Dracula was first published in 1897 and the story if the Transylvanian vampire was told through a series of diaries, letters and news reports.
It was well received by most critics when it first appeared but it has gone on to capture the imagination of horror fans ever since. There have been many adaptations on film and television over the years, some good and some bad, but very few have been straight adaptations of the novel itself. The character of Dracula has gone on to become part of pop culture itself.
The adaptations featured are in no way exhaustive and most of the schlock horror versions have been avoided.
One of the earliest cinematic adaptations of Dracula was the German silent film Nosferatu which starred Max Schreck as Count Orlok.
The film was an unofficial version of Dracula with the names of the characters and several details changed. It was not enough to stop the film makers being sued by the Bram Stoker estate and they were ordered to destroy all copies.
However, a few copies of the film survived and it is still considered one of the masterpieces of the horror genre.
Universal Pictures in the United States bought the rights to the novel and stage plays in 1927 so they would have the exclusive rights to the characters. The finished script was a mixture of the original novel and the successful stage play but would prove to be the standard blueprint for later incarnations of the Dracula films.
The film, starring Bela Lugosi, premiered at the Roxy Theatre in New York on 12 February 1931 and proved to be a commercial success thanks to some calculated promotion from the studio. Stories were planted in the press that the film was so scary, some members of the audience had fainted in shock.
The film spawned two sequels: Dracula’s Daughter (1936) and Son of Dracula (1943)
Hammer Film Productions, a British film company renowned for their horror and gothic films, brokered a deal with Universal Pictures to make a new version of Dracula which would be distributed worldwide by Universal.
The title role was given to Christopher Lee who would become synonymous with the role even though he would express increasing dissatisfaction with the scripts. Lee brought a sensuality to the role that had not been seen before and the film popularised fangs and wooden stakes.
Due to budget constraints, a lot of material had to be cut from the book but the basics are there with some of the character dynamics changed. The film was a huge box office success and would spawn eight sequels, although only six would feature Lee.
NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE (1979)
Nosferatu The Vampyre, written and directed by Werner Herzog, was a remake of the 1922 film with most of the characters names restored. The film starred German actor Klaus Kinski as Dracula and French actress Isabella Adjani as Lucy Harker. (It is Lucy who marries Jonathan Harker in this version rather than Mina).
The budget for the film was small, however there were two versions filmed simultaneously: a German version and an English version for international audiences.
The film was well received by critics for its pathos and it was a modest box office success.
A second Dracula film was released in 1979, starring Frank Langella as Dracula and Laurence Oliver as Van Helsing. Directed by John Badham, the film was based more on the original stage play, however it was heavily revised to be more romantic.
Mina is the daughter of Van Helsing as succumbs to Dracula quite early in the film and it is Lucy once again who has a relationship with Harker. Lucy falls in love with Dracula unaware of his true nature and becomes infected with his blood. Harker and Van Helsing join forces to destroy Dracula in order to save Lucy.
The film was a modest hit at the box office which disappointed the studio and put to rest any thoughts of a sequel.
BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA (1992)
After a decade of rest, Dracula was revived in the 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula with Gary Oldman in the title role. The film was directed by Francis Ford Coppola who links Dracula with the historical figure of Vlad Tepes.
Vlad becomes a vampire after blaming God for the tragic death of his wife, Elisabeta, and vows to avenge her. Centuries later, he sees a picture of Mina Murray, the fiancee of Jonathan Harker, and is convinces she is the reincarnation of his wife.
The film was a box office hit but garnered mixed reviews from critics for some of the film’s less than stellar acting. It won Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, Best Make Up and Best Sound Editing.
Directed by Wes Craven, Dracula 2000 starred Gerard Butler, Christopher Plummer and Jonny Lee Miller.
In the modern day, Dracula’s coffin is stolen from an antique shop owned by descendants of the Van Helsing family. Dracula awakens aboard a plane which then crashes into the Louisiana swamps. He makes his way to New Orleans where Mary Heller and Lucy Westerman are students.
Dracula has a psychic bond with Mary who was born after her father, Van Helsing, began injecting himself with Dracula’s filtered blood to prolong his life. Dracula transforms Mary and reveals he is actually Judas Iscariot who was cursed by God after his betrayal of Jesus.
The film garnered mainly negative reviews and failed to recoup its budget on release. It spawned two sequels: Dracula II: Ascension (2003) and Dracula III: Legacy (2005).
DRACULA: THE DARK PRINCE (2013)
Dracula: The Dark Prince was directed by Pearry Reginald Teo and starred British actor Luke Roberts.
The film borrows heavily from Bram Stoker’s Dracula in that Dracula is a Romanian prince who is haunted by the death of his wife. The film then becomes more fantasy as a group of keepers seek a weapon called the Lightbringer, the only weapon that can kill Dracula. Dracula realises Alina, one of the keepers, is a reincarnation of his dead wife and they eventually fall in love.
The film was largely panned by critics for its cheap production.
DRACULA UNTOLD (2014)
Directed by Gary Shore, Dracula Untold provides an origin story for Dracula is not based on any part of the original novel.
Luke Evans stars as Vlad Draculea, Prince of Wallachia and Transylvania, who has earned the nickname of Vlad the Impaler after impaling thousands on spears. Sickened by his actions, Vlad vows to turn his back on his past but his castle is attacked by the Ottoman Empire and the Sultan demands Vlad’s son be turned over to him.
An enraged Vlad goes to Broken Tooth Mountain where a vampire offers him great powers which will be temporary if he resists drinking human blood. Vlad accepts and defeats a group of Ottomans but his wife is fatally wounded. Realising what Vlad has done, Mirena urges him to drink her blood so he can save their son.
Although the film was a commercial success, it received a mixed response from critics.
THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER (2023)
The Last Voyage of the Demeter tells the untold story of the ship that brought Dracula to England. Directed by André Øvredal and starring Javier Botet as Dracula, the film mainly concentrates on the fate of the crew.
While the Demeter is in port in Bulgaria, a consignment of wooden crates arrives from Romania and causes consternation when the locals refuse to load them. During the voyage, all the animals onboard mysteriously die and a young stowaway tells them the story of a monster from Transylvania who feeds on human blood. She says Dracula is already onboard and is hunting them at night. The surviving crew realise they must kill Dracula before the ship reaches England.
The film was released on 21 August 2023 but has so far failed to recoup its $45 million budget.
Dracula made his first appearance on television in 1968 as an episode of Mystery and Imagination, a British television anthology series of classic horror and supernatural dramas.
The episode starred Denholm Elliott as Dracula, Corin Redgrave as Jonathan Harker, Suzanne Neve as Mina Harker and Susan George as Lucy Weston. Due to time constraints, not all of the characters from the novel could appear, most notably Renfield, whose role is somewhat submerged with Jonathan Harker.
The episode is 80 minutes in length and was made by Thames Television for the ITV network.
HRABE DRAKULA (1971)
Hrab? Drakula (Count Dracula) is a Czechoslovakian television film adaptation which was the first to be directed by a woman, Anna Procházková who also co-wrote the script.
The film is not as widely know as the other television versions as it is not available in English, however it is said to be one of the most faithful adaptations of the Stoker novel. There are a few minor changes, such as the omission of Renfield and one of Lucy’s suitors, but this was largely due to time constraints as it was only 76 mins in length.
The film was also the first to show Mina drinking Dracula’s blood and to include the Brides of Dracula.
BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA (1974)
Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a British made for television film directed by Dan Curtis and starring American Jack Palance in the title role.
The film was one of the first to link Dracula with the historical Vlad the Impaler and instigated the connection between Vlad’s deceased wife and her apparent reincarnation in the form of Lucy and/or Mina. These themes would be exploited further by Francis Ford Coppola who purchased the rights to the title to use in his 1992 release.
The film also kills Jonathan Harker in the early stages and has him returning as a vampire
COUNT DRACULA (1977)
Count Dracula was adapted by the BBC in 1977 and was an attempt at telling the story while being more faithful to the original book.
Directed by Philip Saville, the film starred French actor Louis Jourdan as Dracula who wanted to portray the count as a more attractive villain rather than something monstrous. Not every agreed with his assessment though and his performance was slated by some critics while being praised by others.
The film was praised for its close portrayal of the book but some critics complained it was stodgy as a result. The film was first shown in its entire 155 mins, however was subsequently repeated in two or three parts.
The BBC had another go at telling Dracula’s story in 2006 along with Granada Television and WBGH Boston, however this version of the tale was vastly different.
Arthur Holmwood, engaged to Lucy Westenra, is diagnosed with syphilis and contacts an occult organisation called The Brotherhood to find him a cure. The occult leader says he knows someone who can help but there will be a price.
Holmwood engages Jonathan Harker to go to Transylvania to sell property to Dracula to entice him to England to cure his disease. However, Dracula murders Harker and then travels to England where he turns Lucy into a vampire. Dracula then sets his sights on Mina, forcing Holmwood to reveal everything.
Carnival Films, based in London, and NBC in the United States collaborated on a television in series in 2013 which would reimagine the tale.
Dracula, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, arrives in London as an American entrepreneur, Alexander Grayson, who is intent on bringing science to Victorian England. However, Grayson is actually seeking revenge on the Order of the Dragon, a powerful organisation responsible for the death of his wife, Ilona, centuries before.
Grayson is also working with Van Helsing to create a serum that will allow him to walk in daylight and becomes obsessed with his student, Mina Murray, who is the reincarnation of Ilona.
Dracula’s last televised outing to date was in the 2020 television series developed by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat for the BBC and Netflix.
The three part series follows Dracula, played by Danish actor Claes Bang, from his origins in Transylvania to the present day where he continues to battle the descendants of Van Helsing.
The show had positive reviews from fans and critics alike who loved the fresh spin on the tale where Dracula was finally the hero of his own story. A second series is yet to appear but has still not been ruled out.
Bram Stoker’s novel was first adapted for the stage by Hamilton Deane in 1924 at the Grand Theatre in Derby. The play was so successful it toured nationally for three years before opening in London.
Horace Liveright, an American producer, bought the rights for Broadway, and the title role would be played by Bela Lugosi who would go on to feature in a film version. The play opened in New York in October 1927 and ran for 265 performances before going on a tour of the States.
The Broadway show would eventually eclipse the British version and it would reappear periodically throughout the decades. It was last revived on Broadway in 1976 with Frank Langella in the role and in London in 1978 with Terence Stamp.
NBT DRACULA (1997)
A ballet version was devised in 1997 to mark the centenary of the novel.
Created by Michael Pink and Christopher Gable for the Northern Ballet Theatre in the UK, the ballet was critically acclaimed for staying as true to the novel as was possible for a non-verbal stage production. The ballet has been performed all over the world by a variety of companies to rave reviews.
A new version was created for the Northern Ballet Theatre in 2005 by choreographer David Nixon and it is a popular show to stage at Halloween.
BEN STEVENSON’S DRACULA (1997)
Also created to coincide with the centenary of the novel, Ben Stevenson choreographed a version of Dracula for the Houston Ballet.
Featuring lavish sets and beautiful costumes, this ballet is set firmly in Transylvania and dispenses with most of the novel’s characters. The tale centres around the count himself with the addition of Flora, a village girl; Svetlana, the innkeeper’s daughter; Fredrick, Svetlana’s suitor; eighteen vampire brides; and the mad Renfield.
Dracula wears an impressive 23 ft long heavy velvet cape in the shape of bat wings.
MARK BRUCE COMPANY’S DRACULA (2013)
Choreographed by Mark Bruce to an eclectic mix of music, including Bach and Mozart, this ballet version of Dracula is stripped off cliches in favour of portraying the savage nature of the vampire.
Jonathan Goddard portrays the vampiric count in a sinister fashion but also as a being tormented by blood lust. The same hunger can be seen in his three vampire brides whose thirst is never slaked.