Friday, 23 August 2013

Dracula: The Origins and Influence of the Legendary Vampire Count by Giles Morgan

Dracula: The Origins and Influence of the Legendary Vampire Count

Few fictional characters have proven to be as enduringly popular as the legendary Count Dracula. First published in 1897, Bram Stoker's gothic masterpiece thrilled and disturbed Victorian society with its dark and compelling themes of violence, lust, cruelty and death. For many the elegant but threatening figure of Dracula has come to epitomise the concept of the vampire. However, Stoker's memorable creation arguably forms one link in a chain of fiction and legends concerning vampirism that stretches far into the past and increasingly it seems into the future. Belief in vampirism can be found amongst many ancient societies of the past and assumes a number of different guises. In Greek mythology, Empusa, the demonic daughter of the Goddess Hecate was said to transform herself into a beautiful young woman and seduced men in order to drink their blood.

It is thought that Stoker took the name Dracula from the real-life historical figure of Vlad the Impaler, a medieval Romanian prince with a dark and sinister reputation whose full title was Vlad III Dracula. The bloodthirsty legends associated with the life and times of Vlad the Impaler along with those of other frightening figures such as Elizabeth Bathory are said to have influenced the creation of Dracula.

However, Stoker was also influenced by European literary creations such as 'The Vampyre' written in 1819 by John Polidori, the personal physician of Lord Byron. Polidori based his central character on the personality of the infamous poet and in doing so did much to crystalise the modern concept of the vampire as a sophisticated and sensual aristocrat.

It is arguably within the medium of film however that the figure of Dracula has achieved its greatest fame within popular culture. The first adaptation of the Dracula story was the 1922 German silent film 'Nosferatu' directed by F.W.Murnau. The first talking version of the novel appeared in 1931 and starred the charismatic actor Bela Lugosi as the evil count and was produced by Universal studios. Christopher Lee both attracted and terrified audiences with his portrayal of the count in the 1958 Hammer production of 'Dracula'. In more recent years Francis Ford Coppola has produced an influential version of the novel with his film 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' featuring Gary Oldman in the title role.

The subject of vampirism continues to fascinate and excite modern audiences and can be found in a range of film and TV titles such as 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', the 'Twilight' series and 'Let the Right One In'. Many have argued that the character of Dracula has greatest resonance within our own times and the current iconic status that the world's most famous vampire has achieved suggests that they may be right.

In 'Dracula: The Origins and Influence of the Legendary Vampire Count', author Giles Morgan examines the roots of the vampire myth and the creation of Bram Stoker's materpiece of horror. The impact of Dracula on popular culture and film is closely examined and Giles Morgan offers a thought provoking overview of the enduring popularity of the King-Vampire.
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Buy it here: Dracula: The Origins and Influence of the Legendary Vampire Count

Cover Art by Andrew Cieciala.

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