From the day Nosferatu crept onto the silent screen we’ve been obsessed with fangs. A popular myth for well over a hundred years by that time, Bram Stoker immortalized what was at best superstition and at worst outright lie. From the day Dracula came into being women longed for the romantic tragedy of the vampire in secret while being scandalously terrified by the horror of the living dead. Most of this we can thank the Victorian’s for, as their obsession with dead lead to much of what we love about the macabre today.
Vampires. Zombies. Werewolves.
The three TOP horror themes no matter what flavor you like. But whether you like campy horror, comedy, tragic romance, or outright brutal terror there’s so many actors who have played Dracula in their time it might be hard to pick.
Bela Lugosi – Best Classic Dracula
Born Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó, he was the first actor to play the named vampire Dracula after Bram Stoker’s novel. Produced in 1931 after Lugosi had starred in the stage play with the same script, Dracula had a suave air and an authority that the rabid Nosferatu had lacked – here was a vampire that seemed a little too human. His naturally accented voice led an air of mystery and realism to the Eastern European character despite his not being the first choice by Universal for the role. He received acclaim for his stage portrayal and helped make this early film a success. Lugosi died in 1956 and was buried in his Dracula costume at the request of his wife and son.
Christopher Lee – Best Rabid Vampire
A haunting figure, Lee brought back some of the brutality of the original Nosferatu, playing a vampire who was ruthless and soul-less rather than romantic. Lee was the first “British” Dracula, as up until the late 1950s horror movies had been banned in UK productions. Lee, a reserved, private, and stoic actor played Dracula much like his own personality which at times was considered standoff-ish by some. Unlike Lugosi, Lee had a string of Dracula movies attributed to his name thanks to the Hammer Horror franchise which continued through the 60s and 70s to produce some of the most camp and cult followed Dracula movies produced. In fact, these are often considered to be much more watchable as “oldies” than the original Lugosi “talkies” especially if you can laugh at the bright orange and paint-like blood that is liberally shed. His first portrayal of Dracula came in 1958, two years after the death of Lugosi.
Gary Oldman – Best Tragic Romantic Dracula
Though there continued to be Dracula productions through the 80’s it wasn’t until 1992 that another epic Dracula came to the screen. Unlike his predecessors Oldman portrayed a romantic and tortured soul. The brutality of earlier betrayals was notably absent, and unlike Lugosi’s suave and foreign looks Oldman looked, for the most part, unassuming and even timid at times – a huge reversal from Lee’s very much take-over of the screen portrayal. This new Dracula has a lot to do with the shift in attitudes towards vampirism. The current crop of kids who romanticise the images and humanise them were brought up on Oldman’s work. While it was originally rated an R, it is certainly considered to be tame by modern movie standards thanks to director Francis Ford Coppola’s refusal to use computer graphics unless absolutely necessary.
Leslie Nielsen – Best Comedy Dracula
While the older generation may prefer George Hamilton in the campy Love at First Bite, there’s no denying that the sarcastic bumbling Nielsen has his own appeal. Backed by star director Mel Brooks, this film was everything the older Dracula films weren’t – it appealed to everyone, and with a production style that had deep similarities to Christopher Lee in the Hammer movies it once again appealed to the same crowd who had loved his earlier portrayals. Ironically when the movie was released it tanked, with it getting relegated to the realm of cult horror and barely making more than the 20 year old Love at First Bite made total at that point. Nielsen was far from the reason. His portrayal of a bumbling Dracula was giggle-worthy but never reach tear-jerking hilarious thanks to a script that lacked that final push to make it a hit. With very few comedy Dracula portrayals it’s difficult to really give a winner yet with few people outside of enthusiasts even remembering Hamilton’s portrayal the slide into anonymity means his performance has not help up well to the test of time.
Adam Sandler – Best Cartoon Dracula
This was actually a difficult choice. As a fan of David Jason’s Count Duckula from the 80’s the show was funnier and more entertaining, yet can you really consider a “vicious vampire duck” a portrayal of Dracula? Hotel Transylvania appealed to the new, sanitized, version of Dracula. Where the “scary” was no longer scary, and in fact had become the subject of kids movies. This could arguably have been best comedy Dracula as his portrayal of the stressed father and hotel owner trying to protect his daughter from the outside world was, at times, quite laugh worthy. As with many Adam Sandler films his sarcastic personality comes through strongly making a character that people of all ages can appreciate (and who does not say Bleh Bleh Bleh Bleh Bleh).
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