Once I saw Dracula and Christopher Lee as the undead vampire sucking the goodness from humanity, my flesh crept. He not only punctured the vein of my adolescent insecurity, but turned my sleep into sweating, bolt-upright awakening, writes Tom McParland.
In 1958 when late winter darkness overtook Belfast, horror movies took over rationality – and me. And of all the horror subjects depicted in Hollywood movies Dracula by far (over 200 to date) exceeded his rivals. Shrouding the perversion of being undead in the literal cloak of respectability was Dracula’s greatest legacy to horror and is why Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel has never been out of print.
Since neither genius nor garbage collector can handle life without a reliance on basic presumptions, any distortion of those, whether by a Trojan horse, a Biblical Judas or a Rosemary’s Baby, attacks the ordered sequence of existence; where young means young, old, old, and dead, dead.
Dracula defies and defiles this natural order. Even God would deny creating him. But we can’t. He represents our festering conscience. The bad dream that won’t go away. The sin that can’t be redeemed. Dracula is, yet he isn’t. Mortal but eternal. His existence a travesty of humanity.
The word vampyre has been around since 1734. There was even a Parisian theatrical vampire craze from 1820 to 1830. Darwin’s Origin of Species suggested links between man and lower animals in 1859 and in 1886 Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde was published. Into such seething saturation of science, superstition and self-doubt Dracula was bound to emerge.
Today people irk at their comfort zone being disturbed. Victorians were no exception. In addition there were vampire tales emanating from mountainous Carpathia – easier to believe than to be caught napping.
Just twenty-five years after Stoker’s 1897 endorsement the first full-length Dracula movie surfaced. Even Dracula’s early movie history was duplicitous. Nosferatu (1922) was a German bootleg celluloid depiction of Stoker’s novel in all but name.