Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Nonsense and Other Observations about Dracula/Horror of Dracula

As much as I love Dracula (1958)/Horror of Dracula, I find it has a lot of plot holes, ideas that don't make a lot of sense and other weirdness.  I started to write down certain observations as I was watching the film and eventually they became so long that I thought them worth putting them up in a blog post.  These observations as I have put them to type have been as timestamped to the times (roughly) in the film to which they most apply.  I am using the 2012 Hammer Restoration found on the 2013 Region B/2 Blu-ray/DVD from Lionsgate with altered color timing by a fan (which eliminates the overly-blue tint found on that disc).  Any DVD or Blu-ray release should be able to follow along without too much difficulty.

Title Card - U.K. Version (1.66:1 Aspect Ratio)
 00:00:19- The film as released in the United Kingdom is titled Dracula, but in the United States it was renamed Horror of Dracula, to eliminate confusion with Bela Lugosi’s version. The films was originally distributed by Universal Studios in the United States, so it could have been released under the Dracula title without obvious copyright or trademark issues. The 2007 BFI Restoration adds the “Dracula” title card back in and this title card can be seen on the 2013 Region B/2 Blu-ray/DVD from Lionsgate and the 2018 Blu-ray from Warner Archive (and accompanying DVDs if any). All previous DVDs from Warner Bros. will show “Horror of Dracula.”

Title Card - U.S. Version (1.85:1 Aspect Ratio)
00:39 – Note how “Dracula” is in a very ornate typeface. By contrast, “Horror of Dracula” is in the same typeface as the rest of the credits.

00:59 – The opening credits are shown against an image of an eagle, hawk, condor, vulture or some other kind of bird of prey. Then the camera rotates around that bird, which is a decorative feature outside Dracula’s castle. Clearly the symbolism here is that the master of this castle is also a predator.

01:48 - For a huge castle, Dracula sure did pick a great hiding place. His coffin is located in a crypt entered via a door just to the right of the front door.

01:55 – This is the only time we see the lid on this coffin. But how does Dracula open that coffin, is he strong enough to lift the capping stone from a prone position. Also, how does he move it so it does not fall off and break on the stone floor?

02:08 – The blood splattered over Dracula’s name on his coffin suggests that he brought a victim to his crypt and then had his way with the victim.

02:22 - The Diary of Jonathan Hacker begins on May 3, 1885. This date will become very significant as we progress through the film.

03:45 - Dracula cares so little about security that he doesn’t even bother to lock the outside door. He could have arranged to give Harker a key to his castle. The moment Harker opens the door his environment turns surprisingly opulent.

Bon Appetit
05:12 - When Harker arrives at Castle Dracula, it is still light out. Food has been prepared for him. How long has this food been here? Harker makes a facial gesture that shows he is pleasantly surprised at the fare. How does the aristocratic Dracula prepare this meal? Meals are prepared by servants to the aristocracy. In the book and all these movies, despite living in a secluded castle not close to a town and which the locals fear, Dracula always seems to have no difficulty procuring high-quality meals for his guests. Who cooks them and where? How is meat and fruit delivered? Is there a working oven to bake bread? The film “Shadow of the Vampire” actually raises this question as well in a slightly different way.

05:20 – Dracula’s family motto is “Fidelis et mortem”, faithful unto death. This indicates Count Dracula’s family is “nobility of the sword” rather than “nobility of the robe.”

07:23 - When the woman comes to Harker, she leaves in a hurry because Dracula can see them. Dracula does not mention her at all, even to give an excuse that she is his ward and mentally ill. Harker, posing as a scholarly, respectable librarian, does not think to ask his host about the mysterious woman. The woman made certain accusations of his host that any respectable Victorian gentleman would feel honor bound to address. That Harker does not may have brought some suspicion on him.

08:14 - Dracula refers to his housekeeper being away, and his huge castle is remarkably kept clean. That must be an energetic housekeeper! As this is an excuse, who does clean the castle? Is that and the need to serve up an occasional meal the reasons why he keeps the woman around?

08:52 - Why does Dracula hire a librarian? In the novel he brings Harker to his Castle to finalize a land purchase in England so he can move and feed on fresh blood. In the novel Harker serves a definitive purpose to Dracula’s plans, Dracula cannot just move in somewhere as a trespasser and expect any security.

09:25 - This Dracula does not seem to have any desire to feed on Harker initially, the charade of the dignified host would have been unnecessary if Harker was merely brought there as a meal. With his treacherous, hungry woman around, how can he expect that this librarian would live to complete his task? Moreover, if the librarian disappeared, his friends and family would likely make inquiries in Castle Dracula’s direction. Is Dracula so arrogant or so thoughtless? I would suggest that Dracula, being immortal, wishes to pass the time in seclusion at his Castle, and therefore the library is his sole means of entertainment. So the librarian does offer something for Dracula, especially with works and languages with which Dracula is unfamiliar.

09:53 - Dracula gives Harker a key to the library, apparently that one of only possibly two doors in this castle that has one.

10:33 - Christopher Lee’s dialog burden ends for this film after he leaves Harker for the second time. At least he gets some this time, in his previous Hammer film appearance, Curse of Frankenstein, he had none. Harker is the only person he is shown speaking to during the entire film. Even so, he has more dialog in this film than the next two or three Hammer Draculas he made. Not until Scars of Dracula does he try to speak to another person in a fairly normal manner.

11:05 - The trouble with diaries is that they can be found and read by others. In this short narration, the break with tradition is complete. No longer is Harker some hapless real estate agent whom Dracula selected out of many to bring him to England, Harker here is a full-fledged vampire hunter. He is so confident of his success that he brings a photograph of his fiancee and tells Dracula her true name. By this time, many audience members would have been familiar with the story either by reading the book or watching the Lugosi film. The producers of the film would not have been faulted for needing to change the story to play with audience expectations.

12:44 - Then in the very next scene, his door having been mysteriously opened in the middle of the night, what does Harker do? If he was to keep his cover, he should have not left his room, knowing how dangerous Dracula is and that Dracula locked him in his room.

Domestic Violence
14:06 - “Is it not reason enough that he locks me up in his house, holds me against my will?” The first half of this statement should have drawn Harker’s suspicions immediately, because almost nothing in the house is locked up and this woman seems to come and go as she pleases. Still, the woman is successful in tricking Harker into sympathy and letting his guard down.

15:00 - There may have been a longer take of this bite, one contemporary newspaper article describes blood gushing into the camera, and this bite is the best one to feature that kind of effect. Japanese audiences may have seen that in their more extended cut.

15:26 – The woman wears a fashionable pair of high-heels, in the previous scene she wore sandals.

17:25 - After the fight with the woman and Harker, why would Dracula keep Harker alive, or at the very least not locked up in a dungeon cell? The way Harker exits his room suggests it is on the ground floor, yet we saw Harker and Dracula ascend two flights of stairs earlier. Wherever it may be, it has two windows that are not barred, so locking him in is no sure way to secure him until the evening.

20:00 - Why is there a Christian icon so close to Castle Dracula? Would Dracula permit such symbols to be so close to his lair? If he does, that suggests that Castle Dracula is not quite the figure of fear it is usually portrayed because someone must have put those flowers and that statue of Mary and Baby Jesus there. The area is later referred to as the crossroads, so it does suggest that travel does occur there.

20:38 - Harker is able to locate Dracula’s resting place with incredible ease. He knows he does not have much time, so who does he decide to stake first? The vampire he pushed off or the vampire who knocked him out? Harker is the most inept vampire hunter we have seen in a movie up to this time.

21:10 - We can clearly see the woman’s chest heave as she breathes. I guess we know why she was hired. Vampires are supposed to appear as dead during the day, but she must be close to waking. Maybe Harker should have taken that as a hint to turn his attention elsewhere. Strangely she seems to be smiling despite having enraged and presumably been punished by her master.

22:03 - After the woman is staked, her face is shown in extreme old age. This suggests what her true age would have been. If she was bitten when she was in her youth, she must have lived with Dracula for decades. Would Dracula have really kept such a woman around for so long?

Harker suddenly hoped his life insurance policy was paid up
22:05 - While Harker is bending over the tomb after staking the woman, Dracula has to rise from his coffin, walk behind Harker and go up the stairs before he reappears to close the door. Wouldn’t it have just been easier to grab him from behind? Is there more than one way out of this tomb?

22:54 - When Dracula closes the door, there has been some speculation that there was more footage shot showing Dracula kill Harker instead of the implication through the fade to black. However, I am not convinced that such footage would have been shot, it would have added nothing to the film except violence for its one sake when there was already plenty of it.

23:16 - I think the peasants must get used to the smell of garlic after a while. With gas lamps and a music box (the 19th century equivalent of a juke box), this tavern seems to be pretty well off.

24:33 - Hammer did like to cast attractive actresses even in small parts.

25:27 - The Innkeeper is pretty terrible at trying to avert the suspicions of his guest.

26:05 - Klausenburg is the German name of the city of Cluj-Napoca, which was within Transylvania and within modern-day Romania. Dracula’s Castle is located in Transylvania in the book, but unless you had a solid knowledge of Transylvanian geography, you might be mistaken for thinking that Castle Dracula is located somewhere in Germany.

Headquarters of the Know-Nothing Party
26:36 - The Innkeeper’s servant-girl isn’t very discrete when she tells Dr. Van Helsing about the book. The Innkeeper is clearly looking in her direction and she didn’t make any real effort to communicate without attracting attention. That sort of disobedience would have probably earned her a beating in those times.

27:26 0 How does Dracula make arrangements for a hearse driver to transport his coffin? That hearse with its glass panels is awfully fancy. You would think Dracula would want to travel with a low profile, not an attractive white coffin. That kind of coach, traveling over lonely country roads, practically has a “rob me” sign on it. Are these roads free from thieves and bandits?  Would they scruple to steal from the dead?

29:01 - Who ransacked Harker’s room? Harker did not leave it in that condition when he left it and he did not hide anything away. Dracula presumably contacted Harker by post to arrange for his coming to act as a librarian, so he knows where he lives. Plus he turned Harker into a vampire, so Harker could have told him everything about his fiance and Van Helsing. However, if Dracula needed to leave in a hurry, he may have done a rough search for any clues Harker may have left behind regarding his intentions and his contacts.

29:52 - Apparently Harker’s common sense does not improve after his turning into a vampire, unless he was just turned. Not only does he use the same easily-found resting place that Dracula used, he leaves a stake and hammer on the ground in the room.

It is highly unlikely that Harker would have been left alive after his killing of Dracula’s woman. Dracula probably would have turned him immediately. It will be established later that vampires turn from dead to undead within a day or so of their deaths. Harker should have been established as a thinking vampire unless Van Helsing was only two days behind him. That wouldn’t have given Dracula much time to make arrangements.

30:20 - When Van Helsing grabs the stake and walks to Harker’s coffin, the screen fades to black. There has been speculation that the scene of Van Helsing staking Harker was cut. While the censors may have felt the need to trim excessive violence, there was no need for another staking within five minutes of the last one. Harker’s fate was sealed and the audience already knew how it was to happen.

30:54 - No man is good at averting suspicion in this movie. If Van Helsing wanted to ease Arthur’s suspicions, he should have made something up that was more convincing than "Jonathan Harker is dead and I cannot tell you where or how he died."  Despite the torn photograph he found in Harker’s room, Van Helsing does not suspect that Dracula is looking for revenge at this point. The women in this film are much more successful in their efforts at deceit.

Appointment with the Vampire
34:40 - Van Helsing records his notes on a phonograph. This movie is set in 1885 and the phonograph was invented by Thomas Edison in 1877. At first it is plausible that a man of science like Van Helsing could have been an early adopter of the device. However, he appears to have been using a conventional Graphophone which used wax cylinders, not Edison’s earlier phonograph which used tin-foil cylinders. The invention of wax cylinders, which really allowed public the ability to record to cylinder, was not patented until 1886. The use of the Graphophone in this film is almost certainly an anachronism, and it may not be the last.

This scene with the Graphophone is essentially teaching the audience the “vampire rules” for this film, which is repeated in every retelling of the story in some way or form. Back in 1958, it could not be assumed that the audience would be versed in the strengths and weaknesses of a vampire. All the weaknesses mentioned in this movie, garlic, stake & hammer, sunlight, will be employed later in the film. Other common vampire myths, like not being able to cast a reflection in a mirror, are not used.

35:49 - “I was talking to myself” This part of the scene is one of the few comedic moments in this film. However, in the real world, wouldn’t the Doctor have explained that he was using a new invention to record his voice to avoid his servant thinking that his employer is not quite right? Or does Van Helsing like to encourage an air of mystery about himself?

The Cheap-man's Stenographer
36:57 - Van Helsing refers to vampirism as a disease like drug addiction, but as it is a disease which offers immortality, many people would no doubt want to acquire it. However, it behaves like a disease until death, where the victim looks forward to another visit from the vampire. This explains why the women in this film invite Dracula into their lives. In other words the victims are addicts and the vampire is their dealer. The next scene will illustrate this. However, after death, vampire is no longer a disease but the only means of existence open to the vampire. The victim has now become the dealer.

40:27 - Mina tells Van Helsing that Lucy’s illness happened about 10 days ago. Apparently Dracula wasted no time in finding not just a victim but the object of his revenge.

40:40 - Mina makes it sound like she needed Dr. Seward’s permission to get a second opinion. One cannot imagine an enlightened society where the treating physician hold a veto power over whether the patient may consult with another doctor.

40:57 - Despite Dr. Van Helsing being Harker’s most intimate friend and colleague, he has never met his fiancee before.

When I point, I mean business!
44:30 - Dr. Van Helsing was quite clear, “If you don’t [follow my instructions exactly] she will die.” Apparently Mina did not relay his instructions to her servant Gerda in so blunt a manner, or Gerda is very weak-willed.

46:40 - Despite his grief, it becomes Arthur’s turn to act stupid. First his servant tells him that she may caused his sister’s death by disobeying his wife’s instructions and she is not sacked on the spot. Then he blames Van Helsing for his troubles when his sister would have died had Van Helsing’s instructions never been given.

Why doesn't anyone listen to the finger?
48:16 - Tania is Gerda’s child, although at first point the relationship is only implied. As the child was not in trouble, why would Gerda have introduced the policeman and her troubles to the Holmwoods? It would seem likely that Gerda had been widowed after giving birth to her child. Having no means of support for herself and her baby, she would have had to go into service and most likely given the baby up. However, the childless Holmwoods took them both in and appear to have a special affection for Tania. One could go deeper and suggest that the Holmwoods marriage is loving but platonic or that Mina is barren and her husband does not believe in sex except for procreation. Either suggestion might explain why Mina may be especially receptive to Dracula’s hypnotic stare. Similarly, Jonathan Harker didn’t seem the Byronic lover-type, so the same may be said for Lucy.

49:56 - Does no one lock up their tombs or even put slabs over a coffin? Were open burials common in the 19th century?

50:31 - How far did Tania have to walk to get to Lucy? Do the Holmwoods live in the town or in the woods?

Graveyards are a great place to play "Ring Around the Posey"
52:20 - Lucy runs into the crypt even though she knows she would be trapped and at the mercy of Van Helsing. Arthur runs into the crypt without the protection of a crucifix.

55:28 - When Van Helsing stakes Lucy, the scene was less violent in versions of the film released prior to 2007. When the BFI did their 2007 restoration of the film, they found shots from a 16mm print which had been excised from theatrical prints and inserted them. Previous DVD releases from Warner Bros. had the censored scene included, the 2013 Region 2/B Blu-Ray/DVD from Lionsgate is the first to home video release in a digital format to include it. It can also be seen in the 2018 Warner Bros. Archives Blu-ray.

Dracula (1958) - Now with Extra Blood
56:29 - When Arthur sees Lucy, he only sees the beautiful face of his sister at peace without the crucifix scar. She still has a bloody stake through her heart.

57:08 - Given the shortsightedness of what Dracula does in this film, its rather improbable that he has survived for five to six hundred years.

57:26 - This movie definitely establishes that in the Hammer Universe, Dracula cannot transform into a bat, a wolf, mist or anything else. Other than long life, great strength and hypnotic powers, he does not seem to possess any other supernatural abilities. In later films he will gain the power to resurrect himself by having blood spilled over his ashes and the ability to command bats to do his bidding. They tried the transformation thing with one Dracula’s disciples in Brides of Dracula, but the bat prop didn’t measure up and doubtless they decided to back to a two-legs only vampire.

58:41 - Van Helsing refers to the border crossing at “Ingstadt”. It appears to be a made-up name, because while there are real place names for Igstadt and Inglostadt, both hundreds of miles to the east of Clausenberg. “Ingstadt” does not exist in real life.

59:41 - Mina speaks to the young man and it is implied that Dracula gave the man a message to give to her. This shows that Dracula has not lost the ability to communicate normally, although his appearances in this film since the woman attacked Harker have all been predatory and he has been limited to snarling.

Breaking the Law for the Greater Good
1:00:10 - The second comedic moment in the film with the border officer is handled more naturally or subtly than the first.

1:00:38 - On December 1, the coffin traveled from Clausenberg to Karlstadt. Now there are two Karlstadts the film could be referring to. The first is Karlstadt am Main, which is in Bavaria, south-central Germany. The second is what is today known as Karlovac, a city in central Croatia.

But let us look to the time frame of this film. Harker arrives at Castle Dracula on May 3. By May 4 he is turned undead. On December 1, Dracula flies from his Castle and Van Helsing puts Harker to rest. Dracula begins to attack Lucy on or about December 2. Van Helsing meets the Holmwoods to inform them of Harker’s death on December 11. Mina goes to Van Helsing the next day and by the morning of the following day Lucy is dead. About three days later Van Helsing stakes Lucy. The men go to Igstadt the next evening and Dracula attacks Mina. So it appears that Van Helsing took over six months to follow his friend Harker to Clausenburg. However, the film makes it appear that Van Helsing arrived the very next day after Harker’s death because Harker still has blood on his throat from where the woman bit him. He also has no blood on his mouth, so he has not fed yet. I think screenplay writer Jimmy Sangster made a mistake here, the border guard should have said May 4, not December 1.

1:02:30 - Successful deception when Mina deceives Van Helsing and Arthur about her whereabouts that morning.

Gallows Humor
1:03:33 - The scene with the undertaker is the penultimate moment of comedy in this film. The actor who plays the undertaker, Miles Malleson, will appear in this film’s sequel Bride of Dracula, playing a similar but more expanded comedic role. Peter Cushing will reprise his role in the sequel as well, but like this film he will not appear immediately.

1:03:56 - Apparently the undertaker was not sued over the old man who fell down the morgue’s steps. I doubt he would have found that funny.

1:04:10 - The coffin’s been so long it’s bound to be in the back. Given that the coffin has been there for about two weeks, apparently undertaking is a busy trade in Karlstadt.

Why are you trying to force your religious beliefs on me?
1:05:37 - When Arthur shows the cross to his wife, her reluctance may not just because she is afraid of it for being under a vampire’s spell. English Protestant demoninations typically do not wear or display crosses as religious symbols, unlike Catholics. In this regard, the English are easier victims for a vampire than say the French, who are majority Catholic or the Orthodox Slavs and Greeks of Eastern Europe and Russia.

1:07:47 - Arthur and Van Helsing watch Mina’s room outside the house at night, but that seems to be the extent of their plan. Arthur is armed only with a small cross to protect himself.

British Dentistry at its Finest
1:08:16 - Dracula’s second attempt at a woman replacement comes as quickly as his first attempt did. Dracula’s motivations in this film can almost be boiled down to a need for companionship, and when that is thwarted, for vengeance.

Dracula starts his seduction of Mina's eyebrows (Long-lost Japanese Cut footage)
1:09:06 - When Dracula caresses Mina, this footage is taken from the Japanese cut. Unlike the previous instance where footage is spliced into the existing scene, here the footage replaces the scene as had been previously been shown in theaters and on home video outside Japan. This time the footage has not been censored for violence but for excessive sensuality. The footage shown is an alternate take because the camera angles and the behavior of the actors cannot be reconciled with the footage shown in the domestic release.  This footage is from the Japanese cut and is only available on the 2013 Lionsgate U.K. Blu-ray. Warner Archive's 2018 Blu-ray does not include any footage from the Japanese cut, as it is based on the 2007 restoration which was done before the Japanese material was found.

1:10:21 - Blood transfusion in 1885 would have been a very risky endeavor, especially with an individual already weak from blood loss. The body will reject an incompatible blood group and blood groups were not understood until 1901. It would definitely had been a procedure of last resort. In the novel, Van Helsing’s last transfusion of Lucy proves incompatible.

Rolling the dice
1:14:20 - When Van Helsing finds Dracula’s coffin in the cellar, it explains how Dracula was able to attack Mina the previous evening. Apparently Dracula made no effort to hide his coffin even though it may have been possible for Arthur, Van Helsing or Gerda to have gone into the cellar. Dracula took an enormous risk that they did not find his coffin before sundown. His stay at Holmwood House would end the moment they needed another bottle from the cellar.  Also, what was Dracula doing before Van Helsing opened the cellar door? Was he eavesdropping on the conversation? Was he taking a moonlit stroll through the garden?

You may be a guest in this house, but this is an abuse of hospitality!
1:14:49 - When Dracula locks Van Helsing in the cellar, he must rush up the stairs to get to Mina’s bedroom. He is able to do this without Arthur or Gerda noticing.  However, Gerda must have followed on his heels.

1:15:05 - Van Helsing slaps Gerda to get her to focus, but the foley artist apparently thought a whip crack sound was appropriate.

1:16:14 - These scenes with the border officer during the chase constitute the final moments of intentional humor in this film. They could be argued that this humor reduces the tension of the chase and climax, but it is brief.

1:17:04 - Van Helsing and Arthur are only half an hour behind Dracula. While Dracula cannot know that exactly, he knows the men will follow him. Yet he goes into his castle, finds a shovel and digs a grave intending to bury Mina alive. Presumably she will die and return as a vampire as a result of this. Even at this point he does not try to cut his losses and kill Mina quickly. He also digs a rather proper hole despite his need for haste. Is that so she can have some native soil in which to rest in her undead life?

It was established previously that someone can travel from Dracula’s castle in Clausenburg to Carlstadt in a day. A horse drawn carriage can probably travel about 30 miles in a given day, assuming ideal conditions of horse, road, driver, carriage, traffic and weather. So Dracula has to make the journey totally by night. Given this is December, that would given him some extra time of darkness, but he has no more than fourteen hours before the outdoors becomes fatal to him. So why did it take Van Helsing to take over six months to make the journey to check on his friend’s progress?

The geography in this film is hopeless. There is at least four hundred of miles between Cluj-Napoca/Clausenburg and Karlovac/Karlsbad in real life. There is absolutely no way that you could travel between them by horse in an evening, it would take weeks by horse. Igstadt hundreds of miles east of Karlovac/Karlsbad. There was no budget to depict sea voyages, so you get Dracula living practically in the heroes' back yard by modern standards. Clearly the screenwriter took random German place names and assigned them according to his whim.

Van Helsing is not just comfortable with where this is going
1:18:15 - Apparently Van Helsing doesn’t come well equipped for vampire hunting, he gave Arthur his small cross and put his larger cross in Dracula’s white coffin. The coffin’s lid also has what could described as a silver cross, and crosses in the Hammer universe are an anathema to vampires in whatever form they are manifested. So how can Dracula use the coffin if the lid has a cross on it?

Dracula’s on-screen violence ends where it begins, in the library in which Harker was to catalog Dracula’s books. The only difference between then and now is the daylight, which is why Van Helsing prevailed where Harker failed.

Psoriasis is no joke (Long-lost Japanese Cut footage)
1:19:14 - Dracula’s disintegration is the second final instance in the film where the Japanese Cut offers extra footage. On the 2013’s U.K. Blu-ray release’s special features disc, you can see all the footage recovered from Japan. In the 2013 Lionsgate Region B/Region 2 Blu-ray/DVD, most of the Japanese footage had been restored to the version of the film found on that disc. However, there are a few frames of film which were not included, probably due to sync issues with the sound and effects or film damage. You can see the full Japanese version of Dracula’s disintegration here :

1:26:26 - What significance is there to the Zodiac Wheel? Dracula’s ring falls on the Aquarius symbol and there is a Greek quotation on the inner circle and a Latin quotation on the outer circle. Wikipedia tells us this on the film’s page :

“The inner circle in Greek has a quote from Homer's Odyssey Book 18.136–7: "τοῖος γὰρ νόος ἐστὶν ἐπιχθονίων ἀνθρώπων οἷον ἐπ᾽ ἦμαρ ἄγησι πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε" ("The mind of men who live on the earth is such as the day the father of gods and men [Zeus] brings upon them.") The outer wheel is written in Latin, and is a quote from Hesiod via Bartolomeo Anglico (De proprietatibus rerum, Book 8, Chapter 2): "Tellus vero primum siquidem genuit parem sibi coelum stellis ornatum, ut ipsam totam obtegat, utque esset beatis Diis sedes tuta semper." ("And Earth first bare starry Heaven, equal to herself, to cover her on every side, and to be an ever-sure abiding-place for the blessed gods.")”

Is there any hidden meaning to this Zodiac Wheel? Is it not ironic that Dracula meets his end on inscriptions and a sign that are essentially warnings to him? Dracula has been thought to represent a creature or a danger from superstitious times and a corrupt, uncivilized age. His behavior in the film is savage and based purely on selfish need. He corrupts pure and innocent maidens into wanton disciples of evil like himself. The inner inscription may indicate that while he may be powerful when people live in ignorance, when knowledge and reason come to them he is no longer invincible. The outer inscription should have reminded this arrogant creature, (for he shows much arrogance in the film), that there is a higher and benign power. Remember that the inner inscription implies that man’s knowledge comes from God, so God may impart the knowledge in men to defeat evil. Nothing lasts forever and Dracula’s hubris in thinking he can live forever, especially in his savage ways, will eventually doom him.

"Dust in the wind...all we are is dust in the wind."
1:20:47 - Finally, that Dracula’s ring rests on the Zodiac sign of Aquarius was not an accident. The Zodiac element for Aquarius is Air, and Dracula’s ashes are shown to be blown away by the wind. If there is a deeper meaning to this symbolism, then as an astrological sign, the Age of Aquarius has often been thought to represent the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and modernization. These developments are hostile to the vampire, who thrives in ignorance, fear and isolation.

The blowing away part of the ending was surprisingly not retconned by Dracula, Prince of Darkness. The ending to this film is replayed in that film, complete with wind blowing away the ashes (but in a newly shot sequence). In that film, Dracula’s ashes are transferred to a coffin where his servant later revives the vampire with blood. If ashes were blown away, how would the servant collect them?


  1. Nice review. However, it is incorrect to state that English Protestants never wore or used a cross as a symbol. Though it would be unlikely for a Church of England member to have a crucifix during this time, wearing a plain cross of the sort that Arthur gave Mina was not at all uncommon and there are many, many surviving Victorian examples from England. There are also many Church of England churches from that time and well before that are relatively ornate and full of crosses, crucifixes, fonts, etc. I think her do the expression upon seeing the cross was due to the fact that she was already tainted by Dracula, not to any objections to what would’ve been a very common religious symbol for her.

    Lucy likely would’ve been buried in a lead coffin surrounded by an outer wooden one, as she was in the book. The open stone sarcophagus look was likely a stylistic choice, which I think looks amazing but it’s definitely not true to life.

    1. In the novel, when Harker is offered the crucifix from an old woman, he writes "I did not know what to do, for, as an English Churchman, I have been taught to regard such things as in some measure idolatrous, and yet it seemed so ungracious to refuse an old lady meaning so well and in such a state of mind." This passage suggests a diversity of views of the faithful within the Church of England toward the object of the crucifix, but I accept that the symbol itself would not be shunned at all times or for all purposes.

    2. Yes, At the time the Oxford movement was in full swing, where a lot of ritual aspects that had been stripped away after the Reformation were being added back in. Prior to that there was already a wide variation between “Low Church” and High Church beliefs and practices. Even so, even “Low Church” goers would have been used to seeing a cross in the sanctuary, and as I said there are many, many surviving Victorian examples of cross pendants worn by Protestants. I don’t think there was ever a time the Church of England “shunned” a simple cross. I always felt like Harker’s objection in the book was due to the fact that it was a crucifix (which would have been rare in the C of E) or possibly even a rosary, which is definitely something most English church members would have seen as superstitious.

    3. This seems a very sound conclusion. Non-Christians may find the differences between a cross, a crucifix and a rosary rather obscure.