I Dracula/Draculas : Iconography for a vampire.
A.A cultural icon
1. When one is asked to describe count Dracula, the answer is often the same : he is represented as a middle aged aristocrat, tall and slim, a pale face and black hair. He is wearing a darksuit and a large black and red cape. Actually, this representation evolved with time. The original Bram Stoker’s Dracula did not look like this at all ! He was an old man (who got younger as the novel went), pretty ugly and repulsive with his tall and thin body, his thick eyebrows, very little hair, a thick moustache, short fingers, hairy hands and bad breath. (I quote Jonathan Harker’s descriptionof the count in the novel : “His face was a strong, a very strong, aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils, with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see itunder the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth. These protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years. For the rest, his ears were pale, and at the tops extremely pointed. The chin was broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin. The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor. HithertoI had noticed the backs of his hands as they lay on his knees in the firelight, and they had seemed rather white and fine. But seeing them now close to me, I could not but notice that they were rather coarse, broad, with squat fingers. Strange to say, there were hairs in the centre of the palm. The nails were long and fine, and cut to a sharp point. As the Count leaned over me and his handstouched me, I could not repress a shudder. It may have been that his breath was rank, but a horrible feeling of nausea came over me, which, do what I would, I could not conceal.”
The different cinematographic adaptations of Dracula also picture these evolutions.
In fact, in 1922 when Murnau filmed Nosferatu, played by Max Schreck, his main character was hideous, ugly, very straight, rigid andbald, like a dead body with emaciated hands and a straight look. He generated fear and repulsion. Ugly and fearful, he is the one who correponds the most to Stoker’s Dracula’s physical characteristics.
Only nine years passed between Murnau’s Nosferatu and Tod Browning’s Dracula, however, Bela Lugosi gave Dracula an erotic dimension, losing Max Schreck’s power of terror. The face of the vampirechanged and as he used to be represented as ugly and repulsive, he became a good-looking man, nice to look at and, above all, a seducer : the two female characters being strongly attracted by him. For the first time, the vampire had sex-appeal. Nevertheless, he bore the ambivalence attractive-fearful.
In Terence Fisher’s Horror of Dracula, the most gothic version of the original work, ChristopherLee incarnated Dracula as a haughty, imposing nobleman, he was introduced as a perfect gentleman who, with shock rapidity, turned into a ravening animal. When this Dracula was enraged he was an animal, hissing, his eyes turning scarlet red.
The transition of Dracula from monster to cursed, romantic figure really started during the last half of the seventies. "Count Dracula" (1977) starred the...