Tuesday, July 3, 2007


Nice house. If only my wallet wasn't so empty.

Reading this got me to thinking. Who's given the best portrayal of the count on screen? Fictional, of course, so Robert Novak isn't eligible. At the end of the day, the order doesn't matter and I'm sure that I'm missing one or two, but these are the ones I keep going back to. There's a reason for that.

1. Horror of Dracula, 1958. Christopher Lee brought something fresh to the greatest of all vampires: a raw, terrifying physicality. Gone was the strict cosmopolitan airs of the Universal immortal. Add to the mix another legend of the genre, Peter Cushing, and exceptional character actors like Michael Gough and you have a classic. Hammer wasn't only about the hint of spattered blood and heaving bosoms. Though, yeah, those are in here, too.

2. Bram Stoker's Dracula, 1992. This film strangely seems to have its share of critics, from those who vehemently dislike Keanu Reeves, those upset with Anthony Hopkins' too eccentric Van Helsing or those who feel everything that Coppola has done outside of the mob or 'Nam pales in comparison. But the visuals are absolutely stunning, the soundtrack is gorgeous, Reeves leaves the 'whoas' behind, Hopkins is excellent, Tom Waits is quite memorable as a demented Renfield and Gary Oldman gives a tour-de-force performance as a tortured, romantic gentleman. Max Schrek he is not. Speaking of the German....

3. Nosferatu, 1922. The hideous Count Orlock (yeah, it's Dracula - crazy lawsuits) can still jar the visual senses. There's nothing of star-crossed love here, just a monster on the prowl in the earliest surviving adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel. A filthy, grotesque air fills the screen; its grim mood may not affect postmodern sensibilities, but it can certainly be appreciated.

4. Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary, 2002. Guy Maddin's black-and-white screen version of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's production is brilliantly presented as a silent film. With music by the maestro Gustav Mahler, this very erotic, expressionist work is certainly enduring. The Victorian lust threatens to burst out in each scene.

5. Dracula, 1931. Quite possibly the most immortal - ha! - portrayal of them all, the great Hungarian fills the movie with iconic image after legendary line. This is the template for the Dracula most familiar to us and it's still an excellent film.

6. Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht, 1979. Loyal to the text as its spiritual predecessor, Klaus Kinski is superior in Werner Herzog's atmospheric, claustrophobic movie. Romance isn't all-but-pushed to the background as in Murnau's flick - how could it be with Isabelle Adjani - but has been supplanted by a gloomy, languorous death. Bleak and wonderful.


Tom Hilton said...

Excellent choices...which is to say, you got my three favorites (Max Schreck, Klaus Kinski, and Christopher Lee) and off the top of my head I can't think of any you've missed.

Randal Graves said...

Great flicks all, but I was upset when Horror of Dracula finally made it onto DVD with essentially zero extras. I'd rather have the film than not, but given that Lee was able to do a commentary track for The Wicker Man, for example, I was hoping he would've for this one. Would've been nice to get his impression of this film so many years later. And there weren't any Hammer tidbits lying around? Oh well. Beggars, and all that.