Many years ago Dracula was feared by many throughout Romania as the “son of the devil” for his cruel rulership. He would torture his enemies to death by impalement, and set up tables in front of them so he could listen to them scream in pain to their deaths, then bath in their blood to stay young and strong. The myth began spreading like a virus throughout Europe where the first book ( The History of Voivode Dracula) was published in 1463. Because of Dracula’s dislike of the Germans the story was over exaggerated almost becoming unbelievable to readers. As word of mouth thrust the Dracula stories as if it were a folk tale, the farther from the truth they became until books were continuously being published to create a vampire literature. However, until the Bram Stoker’s version published in 1897 (Dracula) did anyone start to see the changes over time until the movie industry took hold of the great villain.
Between 1909 and 1928 there were twenty-five silent films that were made in some way shape or form about Dracula. Although the way story actually was, and how the movies presented them became farther and farther from reality than ever before the interest only grew. Vlad Dracul was the father of Dracula who ruled in Romania from 1456-1476. He was given a medallion with a dragon engraved on it, which was part of an Order to defeat the Turks during that period. Dracul however means the dragon, or the devil, and Vlad being his son became the “son of the devil” or “Dracula”.
The movies would begin to present Dracula as a man with great powers such as turning into a bat or wolf. He has unbelievable strength, and has senses that can control certain types of animals as well. As the legend grew more powers evolved from basically nowhere, so the story could continue to keep others attention and sell movie tickets. Because he is considered by many as the “son of the devil” any sort of religious symbol could harm him if there was strong faith within. Vampires do not have souls, therefore they cannot see their reflections in mirrors, come to have shadows either.
During the 1930s and 1940s another thirteen movies were made, but they were not of the normal blood sucking man following everyone around town during the evenings. The legend of Dracula began to fade as a fiddle playing the same tune, so new things had to occur to keep the story alive. This era brought the birth of both the daughter (Dracula’s Daughter 1936) and son (Son of Dracula 1943) where the children could grow, and would bring another element which no one had seen before in Dracula, which was emotion. It would also bring new power and different characters to add to the Vampire family even in different ways like the creation of Frankenstein. As the popularity was open again, not only were their movies being made about the greatest Vampire, but comedy acts were becoming a popularity during 1948 with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire.
By the 1950s and 1960s Dracula had built a mass family of other vampires through the years that would make one believe that people that walked among us in the streets during the night were actually vampires. Which continued to bring other adventures into the story such as doctors victimizing their patients (Blood of the Vampire 1958), where mad scientists became evil people in the near future. The fact that Dracula was the creator, the stories in these movies could link back to him, but they didn’t necessarily have to be about him. This opened the doors wide open for many different types of vampires, and branched out to werewolves, and demons, and many other devilish characters. By the beginning of the 1970s both Europe and the United States had taken a once told folktale and turned it into a society that was hidden from the world during the daytime and amongst us at night.
Over sixty movies relating to vampires were made during the 1970s and as the society grew, it was almost as if it was time for the different types of characters to clash. As though there was no longer enough room for Dracula, Frankenstein, Werewolves, or others, duels between them seem to be the ticket to bring in more viewers. It started with the 1970 American version of Dracula vs. Frankenstein then moved to The Werewolf vs. The Vampire Woman (1972). There were remakes of original versions of Dracula movies, and much of the same scenarios throughout the seventies, but towards the end a new found type of comedy was born (Love at First Bite) with George Hamilton (1979) that would work itself into a new breed of vampires.
These tended to be the sensitive Vampires at times, funny, and even lovable, depending on when and what movie came into play. Just as “Love at First Bite” started the new form of Vampire, many similar types of vampires were born in movies such as Once Bitten (1985 starring Lauren Hutton), The Lost Boys (1987), My Best Friend is a Vampire (1988 where vampire likes rare hamburgers), and many others that would create this sense of vampires wanting to be like everyone else. A great example of this was Vampire Cop (1991) where the vampire could only work during the night shift, and then try to be a TV reporter.
It wasn’t until 1992 (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) that a new character was beginning to be born. The unbelievable human that could defy all odds and be the savior of the world by defeating the population of the vampires. As before where only things like garlic, rose beads, crosses, and sunlight could save you from death, new toys were being made that would bring a more science fiction element to the vampire stories in general, with or without Dracula. A new type of character was born to fight vampires in 1998 with the production of “Blade” with Wesley Snipes that was an instant hit. Most impart to the fact that he was half human, and half vampire, so he could actually walk in the sunlight and not be harmed. As sucking blood from victims was normal of vampires, he drank from viles and other options to portray a do gooder.
Just four years later “Blade 2” surfaced with new toys to defeat his enemies, and continued to be a success. It was a new breed of movies that would spark sixteen others within a three year span. Most notably the next breed of vampires to spin off of the “Blade” movies was “Underworld” with Kate Beckinsale. A movie that his the most futuristic of past events to date that brings Vampires and Werewolves into a feudal war that has lasted over 600 centuries, and where Kate Beckinsale is a vampire like Wesley Snipes (Blade I, II, and III) trying to eliminate the werewolf species and protect humans from their evil ways. This movie has great history that still has fallen from actually really discussing Dracula as he once was in the beginning of films.
In the end, what started out as one man torturing his victims and watching their horror, has become a symbol of the devil to many for vampire movies today. Associated in events such as Halloween, it is one story that will never die, and will continue to go as our technology and ideas grow in the movie industry today. I am anxious to see a movie come out that would take us back to 1456-1476 when Vlad Tepes ruled in Romania before he came to be known as Dracula.