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Dracula: A Cultural Icon That is Still Relevant Today

Bela Lugosi as Dracula (Courtesy of Universal Pictures)


About three or four years ago, I finally read one of the novels that I thought would become one of, if not my all-time favorite: “Dracula.” I enjoyed it well enough, especially through my hybrid experience of half listening to an audiobook and half reading it myself. The audiobook is immaculately acted, but besides that, the novel fell super flat to me. It was kind of boring, anticlimactic and set itself super high in my expectations with the first couple chapters, which still might be one of my favorite things I have ever read, but then dropped off in excitement incredibly fast.

Bela Lugosi

All this is to say Dracula is a cultural icon. Although I am surprised that he has lasted as long considering over the last year, three big movies about Dracula have either been announced or been released. “Renfield,” “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” and “Nosferatu,” a movie that has been remade already in itself. Dracula has been pervasive in the cultural consciousness since the novel came out, but he really gained popularity with the 1931 titular film. Bela Lugosi defined the character for many, myself included. He brought such an intense presence to the role that really made it feel like he was Dracula, not just playing him. Even now, after having seen countless other Bela Lugosi movies, he is Dracula in my mind.

The Many Adaptations

I have not seen every Dracula movie, and I doubt there are many people that have. There have always been movies about the character coming out since his initial silver screen introduction, including a Hammer Films series with Christopher Lee! They always manage to get someone super famous, or someone that will be super famous to play Dracula, such as Lugosi, Lee, Gary Oldman, Nicolas Cage, Bill Skarsgård and even Adam Sandler. Dracula is such a treasured role, and I think the ability of the actors to convey him so differently from each other makes him continually interesting to watch as an audience. You know his story, yet every time it gets retold, it feels different. The movies feel different from each other not just because of the performances, but because of the spins they put on the classic tale.

For example, “Renfield” is a horror comedy about Dracula that worked super well, largely due to Cage’s excellent performance and the different angle the filmmakers chose to tell the story. Similar but tonally incredibly different is “The Last Voyage of the Demeter.” It’s a straight-up horror film based on one section from the novel: the sailing of the Demeter from Transylvania to London, with a secret nefarious presence on board. In the novel this section gets mostly glossed over, so to see this adapted into a (hopefully) bloody and gruesome feature film is super exciting.

There is so much to work with with the character and story of Dracula, and to see people still finding unique ways to tell the story 126 years after the novel was published is awesome!


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About the Contributor
Ethan Blume, Arts Writer
Ethan is a senior in college majoring in English and minoring in Animation Studies. He always loved student media, even back in high school. He spends his free time reading, playing board games and hanging out with his cat, Yoda.

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