Friday Book Club: Dracula At the Movies

SWT-Book-ClubsFrom silent movies to today’s 3D, Dracula inspires filmmakers because its themes continue to resonate with modern viewers, and because it is full of vivid, iconic imagery.  What filmmaker wouldn’t want to film the scene of Dracula crawling down the castle wall, face first?  Or the scene in which Van Helsing and Mina Harker take refuge in a circle made of crumbled holy communion wafers as Dracula’s brides  attempt to lure them into the open?  Or Vampire Lucy wandering the graveyard in her wedding/burial dress, clutching a child (dinner) to her lovely bosom?  The novel is perfect for the movies.

black and white photo of Bela Lugosi as Dracula

Bela Lugosi

It probably doesn’t hurt that the basic story of Dracula provides a good excuse for a filmmaker to sell gore, sex, and mayhem.

Leslie Nielsen as Dracula

Leslie Nielsen loves his mayhem!

And, in a perfect circle of longevity, every time filmmakers release another movie version of Dracula, more movie goers become interested in the book – and as their interest grows, so does the studios interest in making more movies grow.  That’s not even counting all the vampire movies more loosely inspired by Dracula (Interview with a Vampire, Lost Boys, Near Dark, The Hunger, Blade, etc.)

Christopher Lee as Dracula

Christopher Lee, creeping me out.

Here’s a partial list of movies (by year of release) more or less directly based on the novel Dracula.  My source is the wonderful New Annotated Dracula, annotated by Leslie S. Klinger.  Just for the heck of it, here’s a link to a review from io9 of the latest Dracula movie, Dracula 3D.  Directed by Asia Argento, it is supposed to be bad beyond all belief!  If you are in the Sacramento area, come visit us at the Arden Dimick Branch of the Sacramento Public Library on October 27, at 2PM, for our actual, real life, face to face book club discussion.  I hereby invite you in.

Gary Oldman as Dracula

Gary Oldman as Dracula in Francis Ford Coppola’s terrible, terrible adaptation.

Now for the movies.  I haven’t seen most of these movies so I can’t personally endorse them.  Be aware that I’m listing movies according to their link to the novel, not according to their quality, which may be minimal.

1921:  Death of Dracula (no copies remain)

1922:  Nosferatu

1931:  Dracula (starring Bela Lugosi!)

1953:  Drakula Istanbul’da  (a Turkish production)

1958:  The Horror of Dracula (starring Christopher Lee)

1972:  Blacula

1973:  Dracula (starring Jack Palance)

1978:  Count Dracula (starring Louis Jordan)

1979:  Dracula (starring Frank Langella)

1979:  Love at First Bite (a comedy starring George Hamilton)

1992:  Bram Stoker’s Dracula (directed by Francis Ford Coppola, it has very little in common with Bran Stoker’s version of Dracula.  I actually have seen this movie, and it’s HORRIBLE.)

1995:  Dracula:  Dead and Loving It (a Mel Brooks’ directed comedy starring Leslie Nielsen)

2000:  Dracula 2000 (directed by Wes Craven)

2004:  Dracula 3000 ( a sci-fi horror film that, weirdly, has no relation to Dracula 2000).

2008:  The Librarian:  Curse of the Judas Chalice (starring Noah Wylie as the badass librarian)

2013:  Dracula 3D (directed by Dario Argento)

For a more complete list, including such gems as Batman Fights Dracula, and Dracula’s Dog,  Wikipedia has a long, long list!

Friday Book Club: Bram Stoker’s Double Life


This month’s Friday Book Club is all about Dracula, by Bram Stoker.  Bram Stoker was an interesting guy – on the surface, frankly he’s pretty boring.   He was a civil servant and a business man, with a wife and a kid and possibly a picket fence.  Under the surface, he’s a man of mystery.  Here’s a short (very short) bio of the creator of Dracula.

photo of Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker was born on November 8, 1847.  “Bram” is short for “Abraham”.  He was born in Ireland, and in the first of many odd things about him, he was bedridden until he was seven years old.  Of what?  We do not know.  Nor do we know how he recovered.  But he did, and became a star athlete in college, where he studied math.

Bram Stoker graduated, became a civil servant, and wrote a book with the most boring title possible:  The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland.  He described it as “dry as dust”.  Then he met this guy:

Henry Irving

Henry Irving

Henry Irving suggested that Stoker become the business manager of the Lyceum Theater in London.  Stoker not only did that, but he also became “Irving’s secretary, confidant, accountant, public spokesperson, closest friend, business associate, and tireless companion”  (From:  The New Annotated Dracula).  Stoker married a woman named Florence Anne Lemon Balcobe, and had a child who he promptly named “Irving”.  Stoker was travelling or working most of the time, with Irving.

Here’s an interesting tidbit about Florence: she was also courted by Oscar Wilde.  In fact, Stoker and Wilde had a quite a falling out over it, although they eventually reconciled.  Needless to say, there is a lot of speculation about Stoker and Irving, who were far closer than even close platonic friends usually are.  Very little is known about Florence except that two very artistic and unusual men wanted to marry her.

Florence Stoker

Florence Stoker

The other bit of trivia I’m fond of is that Bram Stoker hired Pamela Colman Smith to work at the theater, and she is best known for illustrating the Rider-Waite Tarot.  Stoker was rumored to be a member of The Golden Dawn, an occult society.

Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897.  It was a solid seller, although not what we would think of today as a best-seller.   He wrote several other books, but his biggest hit during his lifetime was a two-volume biography he wrote of Henry Irving after Irving died in 1905, titled, Personal reminiscences of Henry Irving.

Bram Stoker suffered a stroke soon after Irving’s death.  He died in 1912 after several years of illness.

Thank you to the following two sources:  The New Annotated Dracula, by Bram Stoker, Notes by Leslie S. Klinger; and  I highly recommend schmoop’s page of links – it’s a great resource!