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Dracula on the BEEB

09/12/2006. Contributed by Jessica Martin

Buy Dracula in the USA - or Buy Dracula in the UK

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Bram Stoker's classic chiller, Dracula, comes to BBC One in a new re-working for the festive season, featuring Hustle star Marc Warren as the Count with bite.

Drac fact - Dracula means "son of the devil" in Romanian.

The Real Dracula

Prince Vlad III Dracula was also known as Vlad the Impaler. He was the prince of Walachia but he was born in Transylvania, which at the time was ruled by Hungary. He was born in 1431 and was trained for knighthood. He eventually took the Walachian throne in 1448 when he was 17, but was soon overthrown and didn't win it back until 1456. He established his capital at Tirgoviste and set about unifying his nation.

It's his cruelty which makes him famous, especially his fondness for impaling. He liked to dine while he watched people die and often had many people impaled at once on stakes arranged in patterns he found pleasing. By the time he was deposed in 1462, he'd killed between 40,000 and 100,000 people. He was particularly harsh with criminals - so there wasn't a lot of crime during his reign!

He died in 1476, although accounts differ as to how. He was possibly poisoned by a Turkish spy posing as a servant, or maybe killed on the battle field.

Drac fact - Dracula has had enormous cultural influence, inspiring over 100 films and a whole tourist industry in both Transylvania and Whitby.

The Current Count

Ottomar Rudolphe Vlad Dracula Prinz Kretzulesco is the proud holder of the title "Count Dracula" but, as he doesn't have any children of his own, in 2002 he launched an appeal to adopt a successor to ensure the family line's survival. Only nobility could apply.

He himself was adopted into the Dracula clan by a Romanian princess descended from the original Vlad Dracula. Born Ottomar Berbig, he used to work as an antiques dealer based in Berlin before the princess approached him.

But Ottomar does have a real interest in blood - he is committed to recruiting donors for the German Red Cross.

Drac fact - Bela Lugosi played Dracula in the American stage version of the story, before giving his virtuoso performance on screen.

Nosferatu

The seminal vampire movie Nosferatu, released in 1922, was originally intended as a straightforward adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel, but the Stoker estate denied director FW Murnau rights to the novel. Murnau decided to go ahead anyway, re-writing his script, changing the names of Dracula and lawyer Jonathan Harker and setting the film in Bremen.

Stoker's widow sued and, in 1925, a German court ordered all copies of the film to be destroyed. But some survived and, after a further abortive court case in London, Murnau eventually saw his film premièred in America in 1929. E Elias Mergige later used the story of Nosferatu for his own film, Shadow Of The Vampire.

Drac fact - Nosferatu is old Slavonic for "plague carrier".

Bram Stoker

Born in 1847, Stoker was one of seven children and he was heavily influenced by his father's interest in the theatre and his mother's gruesome storytelling. He graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 1870 with honours in science, maths and history and became friendly with Oscar Wilde when he arrived at the university the following year.

Stoker's career began as a civil servant, but he soon started writing thrillers and supernatural stories. He was later made drama critic for the Dublin Evening Mail. Henry Irving was so pleased with his review of Hamlet that he asked to meet Stoker who, in 1878, went on to become Irving's manager.

The same year, Stoker married Florence (who had also been admired by Wilde) and they moved to London, where Stoker spent the rest of his life. He worked as business manager for the Lyceum Theatre for Irving for 30 years and was called to the Bar in 1890, but never practised Law. He died in April 1912.

Drac fact - Some commentators think that Stoker may have based Dracula on Henry Irving, the exacting task-master who drained Stoker of his vitality.

The Hammer Horror Film

"I am Dracula, welcome to my house." (Christopher Lee's opening line).

Following the success of Curse Of Frankenstein, Hammer set out to adapt Dracula for the big screen. It was released in America in May 1958 and crossed the Atlantic for its UK première in June. The X-certificate movie was directed by Terence Fisher and written by Jimmy Sangster, with Peter Cushing starring as Van Helsing and Christopher Lee as the eponymous Dracula.

Drac fact - Some of the film's censors weren't over-keen on what they saw, with one reportedly asking: "Why do vampires need to be messier feeders than anyone else?"

Vampires

Cases of rabies seem to be the most likely origins of the vampire mythology as the disease's many symptoms mirror similarities with vampire characteristics - bright sunlight and strong odours (eg, garlic) causing pain before death, the contorted aggressive mannerisms and the tendency to bite other humans.

Across the globe, each nation has its own vampire myths and mythology:

Australia - home to the Yara-ma-yha-who: This creature with sucker-covered feet and hands like an octopus drops on people from trees and drains them of blood, before eating and regurgitating them. Victims don't die - they turn into furry bush creatures.

Brazil - home to the Lobishomen: This is a stumpy, hunch-backed creature with yellow skin and black teeth. Its bite turns female victims into nymphomaniacs.

Ghana - home to the Asasabonsam: They have hooks for feet and iron teeth. They suck the blood from the thumbs of their sleeping victims.

Japan - home to the Kappa: Ugly, green, child-like creatures, the Kappa drag livestock to their watery home where they suck their blood. They will leave the water to steal fruit, rape women and steal people's livers, but can enter a binding agreement promising not to attack people.

Peru - home to the Pishtaco: This dieting, friendly vampire will feed off its victims' fat first, before sucking their blood.

Drac fact - the traditional evening-wear and opera-cloak look of Dracula was established in the first stage production by Hamilton Dean in 1924.

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