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Dracula is for real!

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A week ago, I discovered Blogcritics on the web. I was enthralled by the idea of a large community of bloggers posting and discussing the latest book they’ve read or the last blockbuster they’ve seen. Two days later, I could call myself a proud member of the Blogcritics team. And of course, when you enter such a large community you start to ask yourself: What should be my first post? What do you have to tell all these people?

Well, I’ve decided to go for the obvious – at least to me. Since I’ve read Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” when I was 13 years old I’ve been obsessed with the blooddrinking count from Transilvania. So my first post at blogcritics will center around this mysterious figure. Most of you know him from the old English Hammer films and imagine him looking like Christopher Lee. Some people have read the original novel. However, most don’t realize that Dracula was an actual person, living and ruling in the Rumania of the 15th century.

Two years ago, the USA Network decided to produce a film called “Dark Prince – The True Story of Dracula” which should introduce the middle age count to the broad masses. Directed by Joe Chappelle Rudolf Martin (Dracula), Jane March (Lydia), Roger Daltrey (King of Hungary) and Peter Weller (Pater Stefan) act out the very brutal life of Vlad Dracula, also called Vlad Tepes – the Impaler.

At Vlad’s time Rumania is a country is the claws of the Turks. Because his father doesn’t want to cooperate with the Turks (spell: pay money), they kidnap Vlad and his younger brother Radu. Both spend their entire childhood at the Sultan’s palace. As Vlad becomes more and more a rebel with the only purpose to free his country from the Turks, Radu starts to like his new life and decides to stay at the palace.

After his return to Rumania, Vlad takes the throne by force, marries a beautiful young girl and starts ruling his country with brutal force. Everyone who dares to speak up to him ends up dead. Vlad was a count with a love for torture: His favourite method was sticking up people on large stakes – a terrible way to die. If no vital organs were pierced in the process, it could take days until the person died.

However, the Turks put more force into Rumania. Vlad can win some victories, but finally he has to flee to Hungary. There he is imprisoned for twelve years until the Hungarian king sends him back to reenter the throne. His comeback only lasts hours. The priests, who are not sure whether Vlad is the new messias or the anti-christ (Dracula has the double meaning of „dragon“ and „devil“), lead him into a trap. His own brother will make the final blow against his brother.

“The Dark Prince” is not a major movie, but it has nice medieval music, lush costumes, acceptable actors and most of all a dedicated director. Joe Chappelle seems to aim for historical correctness paired with some movie-friendly plot-turns. He is weaving historical sources into the films: The story where Dracula nails the hats on some politicians’ heads, because they won’t take them of, is taken from a historical document (imagine that!).

Let’s be honest: “The Dark Prince’ is not a vampire movie, it’s not even a horror flick. It’s the first try to get the message over that Dracula was a real person and in no way less brutal than his fictional alter ego. He may not have been a vampire (although some source say he drank the blood of his enemies), but he was a hard and ruthless ruler. Nevertheless, still today he is “worshipped” in Rumania, because he was the first who could drive the Turks out of the country. He’s a fascinating character, not only in novels, but also in his real historical life.

If you want to know more about the historical Dracula, “The Dark Prince” is an excellent way to start. The film is not historically correct to the last scenes, but it gives a good impression of the Middle Ages in Rumania (the movie was shot on location in Rumania, which shows a lot!). If then you licked blood, so to say, I recommend the work of Radu Florescu and Raymond T. McNally, who were the first to search for the real Dracula and published a highly interesting book on the matter.

With this, I’ll end my first post and send you all warm greetings from cold rainy Germany.

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About Michelle Dittrich