“I vant to suck your blood!”
That line is probably one of the most famous lines from Dracula. The problem? Dracula never actually said it. Don’t believe me? Hear it (or rather, not hear it) for yourself. Check out the original Dracula movie made in 1931. You will find countless intriguing things in the movie, but I can guarantee that you will not hear the infamous line coming out of Count Dracula’s mouth. However, you will find creaky doors, meetings at midnight, and armadillos. Yes, armadillos. Perhaps you don’t know everything you think you do.
Background on Main Actor
The main actor, who plays Dracula, is Bela Lugosi (born Bela Ferenc Dezso Blasko). Born on October 20th, 1882, Mr. Lugosi has had an interesting lifetime over the years. For instance, he ran away at age eleven and eventually joined a troupe that was play acting. He himself even admitted that he wasn’t the best actor in the world, not even in the troupe. Having run away at age eleven, he did not finish his schooling, and he was untrained; his grammar was not satisfactory, and he was laughed at on a regular basis. However, Mr. Lugosi still cites this time as important for him because, as well as feeling ‘the bitter taste of humiliation,’ he also got his first try at acting. Eventually, he landed a job at the Hungarian National Theater because of his raw talent which was morphed into actual talent. He was best in Shakespearean plays.
Even though members of the National Theater were given a pass for military service, Mr. Lugosi volunteered and fought against Russia for Hungary in 1914 during World War I. In 1916, he was discharged due to medical problems. After that, for the play, ‘The Passion,’ he delivered a stunning performance as Jesus Christ. His career in Hungary would soon come to ruin, though, when he participated in a revolution that turned sour. He fled to Venice and eventually made his way to the U.S. in 1921.
Even though he was unable to speak English, he was still in the movies very soon. Some of the movies were silent and he was able to memorize his parts (when he had speaking parts) phonetically. In 1931 he made his most famous movie – Dracula, originally titled, ‘The Strangest Passion the World Has Ever Known.’ Originally, he had acted in the play Dracula, which was a hit itself. Mr. Lugosi’s biggest hit, however, would typecast him in a way that was not what he wished. The majority of the rest of his movies were relating to monsters (ex. Frankenstein). Mr. Lugosi is recorded saying, “I am definitely typed, doomed to be an exponent of evil, but I want sympathetic roles. Then parents would tell their offspring, ‘Eat your spinach and you’ll grow up to be a nice man like Bela Lugosi .’ As it is, they threaten their children with me instead of the bogey-man.”
Despite being semi-famous, Bela was constantly in debt partly because of his spending. In 1956, still in debt and creating the movie “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” Bela died. The movie was finished without him (and it supposedly stunk). Despite all the movies he made (and wives he had (five)), Bela Lugosi will always be most famous for his part in the creating of Dracula (and for being buried in his Dracula cape).
“Myths among Myths”
Using Twilight as an example of this, myths about vampire myths have gotten very mixed up over the years. For instance, vampires change not only into bats, but wolves as well. Also, vampires react violently to wolf bane, not vervain or garlic. Crucifixes and the sun do repel vampires, and they do react to blood (“Twilight”). To change someone else into a vampire, a vampire has to make you drink their blood and then kill the person (a common theme in “Vampire Diaries”). The accent seems to be Count Dracula’s and not generic to all vampires. Also seemingly Count Dracula’s is the black tux, six-pointed star pendant, and creepy form when he walks toward someone he’s about to bite. Coffins, paleness, weird eyes, undead, marks on throat when biting, not showing up in mirrors, and driving stakes through hearts are common to all vampires. A little known fact about stakes, though, is that if you want to save the vampire’s soul, you have to kill them during the night.
Since Count Dracula was an extremely old vampire, he had some special abilities that the majority of vampires did not have. For instance, he hypnotized; lived in Transylvania; had to have blood or he’d die; and he had to rest in his native soil. That’s where the armadillos come in. Since most vampires had to rest in their native soil and soil had worms and bugs among other animals in it, it makes sense that vampires would have the problem of waking up with bugs in their nose, mouth, and other areas. Even though they are not alive, vampires also don’t like waking up with larvae in ears. Armadillos eat those small bugs and animals, so it is a sign of status, in the vampire world, to have such an animal that would make sure that the Count didn’t wake up in such a state (makes you excited about being buried, right?).
“The Strangest Passion the World Has Ever Known”
The movie begins in a coach heading towards a town during the evening. Everyone disembarks from the coach except one insistent, young man who declared that he must travel to a place where he will be meeting Count Dracula’s coach . . . at midnight. The townspeople urge him not to go, but he refuses to listen. Count Dracula’s coach picks him up with no problem, but the driver disappears halfway through the ride and all the man sees is a bat. Once he arrives at the castle, everything appears to be normal (except for creaky doors, candelabras, rats, opossums, and the usual creepy castle knickknacks). It turns out the man, Mr. Renfield, made travel plans for Count Dracula. After reporting that everything was in place for the trip, Count Dracula poisoned Mr. Renfield’s drink with something that made him faint. He was then turned into a vampire.
The travel plans were filled and Count Dracula and his new servant (dead Mr. Renfield) find themselves in England after killing the entire crew of the ship they were on. Count Dracula goes on another killing spree and establishes himself as a respectable gentleman in a crumbling castle while Mr. Renfield gets locked up in an insane asylum. Mr. Renfield gets known as the fly-eater because of his obsession with eating small animals such as flies and ants.
Count Dracula then kills a semi-prominent figure who is his neighbor – Miss. Lucy. One of the smarter doctors started to suspect the Count Dracula was a vampire. Meanwhile, Mr. Renfield had graduated to spiders and was dropping hints about Count Dracula’s activities. He thinly threatened Miss. Mina (another one of Count Dracula’s neighbors who had lived in the same house as Miss. Lucy) if his doctor did not move him. Miss. Mina then started complaining of ‘bad dreams,’ but it was quite obvious that she was having more than just bad dreams when bite marks were found on her neck.
Then it all came crashing down on Count Dracula. While ‘checking up,’ on Miss. Lucy, the doctor realizes that Count Dracula does not show up in mirrors. Count Dracula is driven out of the house, and Miss. Mina is put under the doctor’s protection. Wolf bane and crucifixes are littered throughout every room, yet still Count Dracula is able to get in and start changing Miss. Mina. There’s still a chance she can be saved, but then Count Dracula whisks her away to places unknown. If uninterrupted, he would’ve changed Miss. Mina into a vampire and killed her during the day to doom her soul.
Racing against the ancient, undead creature, Miss. Mina’s fiancé and another man follow Mr. Renfield (who escaped from his cell) who led them straight to Count Dracula. As soon as they saw Miss. Mina, one of the men smartly alerted Count Dracula of their presence. Assessing the situation quickly, Count Dracula realized that Mr. Renfield had led them to the crumbling place. Coldly, he kills Mr. Renfield (who didn’t enjoying dying with so much blood on his conscience) and disappears deeper into the rotting building. The men follow and eventually find Count Dracula in a box of soil with another box next to him. Thinking the worst, the men prepare to stake Count Dracula when they hear a scream. Miss. Mina’s fiancé follows it while the other man kills Dracula. Miss. Mina is found alive and well. Count Dracula ran out of time and had to get into his box before the sun came up. The wedding was still on and everything ended happily ever after (for those who survived).
It’s pretty cool to see where the classics and clichés originate out of. From the first minute where we learn about a meeting at midnight, to the climax where Count Dracula dramatically sweeps out of the room, this movie clearly was a first. It was all done in black and white; you never see Count Dracula bite anyone (it always fades to black); the bats looked like Styrofoam and cardboard; and this is one movie that I’d definitely recommend to anyone and everyone. Even if you don’t enjoy it at first, you’ll definitely end up talking about it afterwards.
The plot was simple, to an extent, but had a lot of undercurrent. While what happened in the movie might not be scary to us now, when you think of the times, it definitely was the latest thriller. A vampire locked up in an insane asylum, a meeting with a mysterious Count at midnight, a first-love being tested by the supernatural, and a world that refuses to see the unnatural and undead right before its eyes would be a thriller in anytime. If you relax and actually pay attention, the movie will slowly draw you in and suck all the reluctance out of you. It is definitely an A-list movie and a must-see classic that you will never regret spending the time to watch.
DeLong, J. Bradford. “Hoisted from Comments: The Armadillos of Castle Dracula.” bradford-delong.com: Grasping Reality with the Invisible Hand. Permalink. 30 Oct. 2011. Web. 20 June 2016.
Dracula. Dir. Tod Browning. Universal Studios, 1931. Film.
Nosferatu. Dir. F. W. Murnau. Prana Films, 1922. Film.