Episode #2: Some Really Good Bad Guys
By: The Dracu-Lady
Welcome back to the Creepy Corner you multitude of minions! Last week I teased that we would talk about some of the most famous Dracula films and the striking actors who played him throughout the history of film. So without further ado let us begin!
The first Dracula film is one you have most likely heard of, if not actually seen. It’s the world famous 1922 flick Nosferatu starring Max Schreck in the title role. If you look up the film online you will first be struck with the truly unsettling visage of Count Orlok, and, second, by the fact that the Count is named ‘Orlok’ and not ‘Dracula.’ The reason behind this massive oversight is, in fact, no oversight at all, but a group of filmmakers trying to get out of paying royalties to Bram Stoker’s widow. She would not stand for this, for obvious reasons, and sued them with the intent of destroying any and all proof that the film ever existed in the first place. Prepare yourself for this: She won. Destruction of the German commenced and almost wiped out every negative and copy of the film, but miraculously a few survived. These few were copied and reproduced and Nosferatu became a classic.
Though most people these days probably haven’t seen the film, when people think of ‘Dracula’ they are most likely picturing Bela Lugosi who portrayed the Un-Dead Count in the 1931 classic Dracula. He is the perfect Dracula! The slicked back hair; the creepy accent; the crazy eyes that bore into your mortal soul. Everything about his portrayal has become the cornerstone of the Dracula franchise and every actor that tries to take over the role is, inevitably, compared to him. Enough said.
In case you were worried that the only good ‘Draculas’ were filmed in the thirties, I would like to direct your attention to 1992’s Dracula starring arguably one of the greatest actors of our day, Gary Oldman. For those of you who haven’t seen the film, I don’t think I’m releasing any spoilers when I say that the film is not a good movie. The film did win three Academy Awards, Best Costume Design, Effects, and Makeup, but the film as a whole is not a good one. Gary Oldman, on the other hand, is the best thing to ever happen to the character of Count Dracula since inception. He is sexy and dangerous and passionate and wants to kill and/or marry everyone on screen and it is just too much fun to watch him do it. If you haven’t seen it, and are of an age that makes it legal, go see it. But remember: you can laugh at everything else in the movie, but not him. I will know and I will find you.
We now move on from the cinematic history of ‘Dracula’ and we enter a more light-hearted review of a few of my favorite Draculas.
I’ve already spoken about Gary Oldman, but did you know that Christopher Lee (Saruman for you super nerds out there) has been in eleven Dracula movies between 1958 and 1975. Granted, my love for Mr. Lee came from Middle Earth, but my undying respect for him was solidified with the Dracula films. In those years there might as well have not been any other Dracula’s in Hollywood and, in fact, there are probably a portion of our readers who identify with Mr. Lee as the Count, as I do with Mr. Oldman.
One Dracula people often times gets forgotten in today’s world is 1979’s Dracula starring Frank Langella of Frost/Nixon fame. I was 15 when I saw this movie and it was a great mix of 70’s cheese, fabulously beautiful Frank, and a truly unsettling shot of Mr. Langella hanging upside-down outside the window of Mina Van Helsing. Creepy and fantastic.
Those are by far the best Draculas since the character’s cinematic introduction, but, as with almost everything, there are some honorable mentions. George Hamilton played a very orange Count in 1979, while Leslie Neilson hammed it up in 1995’s Dead and Loving It (the only one allowed to make fun of Gary Oldman) and a re-vamped vamp turned up in 2004’s Van Helsing starring Richard Roxburgh as Hugh Jackman’s shape-shifting nemesis.
Finally we come to my favorite actor of all time, Mr. Gerard Butler. A very young King Leonidas stars in the terrible new millennium flick Dracula 2000 as **Spoilers** Dracula/ Judas. That’s right. Judas. Don’t expect this to be in the same zip code as Bram Stoker, but you owe it to yourself to see how they tie that into the Dracula universe.
Well kids, that brings us to the end of the Creepy Corner for now. Look for the next episode where we look into the Victorian time period a little deeper and explore why Dracula had the incredible impact that it did. How exciting! Scare ya later!
A little bit about The Dracu-Lady: The Dracu-Lady’s secret identity is Emily Anderson (Shhh, don’t tell anyone!). She is a recent addition to the Lyric Arts family working in the box office and as house manager. She just graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point with a degree in Arts Management, but grew up in the Twin Cities and has spent many an evening at Lyric Arts Main Stage with her mother, sister, and grandmother. Her favorite color is red; her favorite food is macaroni and cheese and chocolate (but not together, cause that would be gross) and when she grows up she wants to be Batman.