NOSFERATU: If the modern vampire legend can be said to have started with Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, it’s fair to say the vampire movie timeline started with F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film Nosferatu.
That’s partly because the German auteur’s magnum opus was a thinly-veiled rip-off of Stoker’s story (Count Dracula became Count Orlock, Jonathan Harker becomes Hutter) — so thinly-veiled, in fact, that Stoker’s widow invoked copyright and attempted to have every print of the movie destroyed.
Enough copies survived that the movie is still widely-available today.
Murnau’s vampire was arguably the ugliest incarnation, following what can be seen as decades of prettification, from Bela Lugosi to Christopher Lee to Kiefer Sutherland to Robert Pattinson
LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT (1927): A "lost" Lon Chaney Sr. film (the last surviving copy was said to be destroyed in a fire in 1927), it added a vampire/serial killer to the Man Of A Thousand Faces repertoire that alsoincluded Quasimodo and The Phantom Of The Opera. Pointy-teethed stills survive that are scary indeed.
DRACULA (1931): "Listen to them, children of the night. What music they make." Bela Lugosi (born Bela Blasko in Lugos, Hungary) provided the caped, Carpathian-accented vampire template for decades to come. Before that, he played the Count on Broadway, speaking so little English at first that he learned his lines phonetically.
HORROR OF DRACULA (1958): Yeah, Bela Lugosi was handsome, like your dad. But Christopher Lee turned it up a notch in his first performance as Dracula opposite Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing — a pair that would carry on through to 1973’s The Satanic Rites Of Dracula. Cushing and Lee did 22 mostly-horror films together. They were both in the Star Wars films, but not together (Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin and Lee as Count Dooku).
THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (OR PARDON ME, BUT YOUR TEETH ARE IN MY NECK) (1967): An early Roman Polanski film, on the heels of Repulsion, remembered mainly for the part played by the director’s wife Sharon Tate, who would be murdered by the Manson Family two years later.
ANDY WARHOL’S DRACULA (1974): The vampire as camp figure. Despite Warhol’s imprematur, it was Paul Morrissey who directed this innocent-of-style art film about a Count who needed the blood of "wirgins" to survive (and was encountering a decided lack of same).
THE HUNGER (1983): Yeah, they TALK about the eroticism of the vampire myth. But Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve walked the walk in that famous sex scene (and face it, David Bowie was born to play the Undead).
THE LOST BOYS (1987): Like The Breakfast Club, Less Than Zero or Pretty In Pink, this story about two brothers who move to a new town where the cool kids are vampires was an iconic ’80s film. Just reciting the names, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric and Jami Gertz, makes me want to grow a mullet and put on a Members Only jacket.
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA’S DRACULA (1992): Back to ugly. The only thing scarier than Gary Oldman’s Montgomery Burns-like depiction of Dracula was Keanu Reeves’ English accent as Jonathan Harker.
BLADE (1998): The vampire as bad-ass. There would have been no Underworld series if Wesley Snipes hadn’t gotten there first as the half-man/half-vamp who hunted bloodsuckers with big guns.
UNDERWORLD (2003): Talk about your iconic images. Kate Beckinsale in a leather cat-suit. You’ve come a long way, vampy!
TWILIGHT (2008): With Stephanie Meyer’s teen-books-turned-movies the vampire as a symbol of eroticism was supplanted by the vampire as a kind of "safe boyfriend" with fangs who didn’t pressure you for sex (what Johnny Depp calls "vampires played by underwear models.")
Jonathan Frid lives on in film
For Jonathan Frid, there is life — on-screen — after death.
The late Canadian, who originated the role of vampire Barnabas Collins on the 1960s TV soap Dark Shadows, appears for a cameo in the new Tim Burton film.
"It was apparent to both Tim and myself that it had to be rooted in Jonathan Frid’s character," says Johnny Depp.
"I thought it was great of Tim to bring them to the fold. And Jonathan was terrific. He’d written me a letter a few years before that was like a passing of the baton.
"He had his original Barnabas cane (onset). And I wasn’t sure when he actually saw me if he was going to attack me with it."