Reviewing The Link Between Dracula Movies English Literature Essay

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Just as Polidoris The Vampyre had been the link between folklore and literature, Stokers Dracula was the link between literature and the emerging medium of film. The name of the original Count Dracula had been kept alive by the invention of the printing press which had been used to publish the hugely popular horror pamphlets that detailed Mad Dracula's bloody crimes (McNally & Florescu p. 83). Stoker's novel has been kept alive into the late Twentieth Century in a very similar way by the invention of cinema.

Stoker's novel was written just as moving pictures were becoming technically possible and the possibilities of the medium were becoming clear. The cinema was to bring to the name Dracula a notoriety that it would never have achieved in novel form. It "sold steadily, but did not make Stoker a wealthy man" (Skal, p. 7). The Vampyre, by way of contrast, linked as it had been to Byron's name, was a runaway best- seller.

There was a price paid for this immortality however. Stoker's novel on the screen has been rewritten many times to the point of unrecognisability. The novel is a pedestrian and often tedious book which manages to undermine the innate drama of its narrative, so that those adapting it for stage and screen felt almost obliged to 'fix it'. The work may have been flawed, but these flaws or gaps are what made it so flexible, and as such it proved readily adaptable to other media and the visions of other writers. As David Skal put it ".Dracula is certainly one of the most obsessional texts of all time, a black hole of the imagination". (Skal, p. 38).

All the versions of Stoker's novel on film, as well as being based, however loosely, on the same text, have a similarity of theme which gradually develops over the sixty years they span and this sets them apart from other types of vampire film. Progressively the pattern begins to change as the emphasis shifts from the human victims, to flesh out more fully upon the figure of the vampire. The vampire begins to contain very specific qualities that are less and less dependent upon the human attacked, and becomes a proactive rather than a reactive character and Count Dracula, as he appears on the screen, relates back to the Romantic vampires of a hundred years before, as well as to the decade in which each particular the film was made.

In the novel he is an almost inexplicable force of nature - he is given little personal history and there is no attempt to "explain" him away. As the cycle of Dracula films develop, however, his personality is elaborated upon and he becomes a more complex and involved character.

Through this humanisation and explanation of Dracula (a gentleman, an ancient warrior, a doomed lover) the Count begins to exhibit an otherness which becomes desirable, at least to his female victims. The character of Dracula begins to offer alternative ways of being to his female brides that are in growing conflict with. The degree of "goodness" and sympathy that the vampire is represented as possessing begins to relate very closely to prevailing social mores and concerns e. g. how correct or right patriarchal culture is perceived to be; how "inhuman" is humanity, considering the atrocities of the First and Second World Wars, and Vietnam, to name but three of the more brutal wars of the Twentieth Century.

In this way, it can be seen that since "Dracula has always been a lightning rod for prevailing social anxieties" (Skal, p. 124) it must follow that as society changes, so the nature of the vampire, an archetypal image and thus prone to influence from the personal and cultural unconscious, changes. As the outward, conscious, socially adapted face of humanity changes, there are corresponding changes in the compensatory (animus/anima) images thrown up. The regular remakes of the Dracula text make this a particularly suitable example of the development of a theme within the genre.

Dracula (Dir. - Tod Browning, 1931)

Tod Browning's film was the first "official" film version of the novel. What Browning's Dracula did bring to the screen was the first sexually attractive vampire. Murnau's Count Orlok had been almost rat-like in appearance and was certainly not attractive, but with Bela Lugosi, the charming and sinister, aristocratic and elegant Lord Ruthven of Polidori's The Vampyre was unleashed on the cinema -going public. "The actor's Eastern European background and sinister aura were ideal. He had no fangs, was well dressed and courteously formal. Women on two continents had been fascinated b y his stag appearance" (Hogan, p. 140)

Adaptations of the novel for the stage had, perforce, already adapted the Count for the drawing room, and Lugosi only added yet more glamour and a certain Eastern European exoticism.

The women in the film also differed from the novel. "The women of Browning's Dracula are convincing as victims, but not as real women. The times dictated a distanced idealised approach". (Hogan, p. 147)

The vampire brides have mere moments on screen, and although they do manage to portray a suitably predatory menace when approaching Jonathan, they are never allowed to get near him. Lucy's role is also much reduced (introduced at the opera and five minutes later already dead); and although Mina lasts longer, she is a vastly truncated personality in comparison to the "New Woman" of the novel. It is quite impossible in this version to suggest, as one can in the novel, that Mina is the central character or the organising force in the story. Indeed Skal suggests that the actress Helen Chandler was an actress with a fragile, wistful quality and that the character as it was now written was "a complete milksop."(Skal, d p. 126)

In 1932 Helen Chandler herself described Mina as "one of those bewildered little girls who go around pale, hollow-eyed and anguished, wondering about things." (Skal, p. 126)

By 1931, the Count has reacquired some of the characteristics of Byron's heroes - the glamour, the allure and the danger, but the diminished and attenuated position of the women within the film makes it very difficult meaningfully to suggest any kind of a animus relationship between them and the Count, making him far more of a generalised shadow archetypal image. There are moments of daring, as when, upon meeting the Count, Lucy attracts his attention by quoting a rather Gothic (and ironic) toast. "Lofty timbers, the walls around are bare, echoing to our laughter as though the dead were there." She responds to Mina's teasing with "Laugh all you like. I think he's fascinating". Whether it is the Count himself, or his castle and title, that she finds fascinating, however, is not clearly signalled. Mina however prefers someone "a little more normal". It is the usual juxtaposition between the woman who dies, who is portrayed as a little more daring (Lucy has been described as" a jazz baby" and certainly has the more in vogue hairstyle), and the more conventional woman who survives, protected by her men. There is very little sense of a voyage of self discovery for Mina, and Browning's Dracula appears to be merely a tale of the shadow repressed and beaten off in a rather perfunctory manner.

Dracula (Dir. - Terence Fisher, 1958)

By the late Fifties, the Count returned home to Britain and a new style of vampire evolved. (Piric, p. 170)

Hammer, a studio which had its initial success with science fiction films, turned its attention to Mary Shelley's Gothic science fiction novel, Frankenstein. Hammer's version of Dracula was a much brisker and slimmed down affair than Universal's 1931 film. Many changes were made. The story itself was condensed, the locations compressed and the number of characters cut down. There is, for instance, only one bride in Castle Dracula (Valerie Gaunt) and this Dracula is much less of a team sport than the novel had been. Instead of three suitors for Lucy (Carol Marsh), there is only her fiancée Jonathan (John Van Eyssen). Instead of five men chasing around Europe hunting the Count (Christopher Lee) and protecting Mina (Melissa Stribling), there is only husband, Arthur (Michael Gough), and Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). The plot has been tidied up and straightened out, and there are fewer pauses or recounting of the action.

Despite the fact that this Dracula was not set in the contemporary period, there is also an element of "realism" in the design of the 1958 version that the Expressionist influenced 1931and 1922 versions did not have - within the decade, Hammer's Nineteenth Century realism had become a genre in its own right. This Castle Dracula is richly decorated - there is not a cobweb in sight and everything is clean and well ordered. When Jonathan arrives, the place is well lit, with a cheerful fire burning in the grate and even the silver is well polished.

This smart and organised environment is the home of Christopher Lee's Dracula, whose elements are "modernity, speed and above all colour".( Auerbach, p. 120)

This is a Dracula who does not wish to move to London to experience the "whirl and rush of humanity" but wants his library classified. Despite this, however, according to many, the difference that Lee brought to the figure Dracula was a new sexiness. Lee was a "tall and virile demon". (Silver& Ursini, p. 123) with a rather clipped English, upper-class accent. He spoke quickly and crisply, not affecting the rather tortured tones that Lugosi, a Hungarian, who reputedly learnt his lines phonetically, brought to the role. After the extent of the parodies of the Lugosi character, this was probably the only way to make the story believable and unexpected.

Dracula does not suffer from the same ennui as other vampires. Lugosi's Dracula said "To die, to be really dead, that must be glorious", but Lee's Dracula says no such thing. There is little to suggest that he is tired of life, and certainly not tired of Transylvania. He is energetic, he swiftly descends the staircase in Castle Dracula to meet Jonathan Harker for the first time and he is strong and physically dominant in a way that Lugosi never was. After leaping across a table, he literally hurls his vampire bride across the room from Jonathan, subdues Jonathan with one hand and carries the bride off to the vaults. It is hard to imagine the Lugosi Dracula managing to rouse himself to so much movement and physical exertion.

Lee's Dracula is motivated for his attacks on Lucy and Mina by revenge, after Jonathan stakes his bride in the castle crypt, Jonathan Harker and Van Helsing are the vampire hunting team who start the fight, and Arthur and Van Helsing are the team which finish it. Again, this version of Dracula as the 1931 version did, sidelines the women, who are subjugated to the action-led plot, there to do little more than be protected or victimised.

There are still a few moments of unease or subversion, however, despite the pared -down

nature of the plot and the emphasis upon masculine action, and it is possible to suggest that this reflects the time in which the film was made. It was the period when the Cold War was at its height, and threats from the East were particularly resonant, but it was also a period when women were still very much in the home, but increasingly being freed from domestic toil by new labour saving devices (washing machines, Hoovers etc.). The beginnings of real equality and liberation for women were just around the comer, but there was still diffidence about female sexuality. In what was to become one of Hammer's trademarks, at the centre of the film is the idea of family life disrupted by an outsider, or outside force of nature. "Lucy & Mina are under the control of a slew of interchangeable paternalistic men - until Dracula

comes"( Auerbach, p. 124). Lee's Dracula by way of contrast "is an emanation of the anger, pride, and sexuality that lie dormant in the women themselves".(p.124)

In this film, Dracula can be seen as a symbol of the unconscious in general, and as a more personalised shadow figure, charged with the power of the repressed wishes and desires of the women. The 1958 Dracula is beginning to articulate more clearly some of the aspects of the animus area of the archetypal realm. He fashions change upon the women he drinks from, offering an alternative way of being, the possibility of being more liberated sexually perhaps, or perhaps offering entry into a world away from the daytime, protected world of domestic life to a world of blurred borders, violence and sharp kisses.

It is questionable as to how satisfactory an 'otherness' Dracula could be seen to portray in 1958. In many ways, Lucy and Mina would only be exchanging one patriarch for another. After all, once at Castle Dracula, the Count literally drops Mina into a hole and buries her. One kind of dominance has really only been exchanged for another. This Dracula is motivated by revenge and there are none of the elements of a love story that later become part of the Dracula mythos. This Dracula is still a shadow figure, largely absent from the action and unexplained, inflicting same change upon the women he attacks, and finally defeated by the two good, brave men as the novel's Van Helsing styles them.

Hammer continued to develop their theme of the disruption of the conscious world, perhaps best exemplified in Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970), by which time, the conscious world that Dracula was seen to disrupt is almost more corrupt than the world of vampirism Victorian patriarchs are seen cavorting in brothels and dabbling in Satanism, while their daughters submit jo Dracula (the monster that their fathers had resurrected) with great relish.In all this, however, Dracula, still being played by Christopher Lee, is still largely absent from the action, and is given little to do but sexually liberate tightly buttoned Victorian womanhood. It was not until 1979 that a Count Dracula representing the animus more than the shadow node of the archetypal world could be envisioned.

Dracula (Director. John Badham, 1-979)

By 1979, Dracula differs quite remarkably from the novel of 1897. Like the 1931 Tod Browning version, John Badham's version was based upon Balderston and Deane's stage play from the 1920s, which had been enjoying a revival on Broadway, with Frank Langella in the role of Dracula. Browning's Dracula was in a contemporary setting (like the stage play), but Badham removed it from the novel's Victorian period and placed it instead in Edwardian England. He thus removed it from the Victorian context of Stoker's novel and placed it instead at the beginning of the modem era. By bringing the story into the era of the woman's suffrage movement, the tenor of the piece is changed. Lucy becomes the central, pivoting point of the whole story and Jonathan is relegated to a supporting role, though Dracula does have much more on-screen time than had previously been the case.

The route that this story took in getting to the screen was a tortuous one - from novel to play to screenplay to play to screenplay, involving rewrites of rewrites Badham's film was also very different in style from Balderston's and Deane's play.

The film no longer takes place in the cosy domesticity of 1920s drawing rooms. Instead it moves out into the landscape of England. Badham's version of Dracula completely removes the Transylvanian episodes of the novel, which can regarded as unusual since these are often regarded as the most successful, especially in cinematic terms. (Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee both made the most of these scenes to introduce the Count in very different ways). Instead there is no prologue and the 1979 Dracula cuts straight to the chase - the chase in this case being the relationship between Dracula and Lucy.

The film begins in chaos and confusion. It begins in the sky, with aerial 'shots of a castle, what turns out to be Dracula's new home in England, Carfax Abbey, and continues to storms and the sea. There is no hint of the drawing room about this opening and Dracula is immediately equated with the natural world. Indeed he is not clearly seen in human form until dinner at the Sewards, some ten minutes into the film. In doing this, the film manages to create an atmosphere of subtle ambiguity. Auerbach calls it a "breathtaking, if confusing movie." (Auerbach, p. 140) In this film, there is no journey into the unknown, no hero to guide us with him into the underworld. The film starts, as it will finish, with Dracula and the sky. Finally the eponymous Count has the central role.

The main female characters in the film, Lucy and Mina, are, as usual, strongly contrasted, but there is a very large difference between the these two women, and their previous characterisations. In this version, Mina is Lucy's friend, apparently staying with the Sewards to convalesce from an illness, and she says to Lucy in the first proper conversation of the film "You are so much braver than I am, taking on all those men." Mina is the epitome of Victorian womanhood, frail, delicate and meek, whose only moments of disobedience are those which lead her to Dracula and death.

Dracula is a shadow figure in relation to Mina's conscious attitude which is so meek and mild. Dracula first appears to Mina as a wolf, seeming to call her from the safety of her bed in the Seward household to a cave by the sea and his handclasp; he calls her away from society to another way of being. At dinner, he easily dominates her through hypnosis, lowering her conscious defences even further, and to Mina, Dracula appears at his most inhuman (while still in human form) when he comes to her room crawling down the wall from the roof, and hanging upside down outside her window, scratching at the glass.


The Count has come to England seeking life. This seems to be both a literal and, unusually for a vampire film, a metaphorical quest. Dracula is seeking the whirl and rush of humanity, and perhaps a renewal: he is old; he cannot live in new houses, and he is in need of something to engage him with the new century. He tells Lucy at dinner "I had buried many friends and I, too, am weary. I am the last of my kind." He does not boast of his ancient lineage in the way that the Dracula of the novel does and when Lucy tells him that "Anyway, it isn't healthy to live in the past," he agrees with her.

Dracula first appears at a family dinner, initially interested in Mina, who found him on the beach and is in some way credited with rescuing him from the wreck of the ship. Dracula's attention is then apparently captured by Lucy, who disagrees with him throughout their conversation that evening. Lucy almost seems to force his attention to her. She seeks him out, asking him to dance with her, and later chooses to go to dinner with him - alone. She challenges him often and will not take no for an answer. Dr Seward tries to chide her for speaking her mind to their guest, but the Count only tells her that he admires her candour. Just who is the pursuer and who is the prey is open to question.

The Count in this version of Dracula almost seems to represent Pratt's conception of the green world lover who "leads the hero away from society and towards her own unconscious depths... an incorporation into the personality of one's sexual -and natural forces",(Pratt, p.140). In this sense Dracula is certainly an animus figure, who brings the Self into focus for Lucy, but, strangely for a vampire, in relation to Lucy, he has comparatively little in the way of shadow qualifies. He does not even appear to be a demon lover figure, representing imbalance and attracting obsession and mania. The demon lover tempts his victim away from the everyday world to a place of illusion and disaster. This is not the dynamic at work in this film. Dracula is tempting to Lucy, but does not appear to be tempting her to her doom. This vampire lover seems to be tempting Lucy towards balance, not imbalance.

From the very beginning, Dracula does seem to be associated with Wildness and nature: storms, sky, sea, wolves and so on. He is often seen in motion, dancing, riding and climbing, and his very body is mutable as he transforms at will into wolves and bats. He is shown very much as a creature of the flesh but he is lovingly shot in his human form. His hands especially are featured as objects of desire, first noticed by Mina and then Lucy. When he comes on to Lucy in the night, it is as a seducer, not an attacker - he appears to be almost asking for her blood. Dracula here is the giver of passionate looks, a representative of love, intimacy and relatedness.

There are differences in emphasis between this Dracula story that told by Bram Stoker and the film makers of 1931 and 1958. During the 1930s there had been a decline in feminist influences in society after the granting of the vote to women, and domesticity was privileged by women's magazines as the proper profession for women. The "flappers" of the 1920s had taken advantage of greater social freedom for women, but were not regarded as a fit role model for the average women. This is reflected in the 1931 Dracula, hence the swift demise of jazz baby Lucy, and the succour of the married and more docile Mina. (Pratt, p.144)

In the 1950s, in post Second World War Britain political discussion centred around the needs of nation and society rather than that of the individual woman. Attempts were made to privilege the domestic role of wife and mother in order to raise the birth rate and this was reflected in the content of women's magazines in this period. The 1958 version of Dracula elbowed the women aside in favour of a pursuit and destruction plot. Dracula attacks Lucy and Mina only as revenge for Jonathan's murder of his vampire wife. The quarrel, or the conflict, in this film, pushes women into the sidelines, where they exist only as victims, who require to be rescued. They show little sign of the consciousness that Mina possesses in the novel. However, the feminist genie had been let out of the bottle and the 1958 Dracula did show signs of questioning whether adaptation to patriarchal society was entirely desirable for the individual and "provided an image of disobedience, showing us two women opening windows beyond the family and, in the guise of vampire victims, surging into themselves".(Pratt, p.125)

During 1970s, although it was accepted that a woman could work, it was also the case that she was expected to pay a price for it. Perhaps the price was not having a family and a home, perhaps that price was being "less of a woman" in whatever sense. Taking on masculine characteristics as defined by patriarchy, being a daughter of patriarchy became an either/or choice: one could be successful outside the home or within it not both. In Dracula, an unindividuated, one-sided Lucy could be tolerated to an extent because she was not complete, she was a patriarchal daughter, but by attempting to realise her sexual and Eros potential as well, she became far more dangerous. To be competent and feminine could not be allowed. Langella's Count is the most sympathetic and the most heroic that Dracula has become to date, at least on film. It is in Badham's version that the vampire is seen most simply as an alternative, with minimal shadow trappings. One reviewer thought that Langella's rendering of the Count was as "some super charismatic matinee idol .... who dances Lucy off her feet as Jonathan jealously looks on."(Combs, Volume 46, 1979) Langella himself said of the role "I decided he was a highly vulnerable and erotic man not cool and detached and with no sense of humour and humanity. I didn't want him to appear stilted, stentorian, or authoritarian as he was so often presented. I wanted to show a man who was evil, but lonely and who could fall in love." (Haining, p.96)

Dracula (Director: Francis Ford Coppola, 1992)

Thirteen years later, Coppola's film of Dracula, produced a different vampire Count again. Bram Stoker's Dracula, as the film was called, was in some ways, a curious throwback to the earlier Draculas of 1931 and 1958, although if one takes into account the social context of the 1980s, it becomes less curious. This film is not nearly as progressive as the 1979 version. Instead, it is steeped in the "New Right" culture of the Reagan-Thatcher years. After the radical feminism of the 1970s, when progressive policies were put into practice, the 1980s saw the beginning of a backlash against such liberal attitudes. "Feminism, along with other liberationist movements, has been rocked by the force of the political shift to the right since the 1980s". (Coppock, Haydon, Richter, p.6)

This included racial and class politics, as well as feminist politics. The 1980s seem to have been a lean time for women's issues, much as the 1930s had been, 45 and this is reflected in the 1992 Brarn Stoker's Dracula.

In this 1990s version, Mad Dracula (Gary Oldman) is a prince of Wallachia who fought the Turks only to lose hip young bride through infidel trickery. Dracula, incensed by this betrayal by the Christian God whom he serves, renounces God and swears to rise from the dead to avenge his dead love. Thus Dracula's motivation is clear; it is revenge and the search for his reincarnated wife. He comes to England and searches out Mina (Winona Ryder), attacking Lucy (Sadie Frost) apparently as a prelude to approaching Mina. In the novel, by contrast, the involvement with Lucy and Mina appears to be fairly random.

The character of the Count is changed somewhat from the novel. Gary Oldman tried to play the Count as a fallen angel, "a torn and tortured soul, not out and out evil."( The Making of Bram Stoker's Dracula : video) Like the 1979 version, Oldman's Dracula is not simply monstrous or an object of horror, "Not entirely an antichrist, vicious aristocrat, bad father or beast, Dracula is less tyrannical and demonic and more victim and sufferer, less libertine and more sentimental romantic hero." (Botting, p: 178) This has knock on effects for Mina's place in the story.

She is not simply an innocent victim and a virtuous wife, but nor is she the aggressor, as Lucy in the 1979 version was. This Mina is to an extent complicit in her seduction but she is also aware of the Count's darker side.

The character of Dracula is certainly a more attractive option, in comparison to the novel and the 1931 and 1958 versions. He pursues Mina, evoking memories of a previous life, and while Jonathan is away, he appears to win her affections. However, once word of Jonathan reaches her, Mina flies to her fiancée's side, and marries him, with barely a backward glance for her "strange prince". Later still, when the 'good, brave men are hunting Dracula in the Abbey, Dracula comes to Mina once more, and now she surrenders to the vampire, saying "Take me away from all this death, " only to change her mind again, when the men burst into the room and she is confronted with her husband. She mumbles "unclean" and cowers back from them. This Mina oscillates and wavers between roles and desires.

If these films are regarded as a reflection of archetypal contents, and Mina is seen as the character representing the ego, then the men could be characterized as helpful contra sexual figures, as Mina's own 'masculine' characteristics, combating the demon lover who emphasises one single aspect (perhaps sexual freedom) at the detriment of others. In 1992 Mina is finally allowed to face Dracula herself, and in a transcendent moment, understand him, before delivering the final stroke that both kills and frees him.

The film does suggest once more that rapacious sexuality is essentially female, and treats the female vampires with great violence. Mina escapes from this brush with her shadow animus,

possibly with greater understanding. However, the men's brush with their anima is less sympathetically shown. Arthur (Cary Elwes) kills Lucy quite brutally. Van Helsing, standing in for Jonathan, bloodily hacks the heads off Dracula's three brides. Just as with the Jonathan of the novel, no attempt to understand is made. These vampire women are too monstrous to be acknowledged and are simply destroyed. Mina at least sympathised with her shadow. She has perhaps understood it. Jonathan, Arthur and Van Helsing merely chop her head off.

The Dracula vampire films discussed above are a particular strain of the vampire myth, one that more and more concentrates upon the relationship between the Count and his chosen bride. This single bride becomes more central to the story, as does the character of the Count himself who, as discussed above, in the novel, is a rather absent figure, present more by implication than anything else.

It seems proper to characterise these vampire films as animus vampire films. That is, films where the main theme (though not the only theme) explored is that of the relationship between a woman and her animus counterpart. The contra sexual otherness, is conceived in a number of different ways, ways which relate to the social and cultural context which produced them. Gradually, up until 1979, the character of the Count becomes less animalistic, more sympathetic and less contaminated by the shadow archetypal node. The 1992 version, again in response to changing public mores, restores some of the ambiguousness of previous versions, while sill privileging the relationship between Mina and the Count, mirroring the changes in women's position in Western Culture at the end of the Twentieth Century.

In Stoker's novel, and the many film versions of Dracula! The vampire appears to represent that which lies beyond the boundaries of a society. And how attractive or how repulsive this otherness is perceived to be, seems to relate very closely to the relative openness of the conscious attitude: as Jung said, the unconscious only becomes dangerous when the conscious attitude to it is wrong.