TOP 10 DRACULA PORTRAYALS

These days, Vampires are all the rage. And let’s face it, Vampires are cool. But Dracula usually sucks. Pun intended. But seriously, when you know that a movie, TV show or book is about The Count–as opposed to being about a less renown vampire–it’s usually an indicator that something lame this way comes. But such is not always the case. And it certainly wasn’t true in Bram Stoker’s original, classic novel. But where else can we see good versions of Drac–not corny, stupid ones? The answers are below . . . In this list of my favorite depictions of the true Crown Prince of Dracness.

10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer No.s 12-15 (“Wolves at the Gate”). but the Buff comic books are quite good, and in this story arc, which follows the Buffy vs. Dracula TV episode also on this list, the team reunites with Dracula in Japan of all places to fight a new group of super-powered vampires. The terrific story arc by Drew Goddard has all the charm, drama, and humor of the TV series.

9. Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Abbot and Costello versus a legion of monsters including The Wolfman, Mummy and Dracula. Yes, the 1948 film is definitely a little dated, but it’s still a great vision of the comedic possibilities in Bela Lugosi’s classic vision of the character.

8. Uncanny X-Men #159 (“Night Screams!”). Storm is hypnotized by Dracula, who wants her as his nubian princess. It’s a pretty damn cool idea–why wouldn’t Dracula seek to turn a mutant into a vampire? The story was kind of a one-off, outside of the regular X-Men continuity, but it was far better than it should have been. And the cover by Bill (“Moon Knight”) Sienkiewicz is brilliant. Note: The subsequent X-vs.-Drac battle in X-Men Annual #6, wasn’t nearly as good.

7. The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror IV (“Bart Simpson’s Dracula”). The 1993 installment of the animated show’s tribute to Halloween–an annual favorite at my house. In this episode, Dracula is portrayed as Mr. Burns, with images that borrow heavily from the brillant Francis Ford Coppola film (see below). That is, before the episode takes a bizarre turn and into a parody of the Charlie Brown Christmas special). Very Monty Pythonesque.

6.  Salem’s Lot.   Since Vlad doesn’t appear in it, it might not be fair to include this on a “Best of Dracula” list, but I’m doing it because Stephen King has stated repeatedly that his brilliant novel–one of the scariest books ever written–was intended as an update of the Dracula novel–what if Dracula took place in Maine in the modern day?  This is the only novel on this list, which isn’t to say that there aren’t good books about Dracula–it’s just that I haven’t read any.

5.  Dracula.  In Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film, Gary Oldman is the titular vampire.  This is the closest thing to a film version of the novel, but what makes it great is Gary.  Oldman is always great a being an over-the-top villain (see The Fifth Element, The Professional, and True Romance), and this role is no exception.  He’s effeminate, ironic, irritating and evil.  And larger than life.

4.  Buffy vs. Dracula.  In the first episode of the show’s 5th season, Dracula is portrayed as an obnoxious egomaniac by soap opera actor Rudolf Martin.  Yeah, I’m a little Buffycentric putting her twice on this list–but was anyone in the 1990s more important than Buffy for redefining vampires as a genre?  And what’s cool about this episode is that The Count can’t be killed like a normal vamp, which explains why he’s been able to survive for centuries without any slayer ever being able to get to him.  Yet, he doesn’t really have any supremely sinister goals or aspirations–or at least none that he cares all that much about.  He’s kind of like Paris Hilton.

3.  The Tomb of Dracula.  Beginning a six-year run in 1972, this Marvel Comics series featured a gang of vampire hunters who would fight against–and sometimes alongside–Dracula.  This was Marvel’s first superhero monster book–followed by Werewolf By Night (the series in which Moon Knight debuted), Legion of Monsters, and utimately the Blade series.  The book was made possible by a loosening of the comic book code’s ban on all vampires, and was written by legends like Gerry Conway and Archie Goodwin, and drawn by the brilliant, shadowy, sketchy Gene Colan (with covers by Gil Kane).  No, the series wasn’t always brilliant, but it did something for Dracula that I’m pretty sure no one had done before: It made him an action hero.

2.  Dracula.  The 1931 film by Tod Browning and starring Bela Lugosi remains the iconic depiction of the lord of vampires.  It’s not even close to the book version–the Count is far less powerful here than in Stoker’s novel–but all the elements for all the versions to follow are there: Hypnotic sexuality, the eyes, alliances with wolves and wierdos, hot chicks, and Dr. Van Helsing.  For more Bela, don’t miss Martin Landau in Tim Burton’s amazing Ed Wood film.

1.  Nosferatu.  The first film about the bloodsucking king remains the most frightening.  F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film has the creepiest looking depiction of Vlad the Impaler, even if Count Dracula’s name is never used (because Bram Stoker’s estate would not give Murnau the rights).  Max Schreck plays Count Orlok, with a rat face and skinny, boney fingers, and a story that may have been different enough to avoid a lawsuit but definitely is, without a doubt, the first film version of Dracula.

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    January 15, 2010
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