Silver Screen Dracula

<em>Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula in</em> Dracula (1931); Photo: Todd Browning

Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula in Dracula (1931); Photo: Todd Browning

“There are mysteries which men can only guess at, which age by age they may solve only in part.”

– Bram Stoker’s Dracula

There are mysteriously thrilling stories from literature that have inspired excellent additions to the horror film genre. Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula is one such story. It’s the grandfather of the eternally pop-culture-relevant vampire fandom – American Horror Story: Hotel, Underworld, Only Lovers Left Alive, Interview with the Vampire (my personal favorite) and The Lost Boys, to name a few. While Stoker’s Dracula has been adapted into a television miniseries and has inspired several television characters and episodes (including the short lived series, Dracula), the story really shines on the silver screen.

Probably the greatest of them all is Universal’s 1931 silent film, Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi. The film’s original release coincided with the shift from silent pictures to “talkies.” With limited sound technology in existence, the film had no musical soundtrack and few sound effects. For its 1998 restoration of the film, Universal commissioned legendary composer Philip Glass to write a hypnotic new instrumental score, blowing the cobwebs off the horror classic and adding depth to the emotional layers of the drama.

Philip Glass and Kronos Quartet performing Glass's score for <em>Dracula</em> (1931)

Philip Glass and Kronos Quartet performing Glass’s score for Dracula (1931)

Tomorrow night, LA Opera presents Dracula with a live performance of Glass’s score, providing an eerie counterpart to the suspense of the creepy classic projected on the big screen. Philip Glass will share the stage along with the celebrated Kronos Quartet for the performances (running through October 31) at the gorgeously restored Theatre at Ace Hotel.

In honor of LA Opera’s presentation of Dracula, here is a list of film adaptations we found that you should check out to get in the vampire spirit:

Nosferatu (1922) – The Count may have a different name in German director F.W. Murnau’s silent film adaption (he’s called Count Orlok), but he gets up to many of the same antics as Stoker’s Dracula. Nosferatu is a hauntingly cinematic piece known as one of the great influences on the later film noir genre.

Nosferatu (1922)

Nosferatu (1922)

Horror of Dracula (1958) – This British adaptation by director Terence Fischer finds Dracula (“a creature who destroys all he touches”) played by the late, great Christopher Lee, inflicting terror on Jonathan Harker and his friends. Interestingly enough, Lee only has 13 lines in the entire film but still manages to terrify.

Dracula (1979) – Before Frank Langella took on the role of Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon, he attracted audiences as the seductively evil Count in Dracula, opposite a legendary Laurence Olivier as Van Helsing.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) – This is Francis Ford Coppola’s take on the vampire classic and probably the most faithful to the tone of the novel. It’s also a star studded cast that includes Gary Oldman as Dracula, Winona Ryder as Mina Murray (the object of the Count’s affection) and Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing. “I have crossed oceans of time to find you.”

Dracula 2000 (2000) – This reimagining of Dracula veers far from the book and sets the story with a modern-day Dracula (Gerard Butler) tracking down Van Helsing’s granddaughter in New Orleans to take revenge. While super different from the book, Dracula 2000 has an interesting religious twist than might be fun for fans of vampire lore.

Van Helsing (2004) – For years, stories have focused on the characters of Count Dracula and Jonathan Harker, but what of vampire hunter Van Helsing? Director Stephen Sommers answered the question with this film, starring Hugh Jackman as the titular character. Van Helsing also connects another popular horror genre character, Dr. Frankenstein, in a story that’s engaging, although not an adaption of Stoker’s book.

Dracula Untold (2014) – The latest attempt to tackle the Dracula lore, this film follows the untold origin story behind the legend, weaving in story elements of Dracula and Vlad the Impaler (the prince said to have inspired the vampire myth) into an action flick.

For more information about Dracula: The Music and Film and our current season, click here.

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