Spooky season has just come and gone, so I’m a little late on this one but who cares? Just before Halloween, I read through an article ranking the top fifty Dracula performances of all time, and since I’m such a fan of the character and story I was all about it. They had an interesting take on their decisions and the reason they fell where they did on the list but there were still a few that just left me scratching my head as to why and how, and several others that I thought were just off base completely. So, having my own little soap box to preach from, I thought what the heck and decided to have a go at it myself, putting together my own little cadre of actors that have taken on the role. Out of all the Draculas that have come and gone, these are my favorites, so read on and see if you agree with my choices, or if you’d rather drag them out into the sun and watch them sizzle.
Okay, technically Julia never played Dracula on screen, performing as the count only in a Broadway stage play from 1977-1980. I don’t believe any actual footage of the production exists, with only the reviews and photos available to give us a clue as to what it was like, but I don’t care. Julia was an outstanding performer all around and the images speak for themselves and absolutely drip with style, and though I haven’t seen a single second of this show I’m putting it on my list because I can. I like to imagine his portrayal would be a cross somewhere between Gomez Addams and M. Bison, and I’d give my left testi to go back and see it in person.
Who the heck is this you ask? Well, he’s the wonderfully threatening Dracula from Monster Squad of course. Alright, I’ll give it to you that he’s by far the least well-known actor on this list, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t turn in a devilishly convincing performance of the count. This Dracula is driven and ruthless as he goes about pursuing his aims, even if he does find himself up against a group of meddling pre-teens in the process. There’s an unspoken air of dread about him when he’s on screen, giving you the feeling that if he gets a hold of those kids, they’re absolutely dead, and that’s nearly what happens. Plus, he wades look like half a dozen cops while he’s just snapping arms and breaking necks, which is a level of badassness rarely seen in other portrayals, so don’t get in his way.
Like it or not Lugosi’s Dracula is pretty much what we think about when we first imagine the count, and that’s the reason I put him here over anything else. He never came off as a particularly threatening or scarry Dracula to me, exuding more of a creepy vibe in a weird stalker who just follows you around the grocery store kind of way. I did enjoy the gothic visuals that his portrayal brought with it, but in the end, his work always left me wanting more menace. It’s without a doubt a classic interpretation, however, and more than deserves its place for the all things it put into motion and set the stage for in years to come. Lugosi has rightly earned his respect in the line of actors who have tackled the role of the count, he’s just not my favorite, as I think there are several others who have nailed the character better.
All I have to say is a big yes for Gary Oldman’s Dracula, and I was very disappointed with where he was placed on the previous list I mentioned, not even breaking the top twenty. He’s been a chameleon throughout his long and illustrious career, and certainly does not disappoint as the count. He goes through nearly half a dozen distinct looks for the role, taking on each one exceptionally well and drawing us in with his over the top interpretation. Oldman thoroughly embraces Dracula’s sinister nature, and you can feel the subdued wickedness that oozes from him when he’s on screen and he’s indulging himself in the part. My one knock is the age-old romance angle that’s injected into the character and him pining for Mina, where as in the original story he was after her purely out of spite in retaliation for the slaying of Lucy, which I think fits him much better. It’s a minor gripe on my part and really doesn’t affect my enjoyment of Oldman’s portrayal in any significant way, but it was my deciding factor in not putting him first.
Good god Christopher Lee, because, without a doubt, no one has ever taken on the roll of Count Dracula better than this man right here. Lee brought an undeniable menace to the part of the count without even having to utter a word in some instances, with the way he walked, held himself, and his deep voice when he did deliver his lines. With Lee, I always got the distinct feeling that Dracula was just pure evil, concealing a bestial nature just below the surface that was ready to strike out at any moment. And when it finally was revealed it did not disappointment in the slightest, the visual of those bloodshot eyes and fanged hiss always sticking with me when I picture who the count should be. To see Lee’s dark arrogance and aristocratic wickedness is a treat through all seven films, eight if you include the one not produced by Hammer, that he took on the role, and in my opinion is the one that all others should be held up to. But so far everything else has always come up just short, which should speak volumes about just how good Christopher Lee was as the count, because it’s been nearly fifty years and no one’s matched him yet.
So, I hope this was a fun read for you guys, because I really enjoyed putting this little grouping together and bringing it to you. The many takes on count Dracula have been just as varied as the actors who have donned the dark cloak and sharp fangs themselves, with varying degrees of success on both the comic and dramatic fronts alike. But the ones above I believe managed to capture something in their respective performances that made them all really standout for me, and yes, even Julia with only the still shots to enjoy and the thoughts of what it was actually like. If you’ve never taken the time to check out any of the portrayals that I’ve mentioned then you’re doing yourself a great disservice and you should really fix that, because they’re all worth sinking your teeth into in their own way. Get out there and give them a look, gang, because you’re missing some great undead entertainment if you don’t. As always, later, and until next time.