It's no mystery that the filmmaking industry since its inception over a hundred years ago has opened our collective hearts and minds to a seemingly endless array of stories that serve to broaden our horizons, transport us to worlds unknown, and ultimately keep us perpetually entertained. Each movie genre, whether it be drama, romance, western, fantasy, thriller, comedy, action adventure, or science fiction, and every conceivable genre crossover serves to appeal to audiences of all ages who usually find what they're looking for in a film, from a good laugh or cry to a taut thriller, historical epic, or documentary. There is one genre, however, that stands apart from all others in that its presentation throughout the decades has hinged on one single commonality — fear.
Horror films have a rich history featuring a wide range of tales that prey upon the innate human curiosities surrounding all things that shock, creep, scream, howl, bite, vanish, fly, mutate, and generally move to scare the knickers off us. The true creative genius of the horror industry is that audiences of all ages and generations will never cease becoming obsessed with things that go bump in the night. That said, the possibilities for creating and integrating myths and monsters is that like many other genres born of literature and real-life events, a touch of imagination — and in the case of modern films, a dose of computer-enhanced graphics — can become entirely surreal, mesmerizing, and terrifying.
As mentioned in Chapter 1, to understand vampires is to understand their appearance in folklore, the story of Dracula as told by Bram Stoker, and the vampire's evolution in film. As a visual medium reaching widespread audiences beginning in late 1800s, the vampire has endured a host of depictions and genetic propensities. And while there is little dispute such legendary characters, as Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, the creature from the black lagoon, and dozens more monsters have helped build the horror genre, only the vampire has proven throughout each decade that its on-screen presence truly is immortal.
Filmmakers who first brought Dracula to the big screen set in stone the idea that as a cultural medium, the vampire's tale, as with many other genre-specific characters, has the ability to reflect — in all measure of blatant and subliminal methods — what is occurring in society during various eras, while also retaining the mesmerizing stronghold Dracula maintains on its devoted audiences. During the fifties, sixties, and through the mid-seventies, it was England's Hammer films who capitalized on vampirism in all its red-blooded glory.
More importantly, and perhaps not as well known, is the fact that the 1920s stage plays for Dracula, written by Hamilton Deane and a later revamp by John L. Balderston, have the distinction of having solidified the trademark characteristics that the majority of cinematic vampires continue to maintain to the present day. With that in mind, we begin our exploration into the vampire's lethal legacy with its earliest introduction to the masses, an irony that Dracula himself would've been proud of given his subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle propensity for wanting to spread his blood plague to the entire world.