Our look at the big screen portrayals of characters in the world of Dracula arrives at the Count himself – and we’ve got a favourite.
Good evening children of the night and welcome back to our exploration of Dracula adaptations. We’ve already feasted on juicy side characters and the actors who have portrayed them. Now we turn to the main event – the stars of our story and debate which Dracula film is number one!
Now let us head back to our dissection and sink our fangs into blood-curdling nightmares as we head into the dark heart of Dracula…
Best Performance: Bela Lugosi in Dracula (English, 1931)
Oh my gosh, this was hard to decipher from the many depictions of the character in cinema. It’s hard to say it’s because Lugosi is legendary in the role that he ends up on top, because there have been so many different versions that, if done well, pretty much every actor becomes an icon in their own right. Max Schreck’s shadow crawled up a wall to ensnare our frightened Ellen in one of cinematic history scariest shots. Christopher Lee’s red eyes bore into the back of your mind as they glower over their latest victim. Gary Oldman’s tortured Count begs for Mina to see him in an unforgettable performance. Even Carlos Villarias’ somewhat amusing wide-eyed vampire is memorable in its own right.
It boils down to one line. There is just one line that separates Bela Lugosi from the pack. A line delivery so breath-takingly perfect that it still rattles around my mind. It’s a line from most films but it belongs to Bela Lugosi only. It makes his character this playful yet haunting macabre figure that stalks the mind instantly.
And it is this very line that makes Lugosi the best Dracula…
But if that’s the best Dracula performance, let’s have a look at some of the films as a whole. What is the best adaptation of Dracula in cinema?
Best Spin-Off: Blacula (1971)
I have to say that this is a very close call because there are so many sequels from either the Universal Monster or Hammer Horror series. The highlights of those include Dracula’s Daughter in 1936 and The Brides of Dracula in 1960. However, blaxploitation horror, so epically and fiendishly named, Blacula takes the win for me.
Yes, it is funny and really good romp, but director William Crain understands the romance at the core of it. Perfectly capturing the seventies aesthetic and blending it with the Gothic, with a dash of well-placed quips, Blacula is a brilliant outing.
Guilty-But-Not-Guilty Pleasure: Dracula 2000 (erm, 2000)
I have no excuses. This is a very trashy movie that I love with all my heart. It turns the Dracula story into almost a 1990s b-movie slasher. It has Gerard Butler, of all people, as the titular character and it plays havoc with the text, trying to move the character into the 21st century. But boy, it is so much fun. You may cringe here and there, but you’ll have a bloody good time none the less.
Best Film: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1991)
How do you judge this? Direction? Artistry? Performance? Emotion? Production?
There are so many adaptations of Dracula, and each has their own merits, and subsequently, their own fans. Well, except for Dario Argento’s disastrous 3D version in 2021 and that god-awful Dracula Untold outing in 2014.
When it comes to which film is the best adaptation, it is hard because even now to me there are five that really standout – Nosferatu (1922,) Dracula (1931), Dracula (1958) Nosferatu the Vampyre (1978) and Bram Stoker’s Vampire (1992.)
Each have fantastic performances and standout moments. I was very close to picking F. W. Murnau’s silent epic Nosferatu. Certainly, if I had room
Ultimately, however, it’s Francis Ford Coppola’s that wins in this reviewers eyes. True, the film has some godawful accents from Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder. Yet you can forgive them because there are some heartfelt moments here underneath the phoney English speak.
Plus, it is very faithful to the Dracula text, including Seward, Morris, and Holmwood as Lucy’s pained suitors.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a visual spectacle too, filled with such stunning cinematography and striking costume design. There are themes of rampant romance and sexual repression. That special kind of bloodlust, travelling through centuries, is heightened by Wojciech Kilar luscious, haunting score. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a Gothic fantasy about unbridled sexualities bound in corsets and flesh and it is simply stunning to watch.
Those are mine, then. But what are your favourite Dracula performances and films? Leave them in the comments below…!
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