Sunday, October 2, 2016

My top 10 favorite movie Draculas

It's October. Okay, so now that I've gotten my motivation out of the way, let's get on with it. I decided to count down my favorite film Draculas. You know, the guy with the teeth, Transylvania, and the vlah vlah vlah (yeah, he doesn't do that). An iconic horror character if there ever was one, so I don't really need to explain myself going in. So here we go.

10. Adam Sandler - Hotel Transylvania

Aaaand before I even get you sucked in (GET IT? PUN!), I've probably already lost you. Congratulations, me! Yes, I think Hotel Transylvania is one of the most entertaining modern Halloween movies, and a good deal of what works here is in Adam Sandler as Count Dracula. Where most films would (understandably) make Dracula into a sinister villain, this one makes Dracula into a bit of a softie and a wholly likable character with a lot of heart. It's a different take on the character that I wouldn't care to see done many more times than this, but it worked here and I feel it deserved a spot on this list.

9. Duncan Regehr - The Monster Squad

A total masterpiece of '80s cheese, this Universal-heavy monster movie is an amalgam of pretty much everything there is to like about kids adventure movies of its time. And at the head of the villainous cast, we have Dracula himself. Not the most terrifying rendition of the character, but there's an actual effort here by the actor to make this into a legitimate horror performance, and the sincerity going into it shines through. Much like the previous entry, this is also just a very fun movie, with Dracula as a definite standout.

8. Zhang Wei-Qiang - Dracula, Pages From A Virgin's Diary

A stylistic filming of the Dracula ballet performed by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and assembled as a film by Guy Maddin, this is a totally one-of-a-kind experience of peculiar beauty. And part of that peculiarity comes from the unique and interesting choice of casting Wei-Qiang as Dracula, a "visitor from the East" in the story itself. Presented in the style of a silent movie (as many of Maddin's films are), the dancing, choreography, and expressions here are wonderful and very emotive. This is unlike any other Dracula performance I've ever seen or will likely ever see again, and I'm very grateful to have found it.

7. Rutger Hauer - Dracula III: Legacy

Anyone who read my top 100 favorite actors list (well done if you did. It was 20 posts long) should know that I love Rutger Hauer. No matter how small the role is, he always brings something special to the table. And in a movie surrounded by this level of B.S. his presence was more than welcome. A small performance that's relatively understated, but he still brings all the charm and subdued terror that you could only expect from one of the best actor who's ever lived when given such a famous role. The movie needed more of him, but the amount of time he was given was utilized very well, in spite of the somewhat mediocre material he had to work with.

6. Christopher Lee - Horror Of Dracula

And here is one of the first universally loved Dracula performances on my list, and one that I do enjoy quite a lot -- although not as much as many others seem to. I'm just using his performance in the first of the Hammer series, though this could apply to pretty much any of them. He was a very big actor (6'5, I think), and his presence made him more of a physical threat than many of the other popular Draculas before him. Though he doesn't speak much, he is creepy, suave, and one of the most iconic horror performances of his time. Though I still prefer Cushing in these movies, the pair make for the best Dracula and Van Helsing I've ever seen.

5. Gary Oldman - Bram Stoker's Dracula

Another of my favorite actors, this movie places a lot of emphasis on creating a romantic atmosphere and beautiful sets and costumes, but to me the highlight will always be Oldman's twisted, creepy, and hypnotic performance as the titular Count. Many of the other performances he's surrounded with are pretty weak, but in a way that just draws more attention to how fantastic Oldman is. He can make a veteran like Anthony Hopkins seem like some old guy who just wandered onto the set, and that requires some skill. The character design here shifts somewhat, but each incarnation is memorable and effective for what's it's trying to be. Not a huge fan of the movie, but I love the performance.

4. William Marshall - Blacula

The first entry in this list that's kind of a cheat. Technically, this character is not named Dracula at all, but rather Mamuwalde. In fact, the movie opens with his interactions with Count Dracula himself. But when you watch the movie it becomes incredibly clear that they were making this as a Dracula movie. I mean, it's called Blacula...not exactly subtle. Regardless, this is a pretty sucky movie (HAHAHA I DID IT AGAIN!) that wasn't nearly as fun as I was expecting, but the one thing that really worked here was William Marshall's hypnotic and intimidating performance. In no other scenario could we see a performance like this without millions of people complaining about Dracula being cast as a black guy, so I'm just grateful for the opportunity to see it. Still, Marshall was really good in spite of the weak movie surrounding him.

3. Klaus Kinski - Nosferatu, The Vampyre

Werner Herzog's twisted and surprising rendition of the Dracula story is technically a remake of the 1922 Murnau public-domain silent film Nosferatu. So this is another one that isn't "technically" Dracula, but if you're going to be that annoying and picky about it, you can just go away. Kinski was a very intense and committed actor and being given such a creepy and complex role, it was no surprise to me at all that this was a fantastic performance. More multi-dimensional in several ways than the original, but...

2. Max Schreck - Nosferatu

Yeah, I still like this one better. And I can explain why this performance works so well in just a few words: he's really, REALLY creepy. I mean, look at this guy. In spite of the technological advances we've obviously seen in the past 94 years, this is easily the creepiest vampire I've ever seen in a movie. And Schreck's unsettling demeanor and physicality make it work even better. On the totally opposite side of the spectrum from most other Draculas, which often try to capture the more sensual nature of the character, this one makes the list for still giving me the creeps even now, over 15 years after watching it the first time.

1. Bela Lugosi - Dracula

Which brings us to the no-brainer choice that I obviously put number 1 on this list, because it was an obvious no-brainer pick. Bela Lugosi was a fun actor who always brought the same qualities to every performance, which could admittedly get a little old. But before his whole routine started to wear thin, he took on the role that would make his career, and redefine everything we know about Count Dracula as a pop culture icon. The deliberate speech pattern and slow-paced movement of his character match the Gothic tone and qualities of an early horror film, which is something I feel needs to be mentioned when discussing this movie. This was one of the first horror "talkies", so some of the awkward silent patches in the film and strange pacing issues were ultimately an inevitability. Still, Lugosi's calculated, understated performance is massively entertaining, endlessly quotable, and more influential than most film goers will ever realize. This isn't the showiest performance on this list, but it is the most effective and memorable.

Special note:

Now that the list is officially over, I want to include as an honorable mention Willem Dafoe's performance as Max Schreck in Shadow Of The Vampire. I was willing to bend rules a little for Blacula, but playing the actor who's playing Nosferatu was a little too much of a stretch for me to include on this list, although I'm already having my doubts about not putting it on the list proper. So consider this a non-entry inclusion that could slide in anywhere from #3 down. Also worth noting, this performance earned Dafoe an Oscar nomination.

I doubt I'll be doing another of these lists anytime soon, but it ultimately depends on how many Frankenstein, Wolfman, or Dr. Jekyll movies I see over the next month. Still, I hope you enjoyed the list.

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