Count Dracula is a fictional vampire who first appeared in the 1897 novel Dracula by Irish author Bram Stoker. He is first presented as a white-haired old man but grows younger during the course of the novel. He is able to take on the form of a bat, a wolf and mist in order to approach his victims undetected—these have henceforth become mainstays in media in which vampires can shapeshift.
Dracula has become one of the best known fictional characters in the world. He has appeared in more than two hundred different movies. He often appears in television shows and video games too. Due to his longstanding fame, Dracula continues to be a popular choice for a Halloween costume.
Plot of the novel
The novel opens with Jonathan Harker, a young British lawyer, making his way to Transylvania to finalize the sales of several properties in London to Count Dracula. Harker soon finds himself to be Dracula's prisoner and in fear of his life but manages to escape.
The action then moves to England and introduces the characters of Harker's fiancée Wilhelmina "Mina" Murray, her friend Lucy Westenra, Lucy's three suitors: Arthur Holmwood (later Lord Goldaming), Quincey Morris (an American cowboy) and Doctor John Seward. Doctor Seward's patient Renfield, a man who eats insects, spiders and small birds in order to absorb their lives, is also introduced.
A Russian ship carrying several boxes of Transylvanian soil and without any crew, except for the dead captain lashed to the ship's wheel, arrives in the northern English town of Whitby. A wolf is seen nearby, Dracula has arrived in England.
Night after night, Dracula gradually drains the blood from Lucy Westenra. Unable to help her, Doctor Seward sends for his learned Dutch friend, Professor Abraham Van Helsing. Van Helsing is not only a medical doctor but also an expert in many other fields, including folklore and mythology. He quickly realises that Lucy is the victim of a vampire. This is confirmed when Lucy dies and becomes a vampire herself. Van Helsing and Lucy's former suitors are forced to destroy her.
Jonathan Harker returns to England and recognises Dracula in a London street. Van Helsing realises that Dracula was the vampire who attacked Lucy and has begun attacking Mina. Dracula makes Mina drink his blood, bringing about a psychic bond between the two of them. Van Helsing declares that it is necessary to kill Dracula first to prevent Mina from becoming a vampire.
Using the bond that exists between Mina and Dracula, Van Helsing and his friends pursue Dracula back to Transytlvania. In a final struggle, in which Quincey Morris is killed, Dracula is destroyed by having his mouth stuffed full of garlic before his head is cut off.
There have been numerous stage plays, radio dramas, comic books, television specials or series, and movies adapted from Bram Stoker's Dracula and many more that have featured Count Dracula as a major character. According to the Internet Movie Database, Dracula has appeared in two hundred and seventeen different films. Sherlock Holmes (with two hundred and twenty-three appearances) is the only fictional character to have appeared in more movies than Dracula.
The first screen adaptation of Stoker's Dracula was the 1922 silent film from Germany Nosferatu directed by F.W. Murnau and starring Max Schreck as the vampire. The film was made without asking permission from Stoker's estate. Bram Stoker's widow complained, forcing the film makers to change all the names for copyright reasons, Count Dracula became Count Orlok. Nosferatu is also notable for introducing the idea that vampires are destroyed by sunlight, an idea that did not previously exist in folklore. Dracula is able to go out in daylight in Stoker's novel.
In 1931 Universal released Dracula, directed by Tod Browning and starring Hungarian-born actor Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. Five sequels followed: Dracula's Daughter (1936), Son of Dracula (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945) and the comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). It was only in the final film from 1948 that Lugosi reprised his role as Dracula, although he played vampires in two other movies. However, Lugosi's portrayal remains the "classic" image of Dracula and the basis of many Halloween vampire costumes.
In 1958 Britain's Hammer Film Productions produced Dracula, released in the United States as The Horror of Dracula, directed by Terence Fisher, starring Christopher Lee as the Count and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. Hammer produced eight sequels, six of which also starred Lee as Dracula. The sequels are: The Brides of Dracula (1964), Dracula; Prince of Darkness (1966), Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970), Scars of Dracula (1970), Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972), The Satanic Rites of Dracula (aka Count Dracula and his Vampire Bride) (1974) and Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (1974). Christopher Lee also played Count Dracula in several other European films, not produced by Hammer.
The most recent big screen adaptation of the novel was Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring the British actor Gary Oldman as Count Dracula. The movie is notable for emphasizing a romantic relationship between Dracula and Mina.
The 2014 American movie Dracula Untold is an origin story which explains how the Transylvanian Prince Vlad became a vampire.