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Facts with Fangs, Part II: Count Orlok's Guide to Becoming an Expert on Vampires!

  • Jun 1, 2010
I've been studying vampires since a pretty young age. I suppose for me the fascination began when I was little and terrified of vampires and witches, but then through studying them I learned enough about folklore and history that I ceased to be afraid. Whether in myths, history, or pop culture, vampires have proliferated like a deadly plague. With this list I hope to give people the necessary resources to study vampires in multiple media and hopefully provide them with some fascinating information that will entertain as well.
Note: This list is a continuation of my Facts with Fangs series, the first of which is viewable here.
1
Aaliyah & Stewart Townsend in Queen of the Damned
Much like with vampire mythology, the depiction of vampires in pop culture has changed drastically over the years. One would have hardly imagined that the loathsome creature in Nosferatu would have anything in common with the angsty teen vamps in the Twilight films, but that just goes to show how much the vampire has evolved as a reflection of society. Researching the way vampires have been portrayed in films, modern art, music, and contemporary fiction is as important as the studying of ancient and medieval myths and history.
2
The Essential Dracula
In terms of being both a valuable resource for information and an entertaining read, I can think of few books that are superior to Leonard Wolf's edition of The Essential Dracula. If you wanted to know where Stoker came up his ideas, the differences and similarities between Vlad Dracula and Count Dracula, or even what the characters ate, then look no further. This terrific annotated version features a great deal of commentary, artwork and images, historical notes, and literary criticism.
3
One of the original covers of the serialized novel
One of the earliest works of vampire fiction, this campy serialized novel takes place during the Napoleonic wars and features a very flamboyant vampire protagonist. Interestingly, there is debate amongst literary scholars and vampire historians as to who actually wrote the novel. Originally thought to be the work of author Thomas Preskett Prest, it is now widely agreed upon that it was written by James Malcolm Rymer. Either way, Varney the Vampire, despite it's rambling, self-contradictory narrative, is an important piece of vampire literature and makes for a fascinating read.
4
Vampires: Encounters with the Undead
David J. Skal's superb anthology of vampire literature is a must-have for all vampire enthusiasts. The book contains numerous short stories both popular and very obscure, excerpts from novels, historical background information, literary criticism and cultural observations, filmographies, an extensive bibliography and reference guide, expert commentary, and much more. Certainly one of the most comprehensive guides to vampire literature and study available anywhere.
5
Vampire Secrets
A History Channel documentary that probes the idea of vampires and questions their existence. Like many of the History Channel documentaries on the subject of vampires, this one is a mixed bag. While it does have some wonderful interviews with historians, scientists, and pop culture experts, it also features some rather poor reenactments and erroneous information. Still, it makes for an entertaining viewing experience and will enlighten newcomers to vampire lore.
6
Bloodlines: Dracula's Family Tree
Taking lead from Florescu's books and studies, this History Channel documentary is likely the most historically accurate and informative on the life of the real Vlad Dracula. Unlike some other documentaries in recent years which have relied on sensationalism, this one depends upon scholarly research, historical documentation, peasant folklore, and first person accounts. A great program all in all, so if you can find it on DVD, I recommend it.
7
In Search of History: The Real Dracula
Much like the above documentary, this History Channel program follows the research of Florescu and McNally, however it is not as well researched and contains some incorrect information (most of which can be blamed on McNally). The reenactments are an improvement over the ones featured in Vampire Secrets and the interviews are well-done, so ultimately this makes for a nice companion to Bloodlines and Florescu's books.
8
DVD front
As I've mentioned before in one of my reviews, it's somewhat ironic the way that most of the best films adapted from the novel Dracula have very little to do with the actual plot and characters of the book. However, Hammer Films' take on the character and on the vampire mythos in general is great fun. The Hammer Dracula series stars Christopher Lee as the Count and Peter Cushing as his vampire-hunting nemesis.
See the full review, "A Bloody Good Vampire Tale".
9
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Certainly one of the most audacious adaptations of the novel, though certainly not the most faithful despite what the title implies. Francis Ford Coppola's interpretation of Dracula is a great departure from the novel, in that it takes a Gothic horror story and turns it into a Gothic romantic tragedy. However, the film is notable for its cultural impact, its production values, cast, and music. It also makes for a great discussion for those who are familiar with the novel as well as prior adaptations.
See the full review, "Bram Stoker's Dracula... A Tragic Figure?".
10
The Tomb of Dracula, issue #1
Marvel Comics' best vampire series by far, The Tomb of Dracula is a wonderful re-imagining of vampire lore and a modern reinvention of the Bram Stoker character. Featuring great stories by Marv Wolfman and art by the inimitable Gene Colan, the series would help to push the boundaries when it came to the amount of violence, sex, and adult material that could be featured in a comic book series.

What did you think of this list?

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June 11, 2010
I expected better From Coppola, there have been better films that his. But it certainly looked good. Do you ever watch Anthony Bourdain? He did a show where he unhappily wound up at a tourist trap in Transylvania watching a show put on for American vampire lovers instead of eating exotic local food, which is what he was after.
June 29, 2010
As did I, but I now realize that Coppola has always been very inconsistent in the quality of his films. Still, it marks an interesting point in the history of Dracula since so many people saw the film and mistakenly believed it to be very true to Stoker's novel.
July 02, 2010
Hardly that!
July 02, 2010
Exactly!
 
June 02, 2010
Ohhh...I am impressed with this list. # 7 really ruled actually.
June 02, 2010
So, have you seen many of the A&E or History Channel documentaries. Some are excellent.
June 02, 2010
Dude, the History Channel is a main thing at my house. I love that station! I especially liked the one when they had this journalist investigate truths and facts behind the Book of Exodus.
June 02, 2010
No, I meant specifically on vampires.
June 02, 2010
Yes, I think I've seen most of them; Seen the one with Vlad the Impaler?
June 02, 2010
Yeah, well that's what 6 and 7 are. There are also episodes of other series that have touched upon Vlad too. "Cities of the Underworld: Dracula's Underground" and "Lost Worlds: The Real Dracula", the latter of which is superb and focuses on his military fortresses.
 
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