Saturday, May 21, 2011

Good Dracula

When I think of Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966), it occurs to me how few Dracula movies I really like. Billy the Kid has its moments of campy entertainment, but overall it is slow-going, with a Kid (Chuck Courtney) who can't even win a fist-fight and the once-impressive John Carradine reduced to having colors flashed in his face to express his Dracula mesmeric stare.

Maybe Dracula in general seems too weak a character for me. Always in evening clothes and terrified by things like sunlight and crosses, he is sort of foppish. He is dainty in his tastes, preferring only blood, and even though he is a successful ladies' man, he never actually seems to have sex with these women: he just nibbles at them.

Nevertheless, there are some good Dracula movies. To be precise, there are three that pass the most important test of movie likeability: I keep watching them over and over again. In each of them, a new and indelible version of Dracula is created that is strong enough to overcome the inherent weaknesses of the character. These good Dracula movies, ranked in order of quality, are:

1. Dracula (1931)--under Tod Browning's direction, Bela Lugosi creates an enduring Dracula who is suave yet creepy, deeply foreign, and possessed of the best Dracula stare ever

2. Horror of Dracula (1958)--an exciting, athletic version of Dracula, more sexual and animalistic than Lugosi's; achieved by Christopher Lee under Terence Fisher's direction

3. Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)--a lush, romantic adaptation by Francis Ford Coppola, with Gary Oldman as the shape-shifting count; here Dracula is ruled by a transcendent love for Mina Harker

There are, of course, other Dracula movies worth seeing, such as the silent Nosferatu (1922). But the three listed above are the ones I find myself coming back to repeatedly, despite my overall difficulty with Dracula as such.

George Ochoa
Deformed and Destructive Beings: The Purpose of Horror Films

No comments: