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Matthew Baldwin's Journal

The Many Adaptations of Dracula

10.23.09 | 4 Comments

Despite having never read Dracula before, I have long been a fan of the character and his undead ilk. And so I’m going to cheat a little bit, using my analysis column to instead give a quick rundown of some of my favorite Dracula adaptations in a variety of media.

Theater

Dracula (1924): Dracula the novel owes much of it’s success to “Dracula” the play. First staged in 1924, the many liberties the playwrights took with the original story (such as combining the characters of Mina and Lucy while jettisoning many of the rest) have since become canonized by subsequent adaptations that followed the play’s storyline rather than that of the original book. Furthermore, Béla Lugosi’s portrayal of Dracula would forever define how the Count was thought of in popular culture.

Film

Nosferatu, a Symphony of Terror (1922): In the first cinematic adaptation of the novel, “Dracula” appears in neither the title nor the film. Because the studio was unable to secure the right’s to Stoker’s work, director F.W. Murnau instead called vampires (and the film itself) “nosferatu”, and the lead antagonist “Count Orlok”. When the Bram Stoker’s estate sued for copyright infringement, the court ordered all prints of the motion picture destroyed. The film had become so widely circulated by that point, though, that its eradication was impossible, and copy are now widely available.

You can even watch the entire movie on Youtube.

Dracula (1931): The Universal Pictures version of Dracula is what most people think of when they hear the name. Based on the 1924 theatrical production (complete with modified storyline), Universal drummed up interest in the film by publicizing (and probably staging) several “fainting spells” that afflicted terrorized audience members. The film’s success led to a decade of Universal horror movies, including Frankenstein, The Mummy, and The Wolf Man.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992): Although Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of the novel restored much of the original story (Mina and Lucy were portrayed as separate characters, for instance), the eroticism of the original was much more explicit, and the screenwriter played loose with Dracula origin (and end). Still, the film was generally well received, and was something of a box office sensation, starring, as it did, the then wildly popular Winona Rider as Mina.

Television

Count Dracula (1977): This adaptation of the novel by the BBC had fairly abysmal special effects (even for the time), but is considered to be one of the truest to the original story.

In 2006, the BBC made yet a second adaptation of the work:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In the season 5 premier of the popular dramedy serial, creator Joss Whedon pit his blond heroine against tall, dark and gruesome himself. Many worried about the clash of styles–the gothic villain dropped into a campy adventure–but as always, Whedon proved himself equal to the task.

Literature

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2002): To say anything about this graphic novel would be to give away too much. Suffice to say, if you are enjoying Dracula (or the era in which it is set), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1 would make a fine follow-up. You may even see someone you know.

Games

Fury of Dracula (2006: As a boardgame enthusiast, I would be remiss not to mention perhaps my favorite adaptation of all, Fury of Dracula. One player assumes the role of the count, skulking around Europe and trying to avoid detection; the other four players become Mina Harker, Van Helsing, Doctor Seward, and Lord Godalmling, trying to stop the fiend in his tracks. Based on the novel (not the films), the game is remarkably faithful to the original plotline, and makes for a tense evening. You can read my full review of the game here.

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