From Nosferatu to Thirst, films have tried to capture the shadowy, seductive figure of the vampire. Writer Anne Billson chronicles the creature’s evolution.
Slide Three: Dracula (1931)
Tod Browning's version of Dracula wasn't adapted directly from Stoker's book, but from Hamilton Deane's play, which perhaps explains why it seems stagier and more stilted than either Nosferatu or Vampyr. But the early, eerie scenes in Dracula's castle are exquisitely photographed by Karl Freund, who had formerly collaborated with F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang. Dwight Frye's definitive Renfield usurps the narrative functions of Jonathan Harker's character before ending up in the asylum, eating spiders and babbling about the master, but the cast is dominated, of course, by Bela Lugosi, who first played the role on stage and is the very incarnation of a menacing but seductive foreigner—Rudolph Valentino's evil id. Lugosi's portrayal has fixed forever the image of a vampire in the popular imagination; that heavy-browed stare, East European accent and formalwear with cape have since been recycled in everything from Abbott and Costello comedies to Sesame Street and the breakfast cereal Count Chocula. Additions to the vampire movie handbook include Dracula's ability to turn himself into a bat, an aversion to crucifixes and a full complement of classic one-liners, some drawn directly from Stoker's novel. "Listen to them! Children of the night - what music they make!"