Tales of vampires have existed for millennia, but the idea of the vampire as we understand it today comes from late-17th and early-18th-century Europe where oral traditions told of vampires as revenants of evil beings, including suicides and witches, who preyed on the living.
Of course, the most famous vampire is Count Dracula the undead nobleman created by novelist Bram Stoker who spent seven years researching European folklore and vampire stories before writing one word of his classic tale. Yet Dracula was not the first fictional vampire: there had been Sheridan Le Fanu’s Camilla in 1871, which was the tale of a lesbian vampire who preyed on young women; before this James Malcolm’s Varney the Vampire (1847), a grisly “penny dreadful” that became a best-seller; and at the beginning was Vampyre, a story written by Doctor John Polidori during a madcap summer spent with Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley, which also inspired the creation of Frankenstein. That must have been one hell of a vacation.
Part of Dracula‘s great allure is the historical association with the bloody Transylvanian Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia or “Vlad the Impaler.” In the documentary Dracula the Great Undead, the ever-watchable Vincent Price traces the true story behind one of fiction’s greatest characters. As our host, Price is his usual charming self, and makes this documentary a delight to watch.