” Taste the Blood of Dracula best.
I is for …. In Search of Dracula.
The non-fiction book published in 1972 by authors Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu looked to dig beyond the Count in a Cape and discover the origins of Stoker’s Count leading them to Vlad the Impaler. This led to a theatrically released documentary narrated by Christopher Lee who also appeared in some segments as Vlad himself. I recall signing this one out at the library as a kid looking to learn more about the vampire myth. Not sure how much of it I actually read at the time but have since acquired an early edition of the book and the author’s follow up Dracula, Prince of Many Faces. And yes, I’ve read both.
J is for …. Jordan.
Louis Jordan starred as the Count in the BBC adaptation released to TV screens in 1977 under the title, Count Dracula. To this day it’s still probably the version that remains the closest to Stoker’s novel. I found Jordan to make for a very smooth Dracula and Frank Finlay a solid Van Helsing for his opponent. Sadly the less said about some of the fringe performers the better. Recommended to purists and completists.
K is for …. Kenton. Director Erle C. Kenton will always be identified with the Universal Monster series. He directed both studio monster mashups, The House of Frankenstein (1944) and The House of Dracula (1945). Both films featured John Carradine in the role of Dracula and both films offer plenty of nostalgic fun though I do lean towards Frankenstein as the more enjoyable of the two. Boris Karloff and J. Carrol Naish can do that for a film. Kenton also directed The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942). When fan favorite Joe Dante filmed The Howling in 1980, he sought to pay tribute to the directors of classic monster flicks and fittingly cast John Carradine in the role of …. Erle Kenton.
L is for …. Lee.
The battle rages on I suppose. Lugosi or Lee? If forced to pick I go with Lee but do we really have to choose between the two? Enjoy each for the era he has in. Lee is a major icon of cinema thanks to his body of work which lasted close to 70 years and despite some lean years with lesser productions he roared back in his old age to take new generations of filmgoers by storm entering into the Star Wars universe followed by The Lord of the Rings. Despite all those great villains he portrayed from Scaramanga to Rasputin and beyond, he’ll always remain exactly what I picture when the subject of Dracula in the movies comes up. Like many others I’ve been a fan since childhood and would loved to have thanked him personally for all those wonderful scares I experienced as a tyke watching late night TV.
M is for …. Marshall.
William Marshall joined the genre of Blaxploitation when he was cast as Prince Mamuwalde aka Blacula who is bitten by Dracula and condemned to eternal life, hungering for blood. Really a perfect exercise in exploitation filmmaking from the early 70’s this one is far better than you might think and spawned a sequel, Scream, Blacula, Scream. Like Chis Lee, Marshall with his baritone voice easily commands the screen and that shouldn’t be surprising considering he had a lengthy career on stage in Shakespeare, Broadway and Opera prior to this production. The only thing that saddens me about his performance as Blacula is that a third film never surfaced making it a trilogy.
N is for …. Nosferatu.
F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film is a classic of German cinema and beyond. While the script may have changed the names of those involved (Count Orlok), Stoker’s widow wasn’t fooled and sued the production company for it’s filming her deceased hubby’s novel without permission and paying for the privilidge. Thankfully all the prints weren’t destroyed as the court ordered and the film is visible to this day. Thankfully it didn’t end up as a “lost” film of the silent era like so many others and the look of Max Shreck’s iconic Count remains identifiable to this day. Remade in 79, the film also served for an ingenious idea in 2000’s John Malkovich/Willem Dafoe film, Shadow of The Vampire.
O is for …. Oldman.
Chameleon actor and Oscar winner Gary Oldman took on the vampire count in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 sumptuous big screen effort that was anything but a low budget vampire flick. When this film hit screens in ’92 I was there on opening night and while I wasn’t really familiar with Oldman at the time he quickly became an actor I hungered to see in his next role. Performances in movies like True Romance, The Contender and Air Force One had me hooked so I will admit to finding that his performance as the Count has only gotten better for me after multiple viewings as the years have passed.
P is for …. Palance.
Not to be overlooked among the many actors who have portrayed the Count is Jack Palance. Dan Curtis cast an imposing Palance in the 1974 TV film that sticks to the source novel as best as can be expected. It’s a movie that haunted this child’s dreams for many a night. Known to go over the top on more than one occasion, Palance, memorably plays it low key in a brooding style that sees him battling Simon Ward and Nigel Davenport as the vampire hunters over his lost love Fiona Lewis. This was a one time portrayal for Palance though I’d have welcomed a sequel.
Q is for …. No one said this was going to be easy and Robert Quarry doesn’t count in my books because Count Yorga isn’t Count Dracula and this isn’t Vampires : From A to Z. And since no one named Quaid ever appeared in a Dracula themed movie your submissions are welcomed.
R is for …. Rutger.
Cult favorite, Rutger Hauer, dabbled in Dracula films on more than one occasion. He actually has played both vampire and vampire hunter. In the low budget/straight to video, Dracula III, he starred in the title role. I found it all rather forgettable though I do have a soft spot for the first film in the trilogy, Dracula 2000, that starred Gerard Butler as the thirsty Count. Rutger also starred as Van Helsing in the less than stellar Dario Argento, Dracula 3D. Maybe I should give this one a second chance but on my first viewing I found it very much akin to the later Argento efforts. By that I mean disappointing. Back to Rutger. I think he’d have made for a hell of a vampire in a real Dracula effort. At one time he was connected to Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire in the role of Lestat. I wasn’t a True Blood watcher so not sure how he fared there. As for his appearance in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I was again disappointed at that time. I wanted a vicious and frightening Rutger but all we got was camp. I think movie goers missed out on this opportunity that has sadly passed us by with Rutger’s death in 2019.
S is for …. Stoker. (rather obvious I should think)
Bram Stoker (1847-1912) unleashed his classic novel upon the world in 1897 and it’s profound effect on pop culture is still alive and well to this day thanks in large part to the early stage plays and finally the movies. I’m not one for rereading books once I’ve “been there and done that” but as for Stoker’s thriller, I’ve probably read this one a half dozen times since my teenage years and when I come across an interesting copy or text if you prefer I’ve been known to add it to my bookshelf. Think about it, if it weren’t for Bram Stoker’s twisted tale, we’d have no Count Dracula up there on the screen since the dawn of movies.
T is for …. Tender Dracula. I include this rare title for the simple reason that it allowed the screen’s best Professor Van Helsing, Peter Cushing, to portray the vampire King. Barely released in 1974 it’s a title that seemed to exist only in monster magazines or coffee table books where an image of Cushing in cape might appear. It can now be found on youtube if you care to give it a look though it’s a shoddy transfer.
U is for …. Universal Studios. In large part it’s thanks to Carl Laemmle Jr. whose father gave him the reigns to the studio at just 20 years of age. The youngster wanted to produce horror films based on the novels of Stoker and Shelley. And the rest is history. The legend of Bela and Boris were born. The Universal Monsters have been a cash cow ever since for the studio and memorabilia associated with the Count continues to remain collectible to monster fans everywhere. Vintage merchandise can sometimes sell for thousands of dollars.
V is for …. Van Helsing.
Every villain needs a counterpart. Moriarty had Holmes and Dracula had the Professor. In the Lugosi film it was Edward Van Sloan and while countless others have taken on the role including a pair of Knighted thespians, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Sir Laurence Olivier, it’s Peter Cushing who stands above them all with his portrayals in the Hammer Film series. He portrayed the vampire slayer a total of 5 times. The films were as follows, Horror of Dracula, Brides of Dracula, Dracula A.D. 1972, The Satanic Rites of Dracula and his farewell performance was in 1975’s The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires.
W is for …. Werner Herzog.
Joining forces once again with Klaus Kinski, Herzog, set out to remake the silent classic, Nosferatu. I remember wanting to see this at the theater when it first came out but it wasn’t meant to be. I can’t recall if it was rated R or just never came to our hometown at the time. Eventually Anchor Bay’s VHS release solved my problem. I’m a fan of the film and Herzog’s work in general. Especially the films he made with Kinski and the documentaries around them. The stories behind their five movie duets are the stuff off legend beginning on 1972’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God in 1972.
X is for …. damned if I know. Please submit your recommendations below. Please, please … don’t mention Bogart in The Return of Dr. X.
Y is for …. Yvonne Monlaur.
Each and every Dracula movie has a beautiful woman that our vampire King wants to make his own. In the case of French born actress, Yvonne Monlaur, it’s in the Hammer Film production, The Brides of Dracula (1960). No doubt she’ll be the most attractive school teacher in the land should she reach her destination and avoid the evil clutches of Baron Meinster. But then thankfully Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing will be on hand to hopefully rescue this damsel who is clearly in distress. Easy on the eyes, Miss Monlaur, is surely one of the most beautiful women that Hammer Studios cast in their earliest efforts. She’d also be cast in their 1961 thriller, Terror of the Tongs. I had the opportunity to meet her once and she was gracious to the fans that gathered around to hear her stories of working for Hammer and with the gentleman of horror, Peter Cushing. Miss Monlaur passed away in 2017.
Z is for …. Zandor Vorkov. A rare name to be sure but for fans of Grade Z schlock they’ll know it. Zandor portrayed the vampire King in the 1971 “classic” Dracula Vs. Frankenstein from director Al Adamson. Notably the film gave us a hell of a cool one sheet and alas the final film performances of ailing Lon Chaney Jr. and J. Carrol Naish.
Stay tuned for more A to Z topics …….