Info On The More Well Known Vampires
Most of the readers are probably aware of the fact that when Bram Stoker
penned his immortal classic, -Dracula-, he based his vampire villain on an actual historical figure. Stoker's model was Vlad
III Dracula (call Tepes, pronounced tse-pesh); a fifteenth century voivode or prince of Wallachia of the princely House of
Wallachia is a province of Romania bordered to the north by Transylvania
and Moldavia, to the east by the Black Sea and to the south by Bulgaria. Wallachia first emerged as a political entity during
the late thirteenth century from the weltering confusion left behind in the Balkans as the East Roman Empire slowly crumbled.
The first prince of Wallachia was Basarab the Great (1310-1352), an ancestor of Dracula. Despite the splintering of the family
into two rival, clans some member of the House of Basarab continued to govern Wallachia from that time until well after the
Ottomans reduced the principality to the status of a client state. Dracula was the last prince of Wallachia to retain any
real measure of independence.
In order to understand the life of Vlad Dracula it is first necessary
to understand something about the nature of Wallachian society and politics. The throne of Wallachia was hereditary but not
by the law of primogeniture; the boyars or great nobles had the right to elect the voivode from among the various eligible
members of the royal family. As with most elective monarchies during the Middle Ages the power of the central government tended
to be dissipated among the nobility as various members of the ruling family vied for the throne. Wallachian politics also
tended to be very bloody. Assassination was a common means of eliminating rivals and many of the voivodes ended their lives
violently and prematurely.
By the late fifteenth century the House of Basarab had split into two
rival clans; the descendants of Prince Dan and those of Prince Mircea the Old (Dracula's grandfather). These two branches
of the royal house were bitter rivals. Both Dracula and his father, Vlad II Dracul, murdered rivals from the Danesti upon
reaching the throne.
The second ascendant fact of fifteenth century Wallachian political life
was the influence of powerful neighbors. In 1453 Constantinople and the last vestiges of the Byzantine or East Roman Empire,
which had blocked the Islam's access to Europe for nearly one thousand years, succumbed to the armed might of the Ottoman
Turks under Sultan Mohammed the Conqueror. Long before the fall of the Imperial City the Ottomans had penetrated deep into
the Balkans. Dracula's grandfather, Mircea the Old, was forced to pay tribute to the sultan early in the fifteenth century.
The Hungarian Kingdom to the north and west of Wallachia reached the zenith of its power during the fifteenth century and
assumed Constantinople's ancient mantle as defender of Christendom.
Throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the princes of Wallachia
attempted to maintain a precarious independence by constantly shifting allegiances between these powerful neighbors.
Dracula ruled as Prince of Wallachia on three separate occasions. He
first claimed the throne with Turkish support in 1448. On this occasion he ruled for only two months (November-October) before
being driven out by a Danesti claimant supported by Hungary. Dracula dwelt in exile for several years before returning to
Wallachia to kill the Danesti prince, Vladislav II, and reclaim the Wallachian throne with Hungarian support. Dracula's second
regal period stretched from 1456 to 1462. It was during this time that Dracula carried out his most famous military exploits
against the Turks and also committed his most gruesome atrocities.
In 1462 Dracula fled to Transylvania to seek the aid of the King of Hungary
when a Turkish army overwhelmed Wallachia. Instead of receiving the assistance he expected Dracula was imprisoned by the Hungarian
king. He remained a prisoner of Matthias Corvinus of Hungary for several years. For most of the period of Dracula's incarceration
his brother, Radu the Handsome, ruled Wallachia as a puppet of the Ottoman sultan. When Radu died (ca. 1474-1475) the sultan
appointed Basarab the Old, a member of the Danesti clan, as prince.
Eventually, Dracula regained the favor and support of the Hungarian king.
In 1476 he once again invaded Wallachia. His small force consisted of a few loyal Wallachians, a contingent of Moldavians
sent by his cousin Prince Stephen the Great of Moldavia, and a contingent of Transylvanians under their prince, Stephen Bathory.
The allies succeeded in driving Basarab out of the country and placing Dracula on the throne (November 1476).
However, after Dracula was once again in control, Stephen Bathory returned
to Transylvania taking most of Dracula's army with him. The Turks soon counterattacked with overwhelming force. Dracula was
killed fighting the Turks near Bucharest in December of 1476. His head was sent to Constantinople where the Sultan had it
displayed on a stake to prove that the terrible Impaler was really dead.
Vlad Tempest Dracula The III Home
Not To Be Misstaken For What is left today of the building identified as Castle Dracula.Which Now Stans In Ruens
It is 1838 and the estate agent Thomas Hutter has been asked to go to Transylvania to sell a house to Count
Orlok. Saying farewell to his new wife he eagerly travels to the Count's remote castle. Here he meets the frightening, hardly
human-looking, Orlok. They talk deep into the night and the next morning Thomas wakes up to find himself with two bite marks
on his neck. Slowly Thomas realises that his host is a vampire, the legendary Nosferatu. But, it is too late. Trapped in the
castle, the man cannot escape as Nosferatu comes to his room at night to suck his blood.
Meanwhile in Bremen, Thomas' wife, Ellen, is having a disturbed dream. She knows that something is wrong with her husband
and calls out to him in her sleep. The Count senses Ellen's psychic connection to Thomas and turns away from his victim, deciding
instead to travel to Bremen to take this woman. He buries himself in a stack of coffins filled with soil (Vampires must always
sleep in the same ground in which they were buried) and sets off for Germany by boat. As he travels he brings plague and pestilence
to the whole of the ship's crew, who all die, and to every port he calls at. Finally he arrives in Bremen, which then also
becomes engulfed by disease.
Back in Transylvania Thomas has escaped the castle and is hurrying back to Ellen to warn her of Nosferatu's intentions.
Once reunited, Ellen fears that Nosferatu will return to continue feeding on her husband to turn him into a vampire, so she
tries to find a way of destroying the monster. She discovers the 'Book of Vampires,' in which she learns that if a woman pure
of heart sacrifices herself freely to the vampire and manages to keep him in their room until the cock crows then his power
is lost. Ellen decides that she will give herself up to save her husband. She entices the Count to her room, who feeds off
her until dawn, at which point he simply vanishes in a puff of smoke. For a brief moment Ellen raises her head as her husband
comes into her room. Tragically there is nothing he can do. Both he and the town are saved but she has lost all her blood
and so dies in Thomas' arms.
A Prana-Films production, apart from being directed by F.W. Murnau Nosferatu starred Max Shreck in the starring role as the undead Graf Orlock.
Though most film historians claim this to be the first screen appearance of Dracula this is incorrect. This film
was, in fact, the second screen appearance of Dracula. The first was a European short film in which a psychotic actor
thinks he truly is Dracula, and goads on a person to shoot him to prove him right. The film is called Dracula's
Death, and as one can glean, the actor was quite wrong. Nosferatu was and continues to be one of the few Dracula
films to convey the same sense of disgust and repulsiveness that Stoker originally intended for the character (the only others
are the 1979 remake of Nosferatu and 1993's Bram Stoker's Dracula, where the repuslive old man-beast occupies
the screen with the same seductive nobleman we've come to know and love). This time around, Orlock/Dracula is a rat-like
plague carrier, as repugnant as the beasts he controls.
Unfortunately for Prana, the production company, this film was too thinly veiled, and Florence Stoker, widow of the late Bram
Stoker proceeded to join the British Incorporated Society of Authors, whose lawyers then took up the case for her. Stoker
was seeking restitution since Prana neither asked permission to adapt Dracula, nor paid her any money for it. However,
Stoker and the BISA were not the only people persuing Prana-Films: Prana was a financial sinking ship and was being hunted
down by creditors as well. Just as the BISA sued Prana, it went into receivership and all materials and debts were taken over
by the Deutsch-Amerikansch Film Union. The BISA then persued the Film Union and demanded that all copies of Nosferatu be handed
over to Florence Stoker for destruction. In July 1925, the issue was settled and all known copies of Nosferatu were
handed over to Stoker, and destroyed.
Or so Stoker thought. In October of that year, the Film Society in England asked her to endorse a classic film festival,
and first on the list was the infamous Nosferatu. Stoker was furious and demanded that the Society give her their copy
so that she could destroy it as well. The Film Society refused and the legalities followed. By 1928, Universal Pictures owned
the copyright for Dracula, and therefore, all adaptations of it, including Nosferatu. Initially, Universal allowed
the Film Society to keep the print, but after pressure from Florence Stoker, they aquired the print and it joined its kin
in 1929. Then came a sudden spurt of American copies of the film, under the name Nosferatu the Vampire, but Universal
had them all destroyed in 1930. It finally seemed as though this pesky film had met its end.
This was not the case though. Following Florence Stoker's death in 1937, various copies of the film cropped
up. Nosferatu truly regained its popularity in 1960 due to the program Silents Please, which showed a condensed
version of the film under the title Dracula. This version was re-released on video by Entertainment Films as Terror
of Dracula. In 1972, Blackhawk Films released the uncut original to the collector's market as Nosferatu the Vampire,
and the condensed version to the general as Dracula.
It was at this point, in 1979, that Werner Herzog's re-make, Nosferatu the Vampyre was released. This German language
(though American versions have sub-titles or dubbing) film was a remake of the original film, keeping the setting of Bremen
(though it is Wismar in the dubbed version) and the plague, but honored its debt to Dracula by using the original character's
names. This version has just recently become available on video in a widescreen format.
Finally, in 1984, a complete and final copy of Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horrors was restored and has
since become commonly available. Nowadays it is popular fodder for modern soundtracks, some good (like the Silent Orchestra's)
and some being little more than marketing opportunities for bad Gothic bands.
Contrary to popular opinion, the word "nosferatu" does not mean "vampire", "undead", or anything else like that. The term
originally came from the old Slavonic word "*nosufur-atu", which itself was derived from the Greek "nosophoros". "Nosophoros",
in the original Greek, stands for "plague carrier". This derviation makes sense when one considers that amongst western European
nations, vampires were regarded as the carriers of many diseases, such as sexually transmitted diseases, TB, etc.
The confusion began when Emily Gerard used the term to mean vampire in her book The Land Beyond the Forest
(1885). From there, Bram Stoker used it in Dracula, albeit less prominately. Leonard Wolf finally compounded Gerard's
mistakes in his The Annotated Dracula, where he said that "nosferatu" meant "not dead".
Despite that though, the undead Graf Orlock acts with menacing precision. Nosferatu is a tour-de-force of horror
cinema. So much so that it was even recognized by Entertainment Weekly as #80 in the top 100 movies ever made - one of only
two silent films to be on the list.
The vast majority of this film was shot on location in Central Europe, and Murnau makes great use of the landscape, with
Fritz Arno Wagner's stunning images of the cloud-covered sky conveying beautifully the eeriness of Transylvania. The external
shots came about by the need to make a virtue out of necessity. This was an independent production and Murnau didn't have
the resources necessary to build the massive internal studio sets found in Fritz Lang's work.
Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horrors premiered at the Marble Gardens in the Berlin Zoological Gardens, on March 1922.
It was a Prana-Films production. names. This version has just recently become available on video in a widescreen format.
In his adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel, Galeen was particularly concerned to bring out the moral aspects
of the story, thus constructing the narrative primarily as a fight between good and evil. This he does by placing the relationship
of Thomas and Ellen and their psychic connection centre stage. However, beneath this story we can perhaps once again see the
anti-Semitic tendencies that we have met elsewhere in Weimar film. As Anton Kaes points out, in the early part of the twentieth
century there was an influx of Jews into Germany from Eastern and Central Europe. In the figure of Nosferatu, 'the foreign
intruder from distant Transylvania, a region of Rumania, from where a lot of Eastern Jews came' we can see many of the visual
associations of later more overtly anti-Semitic images, such as Fritz Hippler's 1940 Nazi propaganda film Der Ewige Judo/The
Eternal Jew in which, for example, you also find a connection between Jews and rats.
That said, the film can't be reduced to this one reading. Elsaesser, for instance, points out the sophisticated psychological
dimension of the film, which explores that old favourite of Weimar Expressionism, the nature of desire. In Elsaesser's reading,
the vampire is Thomas' double. Thomas can't wait to run away from his wife at the beginning of the film to go to Transylvania,
Nosferatu, on the other hand, longs to meet her. He is full of desire for the woman and ultimately it is his relationship
to Ellen which is central to the film, not that of Thomas. The passion of desire has a flip side. Sexual yearning is repaid
by death and destruction.
Mumau has often been called a poetic film-maker and Nosferatu is the most famous example of this. 5/5
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