Fascinated to the point of adulation & devotion of millions, Dracula has always been a beloved character of the masses. I’m guessing that he is the one fictional character who has been portrayed the most all over the world – in tv, movies & stages. There is no more alluring or dangerous character than he. I checked out 3 movies – in different decades – which tell his story based on the original book by Bram Stoker.
Dracula (1931) the Universal classic black n white film directed by Tod Browning and starred the legendary Bela Lugosi as the famous count. Renfiled goes to Castle Dracula on a business matter to discuss the count’s decision to lease Carfax Abbey in London. After the deal is done Dracula feeds on Renfield and turns him into a raving lunatic who will do anything the master wishes. Together they travel to London on a ship, during which Dracula kills all the people. Renfield is the only person found alive and is sent to Dr. Seward’s sanitarium. Some nights later at a London theatre, Dracula meets Dr. Seward, who is with a group in a box seat area. Lucy who is Dr. Seward’s daughter Mina’s best friend is quite taken by the count and that night, after Lucy falls asleep in bed, Dracula enters her room as a bat and feasts on her blood. She dies in an autopsy theatre the next day after a string of transfusions, and two tiny marks on her throat are discovered.
Dr. Seward has Professor Abraham Van Helsing to assist in Renfield case and the latter suspects the work of a vampire. Dracula meanwhile has turned his attentions to Mina and visits her in her sleep. Later when Dracula visits with Dr. Seward and Mina, Van Helsing and Mina’s fiance Johnathon Harker notice that Dracula does not have a reflection in a mirror. When Van Helsing shows this “most amazing phenomenon” to Dracula, he reacts violently, smashes the mirror and leaves. Van Helsing deduces that Dracula is the vampire behind the recent tragedies. Lucy meanwhile has risen as a vampire and is attacking the local children. Van Helsing & Harker find Dracula trying to make off with Mina after they follow Renfiled to the abbey. When Harker shouts to Mina, Dracula sees them, thinking Renfield had led them there. He strangles Renfield and tosses him down a staircase, and is hunted by Van Helsing and Harker. Dracula is forced to sleep in his coffin, as sunrise has come, and is trapped. Van Helsing prepares a wooden stake while Harker searches for Mina. Dracula moans in pain when Van Helsing impales him, and Mina returns to normal.
In 1958 from Hammer Horror films comes Horror Of Dracula (name changed from just Dracula to avoid confusion with the 1931 movie) – the story of Dracula is changed from the original play by Stoker. Johnathon Harker comes to Castle Dracula to meet the Count (played by Christopher Lee) posing as a librarian. However his intention is to kill the vampire. He meets the count and settled down but is startled by a female vampire who asks for his help. She tries to attack him but is yanked away by Dracula. Later Harker finds the two in their coffins and kills the woman but Dracula awakens and feeds on Harker and escapes. Harker’s friend Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) arrives at the castle and is horrified to see his friend lying in a coffin as a vampire. He stakes him and then goes back to share the news with Arthur Holmwood and his wife Mina, brother and sister-in-law of Harker’s fiancée Lucy. Unknown to them Lucy has already fallen prey to Dracula, who had seen her photo in Harker’s belongings.
After Mina dies, Van Helsing leads the doubting to find that Lucy has risen and they stop her from harming a small child. Van Helsing stakes her in her coffin. While they try and track Dracula, Mina is lured to the count by a fake message from her husband and he preys on her. Later when Arthur gives her a cross to wear, it burns her. Despite their best efforts to guard her Dracula escapes into the night with Mina. Arthur & Van Helsing chase them back to the castle where Dracula attempts to bury Mina alive outside the crypts but is caught by Van Helsing and Arthur. Inside the castle, Van Helsing and Dracula struggle. Van Helsing tears open the curtain to let in the sunlight and, forming a cross of candlesticks, he forces Dracula into it. Dracula crumbles into dust as Van Helsing looks on. Mina recovers, the cross-shaped scar fading from her hand as Dracula’s ashes blow away, leaving only a ring behind.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula, released in 1992 directed by Francis Ford Coppola, sees Gary Oldman play the Count as a more sympathetic & romantic figure and the origins are closer to the inspiration for Stoker’s character – Prince Vlad the impaler. Newly-qualified solicitor Jonathan Harker (Keeanu Reeves) travels to Transylvania to meet the Count to finalize the deal of Carfax Abbey. Seeing a picture of Harker’s finance Mina reminds Dracula of his long dead wife Elizzabeta and he decides that he must have her. Dracula leaves Jonathan to be seduced by his brides and sails to England with boxes of his native soil, taking up residence at Carfax Abbey. In the form of a wolf like creature, Dracula seduces and rapes Lucy and her changing behaviour lead Dr. Seward to call Van Helsing in for a consultation. A youngish looking Dracula, in daylight, meets and charms Mina. However when Mina receives word from Jonathan, who has escaped the castle and recovered at a convent, she travels to Romania to marry him. In his fury, Dracula transforms Lucy into a vampire. Van Helsing, Holmwood, Seward and Morris kill Lucy.
Later when he meets Mina again, Dracula begins transforming her into a vampire. With Van Helsing, Mina travels to the castle while the rest chase the count’s coffin being transported by Gypsies. The Brides try to get Mina to seduce Van Helsing but he refutes her and later kills the 3 brides in the castle. The gypsies are killed by the hunters and Harker slits Dracula’s throat. As Dracula staggers, Mina rushes to his defense. Holmwood tries to attack but Van Helsing and Harker allow her to retreat with the Count. Dracula lies dying in an ancient demonic form. He asks Mina to give him peace. They share a kiss as the candles adorning the chapel light up, and Mina shoves the knife through Dracula’s heart. The mark on her forehead disappears as Dracula’s curse is lifted.
So there you have it, 3 films made in 1931, 1958 & 1992 and with different stories based on the book. While Dracula is mostly portrayed as evil in the first two, the1958 Dracula is more like a man who just happens to have a blood thirst, ofcourse but is also susceptible to the cross and sunlight. Gary Oldman’s Dracula is the ultimate tragic lover and more fleshed out character than the other two and hence has more depth and is sympathetic.