Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Vampire Movies

By the early 1900s, the fledgling Cinema had adapted the term "vamp" or "vampire" to describe such Femme Fatales of the silent screen as Theda Bara (1890-1955). This resulted in a number of titles which, while sounding like vampire movies, had in fact nothing to do with Vampires. The first movie version of Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) might possibly have been a Hungarian feature called Drakula (1921), but it has been lost. The German actor Max Schreck (1879-1936) became the screen's first vampire when he stalked through F W Murnau's Nosferatu (1922), an unauthorized 1922 adaptation of Stoker's book (> Dracula Movies). Hollywood was not far behind: Lon Chaney Sr (1883-1930) portrayed a bug-eyed, top-hatted vampire in MGM's murder mystery London After Midnight (1927; vt The Hypnotist UK), also now seemingly lost. When Universal decided to film Dracula in the early 1930s, its first choice of an actor to portray the Count was Chaney, who would have been reunited with his London After Midnight director, Tod Browning (1882-1962). Unfortunately, before the project could be realized, Chaney died from throat cancer. Over the following months, various actors were considered or announced for the role. The studio finally chose Hungarian Bela Lugosi (real name Bela Ferenc Dezso Blasko; 1882-1956) who had played the part on stage since 1927. A superior Spanish version was filmed simultaneously, starring Carlos Villarias. Universal's Dracula (1931) firmly established the vampire in the public's consciousness, spawned the first great cycle of US Horror Movies and typecast its star for life. The following year, Carl Dreyer's Vampyr (1932) was loosely inspired by J Sheridan Le Fanu's story "Carmilla" (1871). When Browning decided to remake London After Midnight as Mark of the Vampire (1935) at MGM he cast Lugosi as an actor disguised as a vampire. Meanwhile, Universal waited six years before making Dracula's Daughter (1936), in which only Edward Van Sloan (as Van Helsing) returned from the original movie. Although never the actor his father had been, Lon Chaney Jr (real name Creighton Chaney; 1906-1973) carved something of a niche for himself at Universal, playing most of the studio's major monsters. It was almost inevitable that he would be cast as the Count in Son of Dracula (1943). Universal combined many of its classic creatures in House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945), both featuring Shakespearean actor John Carradine (real name Richmond Reed Carradine; 1906-1988) as a suave count. Lugosi played another Dracula-like vampire in Columbia's entertaining The Return of the Vampire (1943), and finally returned to recreate his most famous role on screen one last time alongside the slapstick antics of comedians Bud Abbott (real name William Abbott; 1895-1974) and Lou Costello (real name Louis Cristillo; 1906-1959) in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) (> Frankenstein Movies). Val Lewton's underrated study of vampire mythology, Isle of the Dead (1945), benefited from the presence of Boris Karloff (real name William Henry Pratt; 1887-1969) but Hollywood more usually restricted its bloodsuckers to such B-movie mediocrity as Dead Men Walk (1943), The Vampire's Ghost (1945) and Valley of the Zombies (1946). With the sf boom of the 1950s, US bloodsuckers often took on distinctly more alien forms. Among this decade's movies were The Thing from Another World (1951), Blood of Dracula (1957; vt Blood is My Heritage UK), Not of This Earth (1957) and The Vampire (1957; vt The Mark of the Vampire). In The Return of Dracula (1958; vt The Fantastic Disappearing Man UK) the count was transported to suburban southern California, while Curse of the Undead (1959) featured a vampire gunslinger in an incongruous Wild West setting. Mexican actor Germán Robles starred as vampire Count Lavud in both The Vampire (1957; ot El Vampiro) and The Vampire's Coffin (1957; ot El Ataud del Vampiro). Lugosi travelled to the UK to appear in the comedy Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952; vt My Son the Vampire US). He died in 1956 and was buried in his Dracula cape and tuxedo. Also in the UK, Hammer Films decided to team its star duo of Peter Cushing (1913-1995) and Christopher Lee (1922-    ) in Dracula (1958; vt Horror of Dracula US). It was a huge box-office hit, and the studio followed up with eight sequels (> Dracula Movies), only two of which do not have Lee as the Count. While Hammer expanded the mythology with The Kiss of the Vampire (1962; vt Kiss of Evil), Lee himself was also not adverse to appearing in European vampire movies like Uncle Was a Vampire (1959; ot Tempi duri per i Vampire; vt Hard Times for Vampires UK), Hercules in the Haunted World (1961; ot Ercole al centro della Terra; vt Hercules in the Center of the Earth US), Crypt of Horror (1963; ot La Cripta e L'Incubo; vt Terror in the Crypt US) and The Blood Demon (1969; ot Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel; vt The Torture Chamber of Dr Sadism US). Italian director Mario Bava used variations on the vampire theme for three of his best movies, Black Sunday (1960; ot La Maschera del Demonio; vt Revenge of the Vampire UK), Black Sabbath (1963; ot I Tri Volti della Paura) and Planet of the Vampires (1965; ot Terrore nello Spazio). Roman Polanski's dark comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers, Or Pardon Me, Your Teeth Are in My Neck (1967) was an inspired homage to both the mythology and Hammer, while Carradine recreated his role of a top-hatted Count in Billy the Kid versus Dracula (1965). During the 1970s, many vampire films added sex and nudity to the horror, from Hammer's lesbian bloodsuckers to the films of European directors Jess (Jesús) Franco and Jean Rollin. Some of the more interesting variations on the theme turned up in Count Yorga, Vampire (1970), Daughters of Darkness (1971; ot La Rouge aux Levres), Blacula (1972), Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter (1972), Dracula's Dog (1977, vt Zoltan . . . Hound of Dracula UK) and Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979). With the growth in the video market, producers aimed such movies as The Hunger (1983), Fright Night (1985), Vamp (1986), The Lost Boys (1987), Kathryn Bigelow's revisionist Near Dark (1987) and Vampire's Kiss (1988) at a more sophisticated teenage audience. Vampires in Havana (1985) is an oddball – and very interesting – Cuban Animated Movie. The release of Francis Ford Coppola's $40-million Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) led to a resurgence of interest in movie vampires. However, for every Def by Temptation (1990), The Reflecting Skin (1991), Cronos (1992), Nadja (1995) or From Dusk Til Dawn (1996) there was a Red Blooded American Girl (1990), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), Innocent Blood (1992), Tale of a Vampire (1992) and Vampire in Brooklyn (1995). Neil Jordan's big-budget version of Anne Rice's novel Interview with the Vampire (1994) boasted such stars as Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas, while Mel Brooks belatedly spoofed Coppola's movie with Dracula, Dead and Loving It (1995). On tv, vampires have regularly appeared in such series as The Munsters (1964-1966), Dark Shadows (1966-1971 and 1990-1991), The Munsters Today (1988-1991), Dracula – The Series (1990), Little Dracula (1991), Forever Knight (1992-1996) and even a yuppie Opera, called The Vampyr: A Soap Opera (1992 tvm). [SJ]

further reading: The Dracula Book (1975) by Donald F Glut; The Seal of Dracula (1975) by Barrie Pattison; The Vampire Film (1975) by James Ursini and Alain Silver; Hollywood Gothic (1990) by David J Skal; Dracula: The Vampire Legend on Film (1992) by Robert Marrero; The Illustrated Vampire Movie Guide (1993) by Stephen Jones.

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.