Who is your favourite Dracula? The Spooky Isles talks to horror film historian Alan Frank about the merits of two leading contenders for the King of the Vampires – Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi.


The Spooky Isles is a British website, so when you ask your readers who is their favourite Dracula – the answer is kind of skewed.
A recent poll taken on our Facebook site revealed over 65% said Christopher Lee was their top Transylvanian bloodsucker. Poor old Bela Lugosi, the original vampie, was lucky to get 30% of folk saying he was fab. And don’t even ask about Gary Oldman or the countless other actors who donned the fangs and cape. They barely rated a mention.
Home town advantage put aside, why was Christopher Lee such a popular Count Dracula?
We asked Alan Frank, veteran film reviewer and prolific horror and science fiction book author, his opinion of the Lee/Lugosi divide.
“Dracula (1958), without a doubt is the best,” Alan says matter of factly. “I had the luck to see the film when it happened (at the theatre back in 1958). It was quite extraordinary.  You might have seen the old Dracula, but this was full of atmosphere and it’s impeccably acted.  Terry (director Terence Fisher) learned one thing, which was to do it straight. For the time of the century, it’s brilliantly done. “
Alan believes Christopher Lee will long be the reigning champ.
“Chris Lee has got a very good voice. If you’re going to be bitten by Dracula, you want someone who (deepens his voice to sounds like Christopher Lee) “speaks like this”.
“Lugosi has the foreign accent that’s comic. I talked to people who saw Lugosi on stage here in the 1950s.  They say it was a comedy performance because he was sending himself up as Bela Lugosi (Alan impersonates Lugosi) – ‘I’m going to come and get yoooou!’  He’s on stage, by that time he must have been bored shitless. Lugosi needed the money.“
So maybe Lugosi was the reason for his own downfall – his original reluctance to take on other horror characters originally following the success of Dracula (1931) meant he was pigeonholed and forced to send up and destroy his own creation.
Hammer’s Dracula was different. The blood and bare flesh made Dracula sexy and Christopher Lee rode the wave of Hammer success.
Despite the decline in sequel quality into the 1970s, Christopher Lee is still seen as a bad-ass vampire, whereas Bela Lugosi, who defined the archetypal Count Dracula, is now seen as a comic buffoon.
I personally would argue that Christopher Lee, while charismatic and a brilliant actor, wasn’t really given a lot to do in Hammer’s Dracula or their endless sequels. Lee had a few lines in the first 20-odd minutes of Dracula (1958), then spent the next 15 years snarling and sneering like a feral cat.
Lugosi’s subsequent Dracula outings in films like Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) notwithstanding, I believe Dracula (1931) still stands up as a fine horror film.
We tend to see Lugosi as a comic version of himself but just remember him standing on the steps of his castle and the uncomfortable silence as he greets Renfield: “I am Dracula”, he says. It is chilling and a great moment in horror history. There was nothing comic about that scene and we should all remember him for that.
Max Schreck in the title role of Nosferatu (1922)With all the talk about Lee versus Lugosi, Alan Frank mentions another Dracula that should be given his credit – Max Shreck’s iconic rat-like vampire in FW Murnau’s silent film Nosferatu (1922).
The film was unauthorised and the filmmakers had to change names and plot to escape copyright infringement, hence why “Count Orloff” travels to Germany and not England. The film was the first time Dracula was filmed in any kind of way and Alan believes it is compulsory viewing for anyone who wants a spine-chilling experience.
Alan says:  “Nosferatu is something different. Nosferatu is genuinely eerie, genuinely creepy.  You never hear him. The thing about silent movies is, you’re doing all the work. They’re doing the montage, but they’re speaking in your head.  You read them in your own voice.  He’s not Dracula as you know him.  Even with Lugosi, he tends to find nubile young woman and nibble them. Nosferatu’s just plain creepy, and that’s what makes him interesting.”
I may be the lone voice in the wilderness in my support for Bela Lugosi but I am glad there is one horror icon who played Dracula both me and Alan can agree on. Says Alan: “Vincent Price was a good Dracula. People forget that. He played it once, in The Muppets!”


Who do you think was the best film Dracula – was it Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi or maybe someone else? Please comment below to let the world know which Count Dracula you support!


David Saunderson
Leave a replyComments (16)
  1. Wendy 14 May 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Christopher Lee is my favourite Dracula as well. I am a fan of Bela Lugosi too though. If you look at “Dracula” from 1931, Bela is far from a “comic buffoon”. Sure, subsequent films (Abbott and Costello) were under par, but the original? Bela was a magnificent actor whose heavy accent only added to his Dracula mystique. Bela is the original “heart throb” vampire. At the time, the ladies were pretty hot and heavy for him! No doubt, Lee’s Dracula lacked dialogue, but he didn’t really need it, did he? Like Lugosi before him, his look, his presence, his skill was enough to carry the entire film. That is the mark of good Dracula, just a look makes you shiver with anticipation, fear…..or delight.

    ReplyCancel
  2. Emily Chipper 15 May 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I just can’t choose between the two, both portray a great dracula. They both get the cut and they’re both too talented to just choose one.

    ReplyCancel
  3. SinisterPumpkin 15 May 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Christopher Lee has always been my favorite Dracula, not taking away from Bela because I really did enjoy his portrayals, Lee just added more to the atmosphere. I also liked Frank Langella when he donned the cape, and a very rare Dracula with Lorne Greene of Bonanaza fame when he played the role.

    ReplyCancel
  4. Simon John Ball 28 July 2012 at 10:21 am

    Lee without a doubt.

    ReplyCancel
  5. amanda 2 February 2013 at 3:09 am

    I absolutely go with Bela Lugosi.Christopher Lee was good but Lugosi out did him byfar.

    ReplyCancel
  6. Angela Englert 2 February 2013 at 3:10 am

    Lee’s films were better, but Lugosi was definitive and pretty perfect in the original context.

    ReplyCancel
  7. Carl 22 February 2013 at 2:53 am

    Lugosi’s Dracula plays to the Victorian notion of the vampire as the mortal embodiment of satan – aristocratic, articulate, almost blase in his confidence of his power to seduce and corrupt. Add that to the fact that in 1931, talking pictures had only been around for 2-3 years, and a “talky” vampire, with a unique accent that brought attention to his voice and his words, would have been considered a plus. The Hammer Dracula films, on the other hand, present Dracula as a beast, a primal force of evil, seduction, and death, which modern audiences can no doubt relate to more.
    My favorite, however, is Max Schreck. “Nosferatu” is still one of the scariest movies ever made, in my book.

    ReplyCancel
  8. Kryptos973281 18 March 2013 at 2:51 am

    I\’ll have to say Sir Christopher Lee (without whom I would have never even heard of the other Dracula actors to begin with!)
    He does not only play a very imposing Dracula, he also keeps htelling the History that surrounds Dracula in various documentaries.
    I understand why he gets annoyed of that role/name though, as firstly, he was never allowed to play it line for line off Stoker\’s book, and secondly, wherever he appears the media automatically write silly stuff like \”Dracula knighted\”, \”Dracula on the red carpet\” etc..makes me wonder if those small-minded journalists ever watched any other movies with him, and if they are aware of the fact that Mr. Lee played Germans probably more often than he played Dracula. (But you\’ll only notice that if you are going to watch all of his movies).
    And if any of those small-minded journalists happen to read this site: really, go watch the other 250+ movies in which he DIDN\’T play a vampire. He is so much more than just \”Dracula\”.

    ReplyCancel
  9. Punk 6 May 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Very, very difficult to pick between the two for the top spot, I agree with the comment below that Lugosi had an accent that added to the character, given its Stoker origins and I never found it comical. Bela Lugosi’s main flaw, and it’s a make up fault, is that they didn’t give him adequate fangs, if any at all. The make up team got Lee’s look spot on, couple that with colour and it was a quantum leap forward for the character on screen, so for me Christopher Lee is the better Dracula, and I hate to put it down to something as simple as make up and special effects, but there you have it.

    ReplyCancel
  10. Conor 21 May 2013 at 8:05 am

    Bela Lugosi. While Christopher Lee was good, Bela will always be my favourite. I thought he did it better.

    ReplyCancel
  11. Andrew Dexter. 1 September 2014 at 11:28 am

    Christopher Lee any day! Bela’s 1931 Dracula was so boring.

    ReplyCancel
  12. Bryan 22 October 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Christopher Lee is an over-rated actor in my opinion. The reason why he has very few lines in any of his films is that he hasn’t got the capability of delivering them at a professional standard

    ReplyCancel
  13. Mike Cogar 19 May 2017 at 5:12 am

    Christoper Lee will always be the king of vampires. He has played many roles in his career and will always be remembered as Dracula but what a talented actor who could portray many characters on screen. I tip my hat to the master. Long live Sir Christopher.

    ReplyCancel
  14. John 12 September 2017 at 7:09 pm

    I was 8 years old when my brother and I saw “Horror of Dracula” and “Curse of Frankenstein” double feature. Lee was superb in both movies!
    They were quality pictures back in 1957 & 1958, unlike the crappy Dracula & Frankenstein movies of today.
    Wish they would do a remake and use the technology of special effects.

    ReplyCancel
  15. April 19 December 2017 at 2:11 am

    “The blood and bare flesh made Dracula sexy and Christopher Lee rode the wave of Hammer success.”
    Don’t know if I agree with that. Bela Lugosi made Dracula a sex symbol long before Lee, and it’s pretty well known that Lee didn’t want to be known just as a villain or a monster anymore than Lugosi did. He refused to do Brides of Dracula, and only did Scars of Dracula under the condition that he would have more dialogue (and we all know how he later refused to talk about Dracula at all.) Also, despite his disappointment about being typecast, Lugosi doesn’t seem to have objected so much to horror as he did to Frankenstein. On paper, it didn’t look like a very appealing role – No dialogue, and a make-up job that left Boris Karloff with actual scars. He did plenty of horror movies after that, but Universal was more interested in promoting their new star, Karloff.

    ReplyCancel
  16. Pory 8 September 2018 at 8:02 am

    Pretty messed up to just rip on Lugosi for his accent

    ReplyCancel

Leave a Reply