This Thursday, May 26 marks World Dracula Day, commemorating the 125th (!) anniversary of the original novel’s publication. To celebrate, horror fans can always stick to the classics: Bela Lugosi in Dracula (1931), Christopher Lee in Horror of Dracula (1958), or even Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), my personal favorite.
But if you’re looking for something a little less conventional to mark the occasion – on this World Dracula Day or any other World Dracula Day – read on…
Blood for Dracula aka Andy Warhol’s Dracula (1974)
Although Dracula is described as repulsive and horrifying in Stoker’s novel, he was so well established as seductive through the various media adaptations that his appearance in this Paul Morrissey film was truly subversive. As the Count, Udo Kier is absolutely pathetic, a wheelchair bound wretch desperate for sustaining virgin blood– but, alas, there’s precious little to be found at the Italian villa where he and manservant Anton (Arno Juerging) try to ingratiate themselves with the formerly well-off Fiore family.
Dracula sets his sights on the daughters (Milena Vukotic, Dominique Darel, Stefania Casini, and Silvia Dionisio) that Il Marchese di Fiore (Vittorio de Sica) hopes to marry off. But their bold behavior– the older daughters think nothing of going topless in public or hooking up with each other, for instance– leads to Kier bellowing the immortal line, “The blood of these whores is killing me!!!!” (His epic vomiting scene in an ornate bathroom is a showstopper.) Kier delivers it in a ludicrous Eastern European accent, whereas Marxist handyman Mario (Joe Dallesandro at his most beautiful) speaks in pure Brooklynese.
The movie is a campy delight, with gorgeous locations, explicit sex (Mario ensures nary a drop of virgin blood remains, especially once he gets wise to Dracula’s machinations), and a heady dose of humor.
Available on Shudder and Vudu.
Monster Cereals Records: “Monsters Go Disco,” “Monster Adventures in Outer Space,” “Count Chocula Goes to Hollywood” (1979)
Dracula was immortalized in cereal form with the introduction of Count Chocula in 1971, and by the time these records were included in specially marked boxes, he had been joined by Monster Cereal characters Frankenberry and Boo Berry. These entertaining adventures feature a Lugosi-lite vocal portrayal of the Count, while Boo Berry steals the show with a delightful Peter Lorre impression. In “Count Chocula Goes to Hollywood,” the Monsters travel to LA after the Count “wins” a TV role involving dangerous stunt work. The producer, of course, keeps calling him “Count baby.” My personal favorite is the “Monsters Go Disco,” in which the trio enter a disco dancing contest and meet the tripped out sounding “Donna Disco.” “Hi guys, let’s go disco,” she drones, sounding like she wandered out of Warhol’s factory.
These were surely fun for kids, but they’re a hoot for adults, too.
Available on YouTube.
The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t aka The Night Dracula Saved the World (1979)
I grew up watching this Emmy winning television special thanks to the Disney Channel, and it was surely a major influence on my love of horror and classic monsters. The cast includes all of the biggies: Dracula (Judd Hirsch), Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, a zombie, and the Witch (Mariette Hartley). When the Witch feels underappreciated by Dracula, she goes on strike, refusing to perform her annual broomstick ride over the moon to kick off Halloween. Dracula schemes to force her participation, but naturally learns to appreciate her instead– with the aid of some adorable costumed children. The special throws in a simple explanation of the origins of the holiday, but it’s the monster antics and banter that make this unforgettable.
The Witch’s castle was in fact the beautiful Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, New York (also the setting for the 1970 House of Dark Shadows movie). Hirsch and Hartley’s performances are the standouts: as Bob Madison writes in Dracula: The First Hundred Years (1997), “Judd Hirsch of television’s Taxi did an outrageous impersonation of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula … Hirsch enjoys himself immensely, and maintains a hectoring banter with Henry Gibson’s Ygor throughout. For fans of the classic monsters, The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t is an affectionate Halloween tribute.”
Available on YouTube.
“Treehouse of Horror IV,” The Simpsons (1993)
For this inspired takeoff on Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, Matt Groening and co. delivered the pitch perfect “Bart Simpson’s Dracula.” Mr. Burns assumes the Dracula role (“His hairdo is so queer”), inviting the clan to his home in “Pennylvania.” Naturally, Lisa figures out his true nature, but is helpless to prevent the rest of her family from succumbing to the curse of vampirism.
In typically anarchistic Simpsons style we get gags about slides, denture fangs, and a climactic takeoff on A Charlie Brown Christmas (?!).
Available on Disney Plus.
Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)
After the smash success of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Mel Brooks crafted a follow up to his classic Young Frankenstein (1974). As such, it’s more of an homage to the Lugosi era than Francis Ford Coppola’s film, although the director takes the opportunity to dress star Leslie Nielsen in Oldman’s instantly iconic coiffure. Brooks plays Van Helsing, while terrific character actor Peter MacNicol (Ghostbusters II) nearly walks away with the film as Renfield.
Bob Madison writes in Dracula: The First Hundred Years (1997), “An inept villain with two left fangs who trips on bat poop, slips while crawling down walls, and trades crude Moldavian insults, Nielsen is a delight. … While not in the same league as Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, Dracula: Dead and Loving It guarantees chuckles for any Dracula fan.”
A product of the post Scream era– and nominally “presented” by Wes Craven– Dracula 2000 is an enjoyably silly attempt to reinvent Dracula for the new millennium. The pulpy story sees a descendant of Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer) pursuing an escaped Dracula (a pre-fame Gerard Butler) to contemporary New Orleans, where the latter seeks out his unknowing descendant Mary (Justine Waddell). The movie has many amusingly tacky aspects, from the oh-so-early-2000s cast (Omar Epps! Danny Masterson! Jeri Ryan! Vitamin Freakin’ C!), to the excessive Virgin Megastore product placement, to the bombastic metal soundtrack. But damn if it isn’t fun.
Director Patrick Lussier (My Bloody Valentine 3D) delivers a slick film that never pretends to be anything but a hyper stylized, hokey twist on the Dracula mythos.
Available on Paramount Plus.
“Buffy vs. Dracula,” Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2000)
2000 was a banner year for Dracula, what with Dracula 2000, the Nosferatu-themed Shadow of the Vampire, and this memorable fifth season episode of the classic series “Buffy.”
Buffy and the gang tangle with the most famous bloodsucker of all (a terrific Rudolf Martin), and episode writers Joss Whedon and Marti Noxon and director David Solomon wring every bit of fun out of the premise. The most inspired bit is surely Dracula’s Renfield-ization of hapless Xander (Nicholas Brendon), a plot thread that later carried over into the official comic books. True to the character’s enduring appeal, Dracula is ultimately “beaten” by Buffy– but not defeated.
Available on Amazon Prime and Hulu.
How are YOU celebrating World Dracula Day? Comment below and let us know!