Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Evolution of the Vampire

Just a few days from the release of Dark Shadows, I thought it would be interesting to look at the evolution of the vampire in cinema.  The first most successful vampire to show up onto the scene was the 1922 German film Nosferatu, which featured the first film appearance of Dracula.  The film and characters names were changed, due to the German studio not having the rights, but the story is basically the same as the one we all know. 
Vampires didn't hit major success until the release of Dracula (1931), starring Bela Lugosi.  This film went on to be a classic, which became the platform for sequels and other vampire movies.  Bela Lugosi's take on the undead prince became the iconic version of the character and for vampires in general. 
 For decades after the release of Dracula, movies have tried to top what was done in 1931.  In 1966 though, Dracula was brought back into the spotlight with Christopher Lee's take in Dracula: Prince of Darkness.  The character didn't have any lines but still proved to be a success among fans. 
It took another twenty-five years before the character was transformed into something that was totally different than what we've seen before.  Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula (1992), starring Gary Oldman in the title role, gave us a different take of the vampire.  The movie was a box office and critical success, bring vampire's back from the dead and starting a craze that seems to not have ended.
 Of course this whole article isn't about Dracula, I did say vampires in general.  It seems though that vampire's didn't start getting really popular until the nineties, when other stories began to emerge.  Anne Rice brought another character into the mix with her Vampire Chronicle's novels named Lestat.  The first movie in which he appears is Interview with the Vampire.  The story revolves mostly around the character Louis, played by Brad Pitt, who was transformed into a vampire by Lestat, played by Tom Cruise.  Lestat shows up in one other movie called Queen of the Damned, which was a modest success, and the character has basically gone into hiding since then. 

There have been several different takes recently on vampires, some more evil than the last few I've mentioned, and others that, well, they sparkle.  30 Days of Night was a graphic novel that was published in 2002 and made into a film in 2007.  The vampires in this film are considered more monster than romantic, coming out of there holes for 30 days of feasting on a small town in Alaska.  This film remade vampires, and how they should be depicted, of course not many fell in love with this version.
 The next style of vampire has taken over the vampire genre, and has reinvented the way we look at the mythical species.  The Twilight Saga has made the vampire less of a threat compared to past incarnations.  Some aren't happy with the fact that this take on the undead sparkles in the sunlight rather than burst into flames; you can't argue with a billion dollar franchise, nor do I think studios care as long as their pockets are filled to the brim.  Even if it isn't what most vampire fans think of when they think of the fanged demons that have become so popular over the years, its still is the most successful vampire franchise around.
Lastly we have the newest vampire to show up into theaters, but this vampire has been around since the 1960's.  Barnabas Collins has been a part of pop culture since 1966 when the show Dark Shadows first aired on ABC.  The show lasted for five years and since then has developed a cult following.  The show was remade in 1991 but was soon cancelled after the ratings declined due to the show being moved to different time slots.  In 2004 the show was going to be revitalized but it fell apart in preproduction, never airing a single episode.  This year we get a film version of the once popular show, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp as the main character.
  Well there you have it, a brief history of vampires over the years.  Of course I've left some vampires out of the mix, I've just named some that were more noteworthy than others.  If you care to give a few more examples, respond to the post.  Love to hear which vamps I missed. 

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