100 years after Bram Stoker’s death, Carla Neuss explores the dozens of adaptations of ’Dracula’ while trying to understand what made this narrative so unforgettable.
On April 20th, 1912, the Irishman who was known in his life time primarily as a successful business man and theatre manager, died of a stroke. But Bram Stoker has been remembered over the last century not for his management of London’s Lyceum Theatre but for penning the immortal tale of Dracula.
Originally published in 1897, Dracula has become one of the most adapted narratives of all time, being recast into dozens of films, stage plays, television shows, radio plays, comic books, video games, and even anime and manga versions of the famous vampire story. In the last 100 years alone, there have been 9 feature film adaptations of the novel; the character of Dracula himself has appeared in over 270 films. Dracula has been immortalised by various actors including Bela Lugosi, Sir Christopher Lee, and Frank Langella. And the novel has been adapted for the stage over 5 times, including musical versions in French, Czech, and Spanish.
But what characterises Stoker’s novel with the ability to stand the test of time and become one of the most beloved horror stories of the past century? Critics have argued that Dracula’s timely debut in 1897 hit a nerve in the British Empire about the fear of colonised people revolting against the imperialist British regime. Other literary theorists apply Freudian theory to explore the repressed sexuality of Victorian England; Dr. Sos Eltis, a Fellow of English Literature at Brasenose College, Oxford, reads Dracula and the moment the vampire’s death by a stake in his heart as ”a reassertion of masculine dominance and sexual aggression”.
The popular fascination with vampire narratives was truly pioneered by Stoker but continues on today in the form of Stephanie Meyers best-selling series Twilight and television shows like True Blood. Today, on the 100th anniversary of Stoker’s death, we can remember the man who created the monster and added vampires to our cultural vocabulary forever.